In the March editorial we asked you, our readers, to tell us how to get the economy rolling again and get people back to work—but in a sustainable way. Specifically, how do we grow the economy without ruining God’s good creation in the process?
So many took us up on the challenge that we’ve devoted this issue of The Banner to sharing some of the thoughtful responses we received.
Probably the best place to begin this discussion is to pin down, first of all, who owns what.
Some argue that the individual owns his or her possessions, period—including natural resources and the means of production (capitalism). Others argue that society owns these things (socialism). Then there are those who take a mediating position between the two extremes.
Psalm 24:1 confesses, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” The whole shebang belongs to God: the environment, the means of production, our earnings, ourselves.
Living up to that reality requires a serious attitude adjustment, regardless of whether we believe it’s the individual, producers and business, or the government who should fix and run things. Since God owns it all, we need to care about what God cares about. We need to do with our work, our investments, our earnings, our possessions, and ourselves what God wants us to do with them. Jesus calls that being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
Scripture reveals at least three things God wants for—and from—us.
The first is that everyone, however “abled,” fulfills their calling by doing meaningful work: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Such work should not be restricted to paid employment. Many persons need help finding meaningful work, and it’s our communal responsibility to see that they are provided with the means to work.
The second is that all who work to capacity and those who are shut out from that opportunity through no fault of their own receive their portion of the wealth of God’s good earth, of which there is more than enough to go around. We need to provide for the dispossessed and get them back on their feet. We can argue about the best way to do that—through individual or organizational giving or through taxation and government programs. My guess is that we’ll need to keep doing so through both means—with government picking up on what is not being adequately done through other channels.
The third thing God cares about is the creation. We are mandated to enhance it, not to ruin or despoil it. That means working with, not against, the environment.
If these are all things that God really wants, then we can’t really be radical capitalists, socialists, centrists, or environmentalists.
When we confess that God owns every dime we earn, every lace in our personal shoe collection, and every cell in our bodies, our motivation to work stops being greed or envy or anxiety (see Luke 12:22ff.) and becomes love.
Regardless of what we have in savings, that makes us truly rich—toward each other and toward God.