Reversing the Pull of our Resources

Here's a short video blog I produced for those participating in the Urban Poverty Track at Urbana 12


Sir, Your overall view of capitalism and prosperity is misguided. You perceive the world as a place where one person's gain or accumulation is at another's expense. Have you ever thought that maybe material prosperity is not a zero sum game? Instead, have you considered the possibility that the material well-being of individuals is actually the result of a society's economic productivity? And further, that some countries are poor because of their broken and exploitative political systems and not the international capitalist system? Please read the books Why Nations Fail (Acemoglu 2012), and The Moral Basis of Capitalism before you continue your attempts to tie capitalism to exploitation via select biblical verses.

Thanks for your comments. I have read a bit of material both for and against capitalism. I believe some scrutiny of capitalism through the lens of Christ's teaching on wealth is fair game. The far louder voice in the Protestant west is greatly in favor of capitalism, so a bit of kicking at the capitalist tires should be welcome, particularly from a missing Evangelical perspective. I confess I am not an economist and so may indeed be misguided. I simply know that the accumulation of personal wealth has been to me (as I have seen in others) a spiritual stumbling block and is warned against by Christ far more than sexual sin. My observations are that wealth can easily concentrate into fewer hands rather than disperse and that market forces keep downward pressure on the wages of my friends earning just a few dollars per day. Perhaps it is misguided to blame capitalism (as did Martin Luther). But I feel compelled to address greed - something very much overlooked in American Christian culture - and the forces which leverage and animate greed and conspicuous consumption (covetousness) be they economic systems, government corruption, or a culture of accumulation. Nonetheless, I welcome debate and critique.

Those who advocate for capitalism (or better termed "free market system") should always welcome such debate. I would make two points: 1-the accumulation, or at least the creation, of wealth finds its earliest mention in the garden where God created man in his image (creator) with talents and abilities and a mandate to fill and subdue the earth (create). The creation of wealth (or resources) is wholly necessary for the support of missions and the poor. God uses some to create the means for others to go and serve. Neither is more important than the other. Also, the callings are not mutually exclusive. God calls each of us to our uniquely planned mission field. 2-greed is not a human problem unique to the West or even to those who favor free markets. You will find it in every person in every culture. The question then becomes how best to form moral character and what political and economic system is best suited to produce moral agents and moral outcomes.

I agree wealth creation is a great thing. I also believe God intended us to live in a place of shalom abundance (material prosperity along with relational, spiritual and emotional abundance). My problem with the capitalistic endeavor is that so much weight is put on privatized ownership. Wealth concentrates into the hands of individuals and families and is not always shared very equitably by the larger community. The Hebrew laws worked against accumulation of land/capital in the hands of a few through the jubilee laws. Wealth creation for the community is healthy. A certain amount of individualized or family held wealth is healthy. But I believe capitalism is a massive private wealth creating engine which can turn into extremely privatized forms of wealth. This sort of wealth can be unhealthy for the individual accumulating the wealth and for the community cut out of the picture of how it is spent and managed. sorry i couldn't make this an active link. It's a very thoroughly researched treatment of missionaries and their effect on democracy.

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