This is a prized possession of mine [see my Facebook page for photo]. It is a parrot like those in the Caribbean handmade out of leather and beautifully painted by one of the pastors in Cuba I was privileged to train. He gave it to me as a thank you gift. You can see the Cuban flag in the lower right corner.
Most of the pastors there work a government job that does not pay enough to support their families so they use their entrepreneurial skills to come up with other means of income. The latter is illegal but everyone in Cuba is forced to use the “Black Market” to buy, sell, and barter goods. They could not survive otherwise. For instance, this parrot would likely be sold to liberal tourists from Europe.
It is hard to comprehend but everything in Cuba is the property of the government including your home which they can confiscate anytime. There is no private property, nor are there any private jobs. Everything is owned by the government and everyone works for the government. It is an economy unimaginable to Americans. There is no incentive to excel because there are no rewards for your labor. It actually punishes initiative and enterprise. It will be a happy day when Fidel Castro dies.
On one trip, my hosts were so embarrassed because they could find no bread to buy even on the black market. That same trip, I remember eating rice for dinner but only after picking out the little stones and dirt in it. They don’t have the factories necessary to properly clean and process rice from the fields.
All this helps to put in perspective the “financial cliff” we face in America. Our wealth and prosperity is unique in the entire world. The Puritans from Colonial times are to be credited for creating an enterprise system based upon Scripture that has blessed our nation.
So may we all thank God in the New Year that we are not making leather parrots to be sold against the dictates of an oppressive government in order to subsist. God has given us so much to enjoy. In his goodness, he does not require us to live austere lives but he does command us to be humble, give generously, and anchor our hope in Christ Jesus our Lord and not in the material world!
1 Tim 6:17-18 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
Happy New Year!
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