Faith in the Economy?
Inordinate pursuit of wealth or material things.
Theft, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or sharing in stolen goods.
Cheating in business, taxes, school or games.
Making worldly success the goal of our life
or the standard for judging others.
—from St. Augustine's Prayer Book
Over at Newsweek/The Washington Post's On Faith Forum, the panelists answered the question
Are the economy's recent financial failures also moral failures? Are credit and debt religious issues? Do you have faith in the economy?Bishop N.T. Wright has responded in part,
Certainly the way the 'debt culture' has spiraled -- remember that credit cards and the like are a very, very recent invention, and that the idea of 'taking the waiting out of wanting' was, until very recently, widely regarded as a sign of moral degeneracy -- is a major index of societal ill-health, in which, as with lotteries, the poor are effectively taxed by the rich while the rich tell them 'aren't you having fun!'.The Rev. Jim Wallis responded:
This isn't a diagnosis; it's a signpost towards one. Nor do I have a remedy lying ready to hand. What does 'repent and believe' mean in this situation? I'm not exactly sure; but I do know that it will involve cheerful generosity. Giving money away is the first great step towards dethroning it as an idol. As long as we are a culture of mammon-worshippers we can expect, quite literally, to pay the price that idols always demand.
The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity....See all of the panelists responses here: Faith in the Economy.
The behavior of too many on Wall Street is a violation of biblical ethics; the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths condemn the greed, selfishness, and cheating that have been revealed in corporate behavior over decades now and denounce their callous mistreatment of employees. Read your Bible.
The strongest critics of the Wall Street gamblers call it putting self-interest above the public interest; the Bible would call it a sin.
At the household level
I think a term like "faith in the economy" is preposterous. The Psalmist wrote, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7) referring to the major weapons of mass destruction of their time. Some put their faith in military might, others in the economy. We are to put our faith in God. Jesus warned that it would be mighty tough to serve God and wealth. He was right. I don't know how to solve the national and international problems of the economy. But, I do know how to govern the economy of my household following Jesus' teachings. Placing God first, and giving of my first fruits to him (meaning I give when the money comes in, not when I see what is left), I give the 10% I see in scripture. Then, we live simply enough on what remains to not be beyond our means. I have yet to find my bank accounts running over, but I also have yet to find them empty.
What do you think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor