To “Shed” or to “Leverage”?

Lines are being drawn in the sand on the right response to one’s enlightenment to social injustice and evil that was once obscure either due to ignorance or indifference. It is not only enough to be “woke,” you must now decide how you configure your life thereon in the wake of this newfound consciousness. All across the world, all kinds of powerful people (celebrities, politicians, etc.) who previously were above the court of public opinion have come under intense scrutiny. Since moral policing of others has become possible through social media and other media platforms, it is no longer enough to just apologize for your mistakes (and sins), there has to be restitution and appropriate punitive consequences. An old tweet, a high school picture wearing a questionable costume, a buried secret of the decades-old, are all destructive offenses to one’s career or reputation if they were to surface. “Cancel culture” as it is sometimes called, is the modern punishment where the above offenders can be exiled from any form of relevancy, power, or priority in society—a forced transition from fame to infamy. No one is above accountability; unless of course, you have chosen a life away from the digital space and the public eye.

Part of this scapegoating mechanism in today’s society is because of the widely felt frustration that the elite in society not only flaunt their wealth and self-indulgent lifestyles but also tout their moral superiority in supporting all progress toward equality for all. But the “have-nots” also find themselves trapped in a vicious tension between aspiring to be at the top and living an alternative lifestyle to subvert such a system. Therefore, the goal in “canceling” someone is really not for moral accountability, it becomes a sadistic act of pulling down the ranks to feel something of the sort of “hell” that regular life is for most people.

There seem to be both a collective desire for equality on every level and yet a inability to let go of any aspiration for affluence. The various non-traditional spiritualities produced in this millennium, have tried to somehow reconcile the moral “wokeness” and individualistic pursuits whether that is possessions or pleasure, inevitably creating very fickle and inconsistent moral frameworks. Nonetheless, the West continues to claim to be more ethically and morally enlightened than the primitive East, even though it is not able to shed its deep-seated individualism and self-centeredness which has been at the root of all the segregations it has produced.

Despite the disproportionate backlash by the Church against “cancel culture” than for more moral accountability from all public actors and leaders, Christianity has much to say about wealth, repentance, and a transformed lifestyle in the wake of an enlightened social conscience.

From a Christian perspective, it is not absurd to require fruits in accordance with one’s repentance. In the case of Zaccheus, “he promised to give half his belongings to the poor and pay back four times as much to anyone he had cheated (Luke 19:1–10).” John the Baptist calls some a brood of vipers for not renouncing their ways before seeking eternal security. With the knowledge of oppression and systemic injustice comes one’s own conviction of ownership in such evils either in having benefited from the systems themselves or having perpetrated them in some way.

In Micah, God unapologetically chastises his covenant people for ignoring His ways and committing injustices against their own. He bemoans the spiritual leaders and prophets who created privileged access for the rich and corrupt while ignoring the cries and desperation of the poor. God promises Israel’s destruction by the Assyrians and declares what he requires: “O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Here, God does not merely require them to open their eyes to see what is wrong around them, even though that is essential and the first step, he goes further. He wants nothing short of a change in acting, loving, and walking—a change of lifestyle.

The issue of white privilege in recent times, which is somewhat of a hot topic in North America, is a useful example. Depending on one’s political affiliation, one either believes it exists or thinks it's another liberal trap to blame all white people for what ails the world. Avoiding the enormous guilt that such an admission (that white privilege exists) may bring, some deny the lived experience of many, while others impatiently move from “wokeness” to patting themselves on the back for their higher consciousness.

Neither the conservatives nor the progressives in America often understand what it means to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. Yet, some have dared to enquire further into this call to a new lifestyle. For instance, if “white privilege” is a quality that is non-transferable or erasable then why not leverage it? These folks want to leverage their inherent privilege to lift up and empower the voiceless and disenfranchised. Many are using their platforms and their access to wider audiences and resources to advocate for the cause of the last and least. However, with social media and the increasing tribalism, “leveraging” and some forms of activism have become cheap substitutes for radical discipleship and cruciform spirituality. Jumping on the bandwagon in favor of the trendiest cause at the time or tweeting one’s disgust about some social ill becomes a tacit medium to acquire more status and morality points. As one theological writer, Daniel Hill put it, “We desire the goods of social change without the actual effort required to realize them.” Christian spirituality as informed by the event and example of the Incarnation of the Son of glory indicates an utterly contrasting spirituality. This does not entail scapegoating, being willfully indifferent or carelessly ignorant, nor virtue-signaling desperate for applause but rather, a shedding and a sharing.


While Christ in his Incarnation did not shed his divine nature as some kenotic theories espouse, it is fair to suggest that he shed the status and reverence that he had in heaven. Christ put on human flesh and entered the human condition in a poor exchange. “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3 NIV). He shed his glory and status, and the worship and reverence of the heavenly hosts in the Incarnation and on the Cross, He shed his blood and body that many may share in the glory he had in the beginning.

Hebrews 12:2 NIV For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

He shed so that he might share what is His, so that in turn, we may share in all who He is and what is His (Romans 8:32). It is in His shedding that we were able to share in his riches and glory. He became poor that we through his poverty may become rich. Paul echoes this model in his own apostleship: “we are poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (Hebrews 12:2). A spirituality that is so informed understands that “shedding” and “sharing” are necessary parts of Gospel healing to a divided and uneven world. We must shed worldly status and power, not for their own sake but as the necessary cost of alleviating the alienation of the weak and poor in society.

Many who approach the Christian life unwilling to shed anything they hold dear often succumb to idolatry. The story of the rich young ruler who did want to give up his riches to follow Christ is the story of many. Many try to find clever reasons as to why it's important to be able to maintain grandiosity and opulence as missional tools to reach the upper class and social elites. But in truth, the love of money and possessions have resulted in a shallow and worldly spirituality.


The world prizes the hoarding of wealth and social status, it celebrates greed and justifies selfish indulgence. The Gospel of the Kingdom, however, dares us to shed like Christ shed and share as Christ shared. “Leveraging,” while it still seeks to help, falls short of a Christian spirituality that models the sacrificial giving of oneself to the other. Giving from the abundance of what you have is charity, to enter in to the need of another is solidarity. Having the mindset of Christ, we are called to both, “in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2).

We are called to share our earthly resources and empty our storehouses to meet the needs of our neighbors that we may invest into heavenly treasures. Some argue that Christians must first save and acquire before they can give out. It would be impractical to live otherwise. St. Basil is not so trusting of such sentiments. He says “you are so sure that the years of your life will be many; beware, lest death the pursuer catch up to you sooner than you expect! And even your promise is not a token of goodness, but rather a sign of your evil intent. For you promise, not so that you might give in the future, but rather so that you might evade responsibility in the present.”

For Basil, Christian spirituality sees sharing as not only a social ethic but a means to demonstrate Christian transformation. So to spiritualize the avoidance of “sharing as a lifestyle” is a sign of spirituality that is still “I” first. There is no end to the number of storehouses one can build before one is convinced that it is the right time to share the resources. St. Basil here again offers a poignant challenge:

“‘I will pull down my barns and build larger ones.’ But if you fill these larger ones, what do you intend to do next? Will you tear them down yet again only to build them up once more? …If you want storehouses, you have them in the stomachs of the poor.”

In the church today there is plentiful rhetoric on the glories of a particular economic system and quick retaliation to any suggestion of wealth distribution or simplistic living. But as indicated above this inquiry is only reserved for those who are truly invested in discerning what it means to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. The Christian must remember that more than cancel culture or any other coercive earthly system, the righteous judge of all the earth will require an account for our lives. How are we living in light of social and economic inequality? Rather than scapegoating or spiritualizing greed, we must follow in the footsteps of our Lord by “shedding” and “sharing,” to the best of our knowledge of what that means.



I spend my time reading up on hot topics in theology and culture. I enjoy a cold drink and a good book.

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Nathanael Somanathan

I spend my time reading up on hot topics in theology and culture. I enjoy a cold drink and a good book.