Thursday, May 6, 2010

"When He Heard This, He Became Very Sad, Because He Was a Man of Great Wealth"

Those that know me are probably aware that I think "Christian" often makes a poor adjective. We are to BE Christians, yes. But putting a Christian label on music or books or artwork or various other things is, let's just say, less than ideal.

However, as followers of Jesus, as CHRISTIANS, we are to exemplify love, service, and self-sacrifice. So in a capitalistic society, how well can "Christian" work as an adjective to go along with "Business"?

http://shaungroves.com/2010/05/christian-business-is-this-contradiction/

Go read the article. Then come back here and leave your thoughts. I'm not going to make some strong point here, I'm just going to see where the discussion goes...

7 comments:

Craig said...

This reminds me of the subtitle of EF Schumacher's classic, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

I also resist the use of 'Christian' as an adjective, especially as applied to things like 'business'. But there are 'Christian' ways of doing business; or maybe better, ways that Christians ought to do business. And 'as if people mattered' probably captures a lot of what would be included in that.

I don't think that wealth, or capitalism, are inherently 'evil'. But, being part and parcel of 'this world which is passing away', we ought not ascribe to them more significance than they're worth. Money itself isn't 'the root of all manner of evil', but the love of it is.

Articles like this one generally frustrate me. Well and good to point to the contradictions and injustices (and photos of kids scavenging their food from a dump are powerfully evocative), but I'd want to ask Shaun Groves what a just system would look like, beyond 'nobody has to eat from a dump'. "What, then, SHOULD we do?" Fair enough to say, 'this or that is unjust', but what would justice look like? How does (or should) 'love of neighbor' translate into economic policy?

As long as economies are comprised of sinful human beings, they will be susceptible to the sinfulness of their members. TS Eliot was very perceptive about folks who 'dream of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good'. So maybe this has more to do with The Great Commission than first meets the eye. . .

Scott said...

I think there are definitely ways to "do business" and look like Jesus. And I'm not sure if Groves was really pushing for massive change in economic policy -- just that "taking advantage of competition and all opportunity to maximize profit" is not going to be Christ-like. I think it's up to us as individuals to be Christians in the global economy.

I suppose much of this goes back to the Power of What You Buy discussion. What SHOULD we do? Part of it comes down to trying to deal with companies that exhibit fair and loving practices, and to exhibit fair and loving practices in our careers and jobs. Yes, it sounds overly simplistic, but it's also overly simplistic if we claim "Well, it's all bad, the system is bad, it's too complicated, so there's nothing I can do about it."

I'm sure there's also a strong case to be made for looking at our own EMPLOYERS to see if what they are doing to prevent inequalities, or if they are exacerbating poverty.

It does come down to "what's faithful isn't often the most profitable."

Craig said...

See, lurking just behind the scenes in my own mind are large questions about The Nature of Capitalism, for want of a less pretentious-sounding term. Much has been made of capitalism's 'creative destructiveness', and how the marketplace fosters improvement and advance, and how out of the ashes of the 'old ways' arise new ways that are orders of magnitude better, etc, etc.

But I worry about the 'destructive' part of that, especially in larger social terms. In recent years, one of the biggest challenges we've faced in the life of our community has been economic, as people's jobs are eliminated, or leave town, or whatever. And of course, the 'capitalist line' is that those jobs are replaced by even better ones, in the fullness of time; so what if the new job is in Texas? But it strikes me that there's something inhuman (and I use that word advisedly, in the sense of 'not befitting our human nature') about these large-scale socio-economic disruptions, and moving to Texas for a better job (more interesting, higher-paying, however you want to define 'better') doesn't just 'fix everything'; we're made for community, and long-term stable relationships, and a 'system' that militates against those doesn't correspond to the kind of creatures we are. . .

Which, I suppose, in the absence of any constructive thoughts as to what to DO about it, is just as annoyingly 'critical' as what I was saying about Shaun Groves. . .

Food for thought, tho, perhaps. . .

Joe B said...

What a great article.

I recommend Revelation 18:1-20. If anybody thinks this is not an important Christian topic, this will put it in perspective.

AuntMinnnie606636 said...

I wonder where people think the money to give to charities and those in need comes from if not from businesses making profits? Business is God’s way for people to serve each other, to supply each others’ needs and to be rewarded for it. That reward is called profit and it grows as a business serves more and more people.
That reward/profit is what we have to share with others and to lay up as an inheritance for our grandchildren. Just because many business people are selfish doesn’t mean business itself is a bad thing. For every Enron out there, there’s also a Chic-Fil-A where the people serve God daily.

Joe B said...

Did the article say that profit is contrary to Christ? I think the issue is the maximization of profit, which is also the minimization of generosity.

Remember, there were many tithers at Enron, and there are many pagans at Chik-fil-A.

The problem is when Jesus' people are conformed to the capitalist ideal instead of the Royal Law of love.

maybe said...

like ur writing style..it's the real deal. just keep on writing...