Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Christian Economic System

What does a Christian Economic System look like?

This is something I have been wondering about for some time now. There are few things I am certain of, and much that I am uncertain of. A Christian economic system is not a system of capitalism. Capitalist's foundations are not Biblical. They are based on 'rational self interest'. This statement doesn't sound bad, but rational self-interest is manifested in greed. It is seen as people want more and more and are never satisfied. Capitalism is based on "unlimited economic wants and limited resources." Unlimited wants are not following the Jesus-model where he calls a rich young ruler to "sell your possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21)". A Christian economic system would not have unlimited economic wants. They would be limited, and equal amongst all groups of people.

I'm not even sure if "limited resources" would adequately reflect a Christian understanding. After all Jesus is able to turn water into wine, and feed thousands with only a few fish and a few loaves of bread. God is able to do all things and provide for all of our needs.

I am also certain that A Christian economic system is not socialism. Socialism does sound Biblical. It sounds, in theory, very much like Acts 2:44-45: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." In practice however socialism is very different. Corruption becomes quickly prevalent as the leaders are able to grab hold of significant power. Further, amongst the people laziness takes over. People know their needs will be provided for, and as such they don't put in the effort they need. Innovation and growth are slowed and everyone falls further and further behind together. This kind of idleness is warned against in the Bible. Paul writes, "we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according the the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we should not be a burden to anyone of you." (2 Thessalonians 3:6-8)

So a Christian economic system is something different. I don't fully know what this looks like yet, but I know it is radical. It involves limiting our wants, a deep caring for others, and sharing what we have with others. It also involves work. God created work. Work honors God. Another purpose for work is giving to the needy: "He who has been stealing, must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Ephesians 4:28)

A Christian economic system also removes the concept of status. God made it a habit of choosing the least over the most to illustrate the need to break down these status barriers: "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one may boast in the presence of God." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) In his book, "Bible and Mission", Richard Bauckham talks of this, saying, "The God who chose the first Corinthian converts is the God who chose the least significant of all the peoples (Israel) for his own (Deuteronomy 7:7)...... This is the God who chose the youngest of Jesse's sons, David, the one no one had even thought to summon (1 Samuel 16:6-13). This is the God who habitually overturns status, not in order to make the non-elite a new elite, but in order to abolish status, to establish his kingdom in which none can claim privilege over others and all gladly surrender privilege for the good of others.

So, while I do not have the answers to all of the questions about what makes an Christian economic system, we have a start. It is up to us to start living our lives in ways in which give examples to these factors. We are to live our lives in ways which demonstrate limiting our wants, giving to the poor, sharing with others, and rejecting the arbitrary differences that come from status.

Lets keep thinking about this topic!

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