WWJD with 4 Wheels?
A few years ago someone composed an exercise in conscience-pricking with the question, “What would Jesus drive?” Some mocked the question as foolish to ask; others commended the query as worthy of consideration, thinking it reflected a proper priority of a disciple to be a good steward.
In some ways it’s probably both. The question comes to me now and then as the owner of a Prius hybrid who finds less distress in recent price hikes for fuel than most. A part of me is somewhat pleased to suppose that those who purchased sports utility vehicles for the sake of pretense are paying the price of doing so. If the law of supply and demand holds, after all, SUV drivers are part of why gasoline has price spikes. (Of course, there are many other factors as well.)
Would Jesus drive a hybrid? A Cadillac? An SUV? The answer is not as simple as many from either side of the question supposed. To begin, Jesus (or anyone in his time) would have conceived of oil and gasoline as a “limited good”. It might not hurt for us to do so too; the perception that gasoline is always there for the taking no doubt makes some use far more than they reasonably should. After hurricanes a few years back, we in Florida got a taste of gasoline as a “limited good” — and it certainly made me more cautious. (And that says something, since I was pretty cautious already.)
So some might be tempted to assume at once, based on limited good, that Jesus would drive a Prius, or something far more fuel efficient. Maybe — if he was alone, or only had 2 people with him. On the other hand, if he took the Twelve with him, he might just drive that SUV — assuming the math works out with the number of people it carries working out to a savings over having a smaller vehicle and more trips. I’ll let the automotive engineers out there argue over that one.
I think the answer is more complex than that, though. I think Jesus wouldn’t have even supported dependency on a resource like oil. I think he would have gone for use of cleaner, renewable fuel options like solar. Why? Well, there’s another agonistic social factor behind that: Reciprocity. The idea of being in debt to some other nation for such an essential resource, he would have seen as giving them undue control over us. (You thought I was going to say it was because of the environmental impact? That may have been a factor, too — but the inherent reciprocity of our current system would have been viewed as far more insidious.)
In sum — “what would Jesus drive” isn’t a question you can answer based on a preconceived modern political preference, nor rooted in any sort of modern social agenda. I think if you asked Jesus what he’d drive, he’d have done a little time travel and done his best to convince Henry Ford to redesign that combustion engine.