Monthly Archives: January 2012

What are the Pressing Questions on Integrating Faith and Economics?

As I continue researching the integration of faith and ethics, I am faced with a complexity of issues and activities on the fronts of morality (determinative of motivations and informing ethics), ethics (as the outworking of morality, i.e., what is or is not appropriate behavior), diversity (both the broad range of activities and in theological explanations), and so on.

But, I am most curious about what marketplace Christians perceive to be the most pressing questions pertaining to their understanding of why and how we experience or pursue the integration of our Christian faith and our economic activity, whether in employment, in mission / missions, personal and corporate spending and investment patterns, etc.

Most of us recognize this is an important topic, especially given the globalizing of economics and the volatility of economic instability and economic injustice.

So, I throw the conversation open and ask: What are the pressing questions on integrating faith and economics?

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Walking in the Dark

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law. – Proverbs 29:18 (NAS)

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Such a simple verse but one that perhaps can guide us even beyond its apparent meaning(s). I include two versions here because it seems most of us are more familiar with the interpretation of it from the King James Bible.

There are many who have seen the first part of this verse to mean, essentially, that where there is not a plan or a goal, the people will die. But the word vision here is more than simply projecting our thoughts into the future toward a desirable end or accomplishment. The Hebrew term for vision is chazon (Strong’s 2377). It is derived from the primitive root, chazah, which simply means to gaze at, behold, to perceive mentally, contemplate . . . to have a vision of.

The sense that arises is that this is more than simply seeing something. It implies, rather, mental insight and, specifically for God followers in this context, prophetic vision, to see or hear God, to understand His ways and leadings. To know “the mind of Christ.” To recognize the voice of one’s shepherd means having spent a significant amount of time with the shepherd. To recognize the voice and to truly hear the words, the leadings of a leader, we must weigh their words in the context of more awareness of who they are, how they have acted historically, what agendas are at the forefront of their movements, from where their motivations arise.

The wisdom of this Proverb is telling a truth about our relationship with God and how it affects our reality, our potential, our purposes and aims, our outcomes. To understand God’s leading we must know God, at least in the best sense of how we can in our limited capacities to comprehend an infinite and glorious God. As we become familiar with who God is and what God is like, we can begin to hear (understand) His Word and His leading with increasingly clarity.

To expand the opening of the verse, we might say: “Where the people do not know God, and do not have a realistic knowledge of God’s plan and purpose, they are separated from God and they will not follow Him. Death, spiritual separation from God, is their plight.”

The rest of the verse is rather easy then to anticipate as the contrast to the opening phrase. “Happy is he who keeps the law.” Here, keep is the Hebrew shamar (Strong’s 8104), the same term used in Genesis 2:15 where God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to keep it. Shamar is to steward, to watch over, to tend to diligently. Esher (happy, Strong’s 835) is derived from asher (Strong’s 833), to be straight. Strong’s tells us that asher is used in the sense of being level, right or happy, even, figuratively, moving forward, being honest, prospering . . . to be blessed. That’s a lot packed into a single word.

It appears then that Proverbs 29:18 says: Where we do not know and follow God, we die. Where we do know and follow God, we live. Prophetic knowledge, comprehending God’s heart, leads us into life. The more prophetic knowledge (which manifests adherence to His ways), the more life force within us. This life force gave Jesus the ability to produce enough bread to feed the five thousand, to heal blind eyes, to restore strength to lame legs . . . to overcome death for all humankind.

The challenge to the church, that is, to every follower who claims Christ as Lord and Saviour, is to know God and live in obedience. The problem occurs as we see it all around us and in many ways, the church is failing. It is failing to meet the needs of the poor and marginalized, it is failing to lead the world toward righteousness. And the question must be faced: why? Why is the church failing? Why is that life force of the Resuurected Christ so weak?

Sometimes it almost seems that God is lackadaisical in His expectations of the church. That is simply not true. We do not often take seriously that we will answer for our handling of the truth. We do so at our peril and at the peril of ministering to the world in ways that demonstrate the true glory of the only living God.

I have had the privilege and opportunity to study God’s Word more than most. Yet I have not been nearly as diligent in that as I could have been. What I see is that, like myself, the failings of the church at-large, both to minister within and to be a light to the world, are due in large part to a our lackadaisical approach to God’s Word.

We do not succeed in advancing God’s Kingdom, by the power of our testimony as living witnesses to God’s grace and mercy, because we tend toward laziness. We gain a bit of understanding, tend to take it as the whole truth, and make that bit of knowledge an idol, creating legal structures for following God. But what vision can we have of an infinite God? Our understanding is always limited but loaded with potential to know Him more deeply. And invited to do so.

The ministry of the Word is of utmost importance to the vitality of the church. Those who follow God’s lead to search out the word and to bring it to life for others (generally, pastors and teachers, including most missionaries) are often neglected spiritually, economically, and emotionally by the rest of the church. The pastorate is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. It is not often physically threatening but takes its toll in burn out, failing due to stress and temptation, and hopelessness wrought by a sense of futility as sheep wander off or neglect the calling of God’s voice.

For the rest of us, we should listening carefully and heed God’s call to support those ministering the Word (Romans 4:4), that they are worthy of their wage. Thank God that most in pastoral roles, seeing the desperation of the world around them and having their hearts broken for the lost as they seek to know God deeply, will pursue that ministry despite the costs to themselves.

If we do not pursue a knowledge of God, if we do not support then pay heed to those searching the Scriptures diligently to help us grow in that knowledge, if we do not each seek to find the prophetic vision . . . we will continue walking in the dark, wandering souls, risking death in a desert of our own making . . . and even ignorant that ours is the power to draw near to life.

I interject here the entire fourth chapter of the Epistle of James, just seventeen verses. How does it speak to our ignorance of God and our neglect of His ways? (emphasis mine).

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 

5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 

6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 

9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom.

10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 

11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it.

12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? 

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” 

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Dear Lord Jesus – Shine Your Light into our darkness. Peel back the scales from our eyes that we might see as You see, that we might, having seen Your Light, be compelled to seek you all the more diligently, that Your Word would set aside every agenda and desire we have, replaced only with our desire to know and serve You in every aspect of our lives. Be merciful, Lord, to our ignorance but awaken in us a burning heart to love as you love, to sacrifice our lives as you so willingly sacrificed yours. Come, Lord Jesus, reign in us and through us that Your vision will lead the world back to Life. Amen.

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The Fall and Redemption of Abusive Wealth

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace in an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

Wealth of itself is innocuous. It is inanimate and amoral. At the same time, the pursuit and acquisition of wealth has enormous influence in human behavior. The pursuit and acquisition of wealth will exacerbate and reveal the true dispositions of its possessor, whether for good or ill. There is a great deal of biblical and extra-biblical commentary dealing with wealth justly or unjustly gained and justly or unjustly wielded.

The first consideration here is to illuminate the possibilities sur­rounding the mention of symbols of wealth—gold, bdellium, and onyx—in the Garden narrative (Genesis 2:12). My speculation anticipates the allegorical nature of the creation story. As allegory, the story can be taken to represent truth without necessarily being a historically accurate account. That is, Adam (means man or mankind) and Eve (Chavvah, means life or living), together, represent the fullness of humankind, as their names imply. But reading the creation narrative allegorically helps illuminate the judgment of the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.

The mention of gold, bdellium, and onyx in the middle of the cre­ation narrative invites theorizing about concentrated wealth in close proximity to the Garden (as Havilah is a region adjacent to the widely proposed location of the Garden), and what it means to an eschatologi­cal view of the coming Kingdom of Christ.

Gold (zahab) is a focus of discussion throughout the Bible, from this earliest mention to the “streets of gold” of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:21). In particular, we may note the use of gold in the making of the Ark of the Covenant, and for the adornment of and the making utensils for use in both the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple. These give a view of wealth appropriately consecrated to the worship of God.

The onyx (shoham) stone is mentioned eleven times in the Bible. In addition to Genesis, onyx is mentioned seven times in Exodus (25:7; 28:9; 28:20; 35:9; 35:27; 39:6; 39:13) in reference to the two stones mounted on the shoulders and one stone set in the breastplate of the ephod (i) to be worn by Aaron in his role as high priest. The two mounted on the shoulders were engraved each with six of the names of Israel’s sons, the tribes of Israel, and the one on the breastplate a single name, along with eleven other precious stones to represent all twelve tribes.

Onyx is also mentioned in the supplies presented by David for the building and fittings of the Temple (1 Chronicles 29:2), is among precious com­modities mentioned in comparison to the value of godly wisdom (Job 28:16), and is part of the adornment worn by the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13).

Bdellium (bedolach) is mentioned only twice in the Bible. The sec­ond occurrence is in the comparison of its color to the manna (Numbers 11:7) gathered for food by Israel during the desert journey. It has been speculated that bdellium refers either to pearls, due to their availability along the Persian coast, or to an aromatic gum resin used in the manu­facture of highly desirable incenses. Aromatic incense is also used in the worship of God in both the Tabernacle and the Temple, along with gold and onyx which are instruments of accumulated wealth and are symbolic of purity and high value.

Eden is derived from a primitive Hebrew root meaning pleasure or delight, with implications of self-direction, as to delight oneself or to live voluptuously. Isaiah (51:3), Ezekiel (28:13; 36:35), and Joel (2:3) used Eden as the paradisiacal model of the dwelling “place” of those restored to the presence of God. The Septuagint translated this Garden of God as Paradise (paradisi), the idyllic and blessed destination of the righteous. This is echoed three times in the New Testament, by Jesus in His as­surance to the thief dying by His side (Luke 23:43), by Paul when he explains having been transported into the heavenlies (2 Corinthians 12:4), and as the place of glorification granted to those who overcome the world (Revelation 2:7).

Historical interpretations of the creation narrative, influenced in particular by the mention of Havilah in Genesis 2:11, generally assumes the location of the Garden of Eden to have been in the Northwest of Mesopotamia which lends itself to the image of a lush land of plant pro­duction, especially for human provision. The mention of these precious commodities suggests it was a land of great wealth. The presence of gold, onyx, and bdellium in the creation narrative, being present in Havilah, suggests that Eden could have been an important trade center or was in close proximity to major trade centers or routes of the pre-historic world. These items, like other precious metals, stones, and even spices, were means to concentrate and transport wealth, making them easily convertible as forms of currency, though they are not specifically iden­tified as currency in the Genesis account. These items are mentioned as being in the Garden itself in the indictment of the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:13:

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared.

Gum resin (bdellium) was not necessarily available within Eden but possibly originated in Arabia, Media, and India. Coupled with the geographic centrality of Eden to the land bridge between the three con­tinents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, and the listing of gold and onyx, the mention of the gum resin supports the notion of Eden as a significant trading center of the ancient world. This would go a long way in cor­relating the descriptions of self-delight, luxury, and security of Eden to the abundance without want (shalom) in the restored grace of the New Jerusalem.

Again, taking resort in allegory as representational truth over his­toric fact, Adam and Eve may not have been alone in the Garden, a view encouraged by speculations on the origin of their sons’ wives. If com­munal provision and material trade before the Fall had been carried out in just and equitable ways, humankind could well have been living in the abundance of well-being, the peace and harmony Jesus suggests in John 10:10. The abundance of His claim is the fruit of obedience to the will of God, which was empowered by the presence, especially as grace, of God in the Garden fostering communal justice. Living abundantly when in communion with God, in this sense, living righteously, is also an idea strongly defended by the blessings of obedience juxtaposed to the curses of disobedience in Deuteronomy 28.

In a very real way, eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as the central event of the Fall, was when the human community chose to break communion with God, chose the path of self-determination, and established their own system of morality, deciding for themselves the measures of right and wrong. The covenant broken, deprivation ensued.

The Lord’s pronouncement against the King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 also lends credence to an Edenic marketplace. Some commentators, such as John MacArthur,(ii)  draw attention to the parallelism between this characterization and the judgment of Satan. Tyre was an island citadel protected by virtue of its great walls. The Tyrian kingdom is known for its long enduring wealth in antiquity and its far-reaching colonization.(iii) Tyre was a significant trading partner with Israel under the Kingships of David and Solomon.(iv) Tyre serves, both practically and symbolically, as an example of the potential and accompanying dangers of amassing wealth.

The word of the Lord came again to me saying, “Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the heart of the seas”; Yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God– Behold, you are wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that is a match for you. By your wisdom and understanding you have acquired riches for yourself, and have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. By your great wisdom, by your trade you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches— ‘” (Ezekiel 28:1–5).

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared. (Ezekiel 28:13).

By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O cover­ing cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctu­aries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you.” (Ezekiel 28:16–18).

In these passages we read that the King of Tyre proudly proclaimed himself a God (v. 2). He had amassed great amounts of wealth (v. 4), and, having been present in Eden (v. 13), had been adorned with a variety of precious stones, including the onyx. Through his widespread trade (rekullah), he was filled with violence (chamac, v. 16a). Rekullah means trafficking, from a primitive root meaning traveling for trade. Chamac means to be violent or to maltreat, suggesting the possibility of both physical and ethical abuse in dealing. For this sin (v. 16b), the King of Tyre was driven from the mountain (presence) of God (v. 16c). He was very much taken with his own beauty and in pride willingly turned from wisdom (v. 17).

Ezekiel continues that this king’s sinfulness in dishonest and op­pressive trade has desecrated his sanctuaries (v. 18). A fire from God came from the king’s midst to consume him and reduce him to ashes. Amos 1:9 then gives us the ultimate cause of the Tyrian fall in that they “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood” (NAS), as mentioned earlier, focusing only on profit for themselves and at any cost.

By contrast we see gold, onyx, and bdellium used appropriately and instrumentally in the worship of God, on the priestly ephod and in the adornment and service of the Tabernacle and Temple, set against the unholy use of such wealth, especially gained unrighteously and used for self-exaltation.

Self-aggrandizing and prideful abuse of wealth, our abundant ma­terial resources, was apparently birthed in Eden under satanic influence. Yet Isaiah’s pronouncement on the fall of Tyre (in Chapter 23) and the ultimate redemption of its gain (23:18) is that even this unrighteous wealth will yet be consecrated to the Lord.

The last assertion begs the question: how will unrighteous wealth be redeemed? Thus far we have seen that the earth itself, and by implica­tion, the land, is the primary means of production. God informs Israel in Exodus 23:25 that He will go before them in their quest to repossess the land: “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.” It is a promise that, step by step, they will reclaim their economic viability.

Beyond the land itself, God plundered the possessions of the in­habitants of the land then reminded Israel: “And I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Joshua 24:13). Zephaniah’s pronouncement of God’s judgments on the unrighteous echoes the same sentiment: “their wealth will become plunder” (Zephaniah 1:13). Likewise, Jeremiah does the same in pronouncing judgment against Israel itself (Jeremiah 15:13; 17:3). And Jesus suggests the same in the Sermon on the Mount when He says: “Blessed are the gentle (meek), for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

The means of production and its associated wealth will be reclaimed for righteous purposes. But like the reclamation of the land it will come step by step. Railing against the status quo is like stopping a runaway train by jumping in front of it. Reclaiming the marketplace for God’s Kingdom will be accomplished as Jesus’ ministry subverts the world. Climbing aboard the train and taking control is a more effective strategy toward redemption than the suicidal leap. The economic and cultural revolution Jesus launched is now 2,000 years in progress. Grassroots efforts, subverting the status quo from within the institutions of gover­nance and economics, by electing righteous candidates and redirecting the means and ends of commercial activity, will demonstrate the fruits of righteousness are far more plenteous that the fruits of self-service.

The redemption of the marketplace lies in the hearts of practitioners who love God, love their neighbor, and choose to serve both with the gifts and opportunities God has placed before them. Social enterprises and investment, and conscientious ownership are the tools in God’s hands to redeem wealth and reclaim the marketplace for His glory, for “the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22).

i. An ephod is a gown or robe that is worn to show the office or title of the wearer.

ii. MacArthur, John F., Jr., “The Fall of Satan.” Panorama City, CA, 2000. No pages. Online: http://jcsm.org/StudyCenter/john_macarthur/90-237.htm.

iii. Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speak, 117, 141. New York: Harper Collins, 2000.

iv. Smith, William. “Tyre,” in A Dictionary of the Bible, 715–18. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1884.

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Are You on Mission?

One of the hardest things for many Christians to understand is that once we “give” our life to Christ (as if God did not already own us–Psalm 24:1), how do we know what steps to follow or His plan for us or how to discern God’s will?

In the West we have largely focused in recent history on personal salvation. We are saved individually. But the Bible is clear that we are also saved into a community and into a purpose. Both are lifelong commitments that serve God, serve others, and serve ourselves.

Humankind, male and female, were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). As a reflection of the Trinitarian community of God, Adam was given a partner, called a helpmate (for the division of labor) and wife (for the perpetuation of the species). They had a new community in an ideal setting. Their provision was available and, by comparison to after the Fall, their work was not stressful or laborious.

The Fall, that is, Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God, cast a pall over all of humanity and the rest of creation. Being put out of the Garden of Eden launched the largest project in the universe after creation: the mission of God. In theological parlance, that is known as the Latin missio Dei. It is what the rest of the story of the Bible is all about. Christopher Wright contends that God launched His mission with the choice of Abraham as the spiritual father through whom all nations would be blessed. But the coming of Christ, the seed of Abraham, was also the seed of Adam and Noah and every other generation that preceded him in his temporal lineage. The prophets also called Jesus the Son of David. The mission of God was in motion in the mind of God from before even creation and progressed according to His plan.

Wright has done the church and the world a great service in writing a book, simply titled The Mission of God. I promote it with the warning…it is comprehensive which means it is long, well over 500 pages. Fortunately Wright has a very readable style and the progression of the book is methodical in developing the thesis and what it means to us, as the church, as we pursue following Christ and ministering to the world.

The development of focus on personal salvation in the past century has undermined the church’s efforts in God’s grand scheme, His mission. That is not to say that personal salvation is not important. It is relevant as we each are given a new heart, a new disposition, and a new role in the world. Many of us (all of us?) are afflicted with a broad range of maladies, whether physical, economic, psychological, or emotional. Jesus Christ offers us the opportunity to overcome all that has been passed to us generationally or done to us by varying levels of our communities, whether those be impacts from dysfunction in our families, our local communities, our cultures, or the world at-large. He even grants us revitalization to overcome the inheritance of sin passed down, as like-kind progeny, all the way from Adam.

But a great deal of our personal healing comes from the realization that we are not alone. The sufferings we experience, the temptations we face, and the conditions of our lives are not uncommon. That is why Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to encourage one another daily lest we fall back into old patterns of ungodly belief and behavior. I have been burdened with my own set of issues. Many of those have been addressed and healed in Bible study, prayer, and personal discipline. Most of them have been worked out through a series of relationships with other Christians who have consoled me, encouraged me, exhorted me, even scolded me along the way.

But the greatest problem I have faced is getting over myself. This life, my “calling,” gifts and talents . . . none of them are about me per se. God has created me and invited me to join Him as a son, a title I continue to aspire to through continuing the pursuit to know God and live in obedience. Hebrews is clear that I am becoming a son of God. It is a lifelong process that, like the coming of God’s Kingdom is already-but-not-yet, sealed in eternity but playing out in temporal reality.

As I continue that pursuit and God continues to woo me toward Him, I become increasingly aware of His movement on a much grander scale than anything particularized to me or my life. God is in mission and we are invited to join in that movement. My particular role appears to have something to do with understanding what God is doing and why in the marketplace and in global culture in general.

God is moving simultaneously on many fronts. Several years ago Bill Bright and some others formulated the Seven Mountains of Culture–family, church, business, arts and entertainment, government, education, and media–and launched efforts to reclaim them all for the glory of God, a torch now valiantly carried forward by Os Hillman and the Marketplace Leaders Ministries (www.reclaim7mountains.com)

God’s mission is all-encompassing, turning all of human society back toward Himself and His original plan for humankind. In the research for my book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, I reached the conclusion that all these “mountains,” except family and church, fall under the umbrella of the marketplace, where we exchange value with society beyond the household walls (natural family) or the fellowship of the church (spiritual family). Whether it is the exchange of ideas and information (education and media), opportunities for self-expression (arts and entertainment), or matters of law (government), all these contribute to establishing (for good or ill)  the order and well-being of society as relational interactions. Historically these activities were largely carried out in common (shared) public spaces such as the town square, or at the city gates or the threshing floor. All these, in my mind, fall under the marketplace umbrella because they are inextricably linked in the economic formation of society.

Borrowing from Bright, Hillman, et al, I created the chart below for my own thought development. I was able to see their priority statuses of each institution given what they provide each of us. I modified the original listing, changing “church” to “ideology” because, as we encounter the world as it is, it is obvious that there are many other religions or philosophic systems that inform morality and ethics.

The three “mountains” that I classify as Central Institutions are those that were created in the natural order of the Garden of Eden–family (Adam and Eve in procreative relationship), worship (walking with God in obedience), and business (mutually beneficial exchange for communal provision).*  But all seven institutions are on God’s radar in His mission of the redemption of all creation. Christian workers in all these arenas play a part in carrying that mission forward.

The challenge for the church today is to inform marketplace Christians as to their roles and responsibilities as vital to God’s mission and to release them from the false bifurcation of secular vocation and sacred calling. How does your vocation and how you do your job carry forward that movement? How do your work and work ethic reflect and glorify God? What can you do to “redeem” your industry, your workplace, your position to bring God’s Spirit, in power and truth, to bear in all the relationships touching your career?

It is a challenging question and one not easily answered but one that must be raised: when you go to work, or to the market, or to take in entertainment, or pursue education, or vote . . . are you on mission?

* For a fuller explanation of the role of the marketplace or business in Eden, see Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (c) David B. Doty, 2011, or the related blog post “The Vital Role of Marketplace Theology.”

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The Vital Role of Marketplace Theology

(This essay is a reflection on the central thesis of the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers.)

In recent decades two strains of theological development have gained a significant amount of attention: the theology of work and the theology of stewardship. Both have proven important in informing us about God’s explosive movement in the marketplace, especially in the last few decades. I spent a fair amount of time investigating both these areas of concern in my own research over the past several years.

But I hit a wall when I came to Deuteronomy 8:18 – “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” In this passage, God is reminding Israel that their economic success does not emerge from either their inherent goodness or the diligence of their work. But there is little to nothing in the surrounding text to answer two critical questions: How did God give them the ability to create wealth?, and how does the increase of their wealth fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Unpacking that verse in an attempt to answer those questions is what ultimately led to me writing Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission. While all this is taken up in detail in the book, I offer the following as a brief on the theological message it articulates: the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world (the missio Dei).

The first question – How did God give them the ability to create wealth? – is answered by two provisions God made for Israel – land and community. “How is wealth created” as a generic question is answered most simply by three economic components: access to the means of production, the division of labor, and advantageous exchanges between workers, i.e., trade. My quest to understand the interaction of these three, in effect, the functionality of a market economy, as a partial answer to the original question led me to the conclusion that the marketplace, as a means to create wealth (as abundance), is an institution of God. If that is so, I wondered if it was an original intent, that is, in creation or something that came later.

My curiosity led me to re-read Genesis 1–2, which I had read many times before but now from a different perspective. Were those foundational components of the marketplace present in the Garden narrative? Hopefully, the reader has already surmised the conclusion that I finally reached that they are indeed.

In creation, the Garden (the earth), like the land for Israel and now for all, is the foundation of the means of production. Given energy from the sun (and now through materials mined from the ground, gravity, such as tidal and wave energy, environmental energy, such as wind, and ground source, or geothermal, energy), the Garden produced all that the first family needed, not only to survive but to thrive. Adam had only to put forth what must be assumed to be a nominal effort to do well. The land, the eco-creation, is the primary means of production, and remains so even today as buildings, vehicles, electronic devices, clothing, food, and machinery are all constructed or derived from the elements of the earth.

Interesting to note, at least to me, is the realization that God never commanded Adam to work. To work and take care of the Garden, rather, were part of Adam’s reason for being and in particular relationship to his physical context. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). To work and take on the responsibility of overseeing the Garden were, in effect, written into the DNA of what it means to be human in the sense of the purpose, at least in part, for our having been created. But this was Adam’s work . . . alone. His “calling” to work and to stewardship, if you will, was in isolation.

Then God deemed that Adam was not to be or work alone, that it was not good. God did not simply create a wife for Adam to produce progeny and perpetuate the species. God first identifies Eve as the ‘ezer neged, an appropriate or suitable help mate, in Genesis 2:18. She is not identified as wife until 2:24. Not only the foundational elements of labor and stewardship were established in the Garden but the introduction of Eve introduced the expectation of the division of labor.

The division of labor creates the opportunity for expanding economies. The first step is simply by making labor more efficient, dividing the tasks within a given project, whether as foundational as gathering food or complex as transnational manufacturing and marketing of goods. Efficiency gains are productivity gains, the foundation of creating new wealth as an abundance greater than can be produced alone. The division of labor, through increased efficiencies, allows for the development of specialized skills which further enhance productive efficiency within a community.

Thus far we have seen that God has provided, from creation, two of the three elements critical to the establishment of a market economy – access to the means of production (land, in this case) and the division of labor (to move work beyond work in isolation). The third element – exchange – brings up being made in the image of a Trinitarian God, a self-contained community.

Sadly, the only exchange between Adam and Eve given in the creation narrative is when she shared with him the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is easily understood that this awakened them to the determination of their own sense of morality. It was also the violation of the relationship they had with God.

But other exchanges between them are implied by the introduction of the help mate. A lone actor can be diligent and godly in both the mental and physical tasks of their work. A lone actor can also be diligent in protecting and optimizing whatever means of production, whether land, machinery, or information, is available. Hence, the theologies of work and stewardship can be taken as individual concerns. But Adam, even before the introduction of Eve, was never alone, and nor are we. He walked with God in the Garden and now we abide with a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

For many of us, to walk with God (or even having an unseen cloud of witnesses) is largely an ethereal experience given that God is spirit and fundamentally intangible, having no body. The introduction of Eve made the idea of relationship tangible, visible, present in a real way. Adam may have been able to distance himself in his relationship with God if the Presence of God was ethereal but Eve was as real as real could be.

Adam was created in the image of God but his rebellion altered that image. His rebellion changed the relationship with God, who put him out of the Presence in the Garden, and it altered his relationship with Eve. At the heart of God’s creation were two people, designed to work together as a reflection of the image of a holy God. They were designed to be holy as God is holy, that the character of righteousness and justice would dictate their relationships with God and with one another.

To move beyond the theologies of work and stewardship, in fact to create the biblical foundation and the fullness of those theologies, we must come to understand the theology of the marketplace, of the interpersonal exchanges between God and humankind, within the human family, and between humankind and the environment created for our sustainability.

The marketplace is the most pervasive institution in human experience. To some degree, every person is affected by economic interactions with others. At the heart of the theology of the marketplace is God’s design for human community, that we live together in mutual support striving toward the re-establishment of God’s reign in the world, that is, moral order directing and fulfilling economic, political, social, and environmental justice (though, given the multitude of directing moral philosophies, even within Christendom, how that justice works out remains somewhat open to interpretation).

In no way does the Bible endorse socialistic or communistic models of governance or economics as they have come to mean in the present day. It is for freedom that we have been made free (Galatians 5:1) . . . free from the penalties of sin and death, free to worship God without encumberance from within or without, free to become as God originally intended us to be. The governmental, social, political, and economic endeavors of God’s children, however, are undertaken in obedience and response to God’s leading and goodness toward righteousness and justice, by choice rather than by the coercive influences of state or sect.

Though the marketplace was established in creation itself, there was no need of profit for sustainability . . . only obedience to God. We now live in a fallen world and sustainability hinges on working with and within the world’s system to a great degree. A re-oriented view of the marketplace, in Kingdom perspective, however, may lead us to pursue restoring godliness in our relationships with God and one another and, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, allowing God the freedom to bless us anew as we cling to His ways and priorities, even if sometimes He asks us to risk worldly security beyond our understanding.

The marketplace, in God’s original intention, was a means to more than sustain us. It is for us to enjoy Him and His creation in abundance. It is for us to develop holy living in relationships. Economic discipline is vital to our survival and flourishing, all of us, and many in our world are not flourishing. Jeffrey Sachs, in The End of Poverty, points out that we have sufficient wealth to end global poverty but lack the political will. Accumulation in the hands of too few keeps too many from the basic needs of nutrition, health care, education, and economic freedom. That is why understanding God’s design and purposes for the marketplace, in creation and now moving toward redemption, is vitally important for the church and the world: because God cares for the least of these.

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The Conundrum of Christian Faith in the West

John Wesley was concerned that Christian faith undermines itself due to the increasing wealth of adherents. As Christ-followers gave up costly vices and began to live more frugally, their wealth increased. Unfortunately, that brought new temptations of costly clothing, richer dwellings, frivolous entertainment, and so on.

This is very much the conundrum facing many Christians in the West today. By global standards, many of us are wealthy. Even within our own context, many have increasingly expensive homes, automobiles, furnishings, and sumptuous meals. We have more than met our needs. We live in abundance and buy into a false gospel that says we deserve it.

God chose Israel, not because they were better than anyone else, but as an isolated nation through whom He could make a name for Himself. God had been and continues to work outside Israel (and now the church), often blessing the righteous to advance His agenda of transforming the world.

But wealth may be one of the greatest traps we can fall in to. We work hard, we plan and are prudent with our resources, we live well . . . and see it all as somehow something we deserve. But we thank God for blessing us for our diligence and call our part “being faithful.” But our faithfulness tends to stop at our front door.

The average giving in churches in the United States is something around three per cent. Imagine the good that churches could do in their own communities and around the world if we simply adhered to the ten percent tithe. That does not touch the potential if we were to give sacrificially (the hallmark of God’s love in His work on the Cross).

Part of the problem in the past has been ignorance. We were not aware of global conditions, of regional wars, large-scale disasters, and abject poverty that continue to plague whole nations. But now, via electronic communications, God is laying the world at our doorstep and challenges us anew, albeit in suffering silence, to ask ourselves, “Am I my brothers keeper?”

Acts 2:44–45 speaks of the church having “all things in common” and “sharing as anyone had need.” Right now, even in our context there are thousands of Christians without jobs. How often, and to what depth, are the members of their churches aware or addressing the needs of those families? Unemployment has dipped to about 8.5% recently. That means 91.5% are employed. Even if we double the official rate, taking into account those who are no longer able to draw unemployment, 83% are still employed. Can four help take care of the one?

If we expand globally, our conviction should deepen. Our standard of living is still that to which much of the world can only dream to achieve. There are orphans in Indian and African facilities who remain unsponsored, often for as little as $25.00 or $30.00 a month to provide clothing, housing, education, and healthcare. There are millions unemployed who might be helped to build their local economies if even a small portion of Western portfolios were re-directed into small business, micro-venture funds (some even paying an annual return, albeit lower than optimizing a blue chip mix).

The church is faced with perhaps the greatest opportunity in history to be a witness to the glory of God. If we can strategize how to move capital into the communities of greatest need (both foreign and domestic) while also creating mechanisms designed to improve the odds of success (especially skills training and access to pertinent information), all boats can rise.

If the church will truly reach out to minister to the economic needs of its own, the world will see what Jesus said about them “knowing we are His followers by our love for one another” (John 13:35). James was absolutely right when he said that it is not enough to say “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” if we do not make accommodation for actually meeting their needs.

Will we take all this into consideration as admonition from God to step up and begin to be the followers and church we claim to be, or will we remain complacent, underfunding ministries and outreach to those in real need while we wallow in our comfort zones?

This essay will likely anger some, saying that I have resorted to manipulation and guilt. I would argue that I have only resorted to the directives of justice and righteousness of the Bible we claim to uphold and the leading of the God we claim to worship. This journey has been difficult for me. I have historically worked very hard to provide well for myself. God, in His wisdom, has chosen this season to re-direct my thinking.

I have chosen recently to focus on two passages from Scripture that speak to our needs and wants.

Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart,” and Matthew 6:33 – “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (our necessities) will be added to you.”

Many will read these verses and delight in God’s promises to not only meet our needs but to give us the desires of our hearts. The real focus is to re-orient ourselves to the opening phrases, “delight yourself in the Lord” and “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

If we have any wonder why our possessions cause us so much worry and demand so much time and money to care for; if we wonder why the church in the United States is struggling to fulfill its mandate to lead social and political change; if we wonder . . .

The answer is most likely that we have focused first on our needs and desires rather than seeking to glorify God, willingly living in humility and with an attitude of servitude toward God and others.

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On Justice and Righteousness (mishpat & tsadaq)—Strong’s 4941 & 6663

[NOTE FROM AUTHOR: This is far and away the most read article on this blog site. Unfortunately, I am unable to track who is reading it or how they are being linked to it. Because it is so popular, I am curious about these two facts. If you would, please contact me at davedoty@edensbridge.org to let me know who you are, how you found this article, and especially if it was helpful to you. Shalom, Dave Doty]

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

The translation of mishpat as justice oversimplifies its meaning in the Old Testament, especially in modern Western thinking. Mishpat is derived from shawfat (Strong’s 8199) which means to judge. But the modern un­derstanding of to judge tends to focus only on properly judicial activities. In its broader sense, shawfat means to govern. Moses was called and appointed by God, the supreme judge over Israel. It was an all-inclusive position which proclaimed ordinance (legislative), passed judgment (ju­dicial), and carried the authority to punish or release (executive).

Mishpat implies the whole determination and consequence of juxtaposed good and evil. It contains the establishment of law, the interpretation of ordinance, the pronouncement of verdict, and the legal foundation of the authority to execute sentence. The Judeo-Christian tradition accepts this as emanating from God. It is at the seat of the di­vine throne that rights are determined.

Mishpat is a two-edged sword, reminiscent of the duality illumi­nated in Psalm 61:11–12: “Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God; and loving kindness is Thine, O Lord, for Thou dost recompense a man according to his work.” It seems the psalmist was struggling in trying to see two sides of the same coin simultaneously.

We sometimes hear of Gods’ wrath (judging authority) illuminated in the Old Testament Law juxtaposed against God’s love (merciful for­giveness) illuminated in Christ in the New Testament. Reconciling the two can challenge human rationale.

“That power belongs to God” recognizes God’s sovereign au­thority to judge. His “loving kindness” reveals God’s grace and mercy to judge according to His heart rather than human logic or notions of fairness. False teachings that isolate Jesus, as the God of the New Testament, from Jehovah, as the God of the Old Testament, at least by implication, erroneously separate God’s wrath and judgment from His love and mercy. This duplicity tends to gloss over the Psalmist’s point: God’s sovereignty empowers the authority to forgive, that power and mercy are not only compatible but congruent in God’s nature and character (see also, Exod 34:6–7).

To borrow an analogy from digital electronics, where 1’s and 0’s represent all reality, nothing exists conceptually without its “null” cor­respondence. There is love so there is conclusively that which is not love. God’s power, the authority to determine, judge, and execute sentence, is the determination of how love acts (i.e., its manifestation). This power differentiates and separates itself, as God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16), from that which is not love. Hence, the consequences of not love, techni­cally, must be separate from God. This is the whole of mishpat. Love determines good and evil. It divides (judges and sentences) between love and that which is not love. Love and not love help define each other by the contrasts of their respective natures.

But the digital analogy can be taken too far if it leads to the conclu­sion that good and evil are in perfect balance. God, who is love, retains the sovereign authority to forgive evil and so is necessarily greater than evil. Our hope in Christ resides deeply in the belief that our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29) and that the judgment of God ultimately condemns and annihilates evil.

Christians are governed, and therefore should govern, by love. Hopefully this illuminates 1 John 4:16b: “The one who abides in love, abides in God and God abides in him.” By abiding in love, we allow the justice (the mishpat) of God to prevail in our lives.

Marketplace Christians are constantly confronted by the basic ques­tions of abiding in love, bringing God’s mishpat to bear in daily decisions. Jesus exhorted that we should love others as ourselves. This challenges how people are viewed and treated in the workplace. Are employment and layoff decisions based solely on the expediency of profitability? Is pay based entirely on the financial contribution each employee brings to the enterprise or should we take into account real individual and family needs? Are failures, both mistakes and ethical lapses, forgiven? Are there accommodations to afford second and third and even fourth chances (forgiving seventy times seven times—Matt 18:22)? The justice of God is sacrificial and active. How does the marketplace leader make such hard, seemingly incongruent circumstances and values align?

The mishpat of God—determining how love is known (legisla­tive), the sentence (of blessing or curses) is pronounced (judicial), and how judgment is executed (executive)—is the Way of the Cross. It calls Christians to sacrificial life for the benefit of others. How can executives reconcile the divergence of pay and affordable lifestyles between the president and custodian? What values should guide executives faced with contentious vendors? What responsibilities does business have in the broader community?

These are hard questions in light of the systems of this world. Business leaders have a laundry list of rational justifications for the disparate treatment of employees. And the questions keep getting more pointed: Can God be trusted to keep His promises if decisions are made that seem irrational to the world, and even to ourselves? Can the Christian CEO afford to fail by the world’s rules? Should profit come before people? Is Jesus the end (consummation, i.e., telos) of the law or does pragmatism rule?

The key question in Scripture comes from Mark 8:36–37: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” How do Christians rec­oncile disparities in compensation or the impersonal commodifying of labor with Galatians 5:14?—“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Godly mishpat reaches far beyond the single issue of employee relations. It leaves each of us with the responsibility of how to apply it to other relationships, including those with superiors (whether boss or board), vendors, customers, surrounding communities, within our particular industry, including competitors, and the earth itself. The per­vasiveness of the marketplace extends its moral reach beyond issues of economic justice in immediate relationships to its role contributing to the common good in social and environmental justice.

The Word of God can leave us baffled, infuriated, frustrated, con­victed, and conflicted. But we may be encouraged that we are becoming, and shall be, the sons of God as we seek fulfilling His mishpat. Though we all fall short of the glory of God, the opportunities to do good are ever present. And our sanctification is in the process. The wisdom of God is available to all who would ask in humility and brokenness. God has called marketplace Christians to ministry in business for His glory not ours.

To speak of the righteousness (tsadaq—Strong’s 6663) of God seems redundant. Righteousness is mishpat, the justice of God, en­acted. Tsadaq means to be or to make right in a moral or forensic sense. Among its derivatives we find the notions of natural, moral, and legal rights. Tsedeq (Strong’s 6664, a derivative of tsadaq) means equity (in the abstract) and prosperity (figuratively). Equity and prosperity taken together imply a communal rather than individual sense. This is strong iteration of the idea of shalom. Tsedaqah (Strong’s 6666, a derivative of tsadaq) is an abstraction of rightness interpreted subjectively as rectitude or straightness, objectively as justice, morally as virtue, and figuratively as prosperity. Tsidqah (Strong’s 6665, corresponds to tsedaqah) connects righteousness and beneficence. The tsadaq of God inextricably links morality and prosperity. Some popular modern doctrines, especially the “prosperity Gospel,” operate from the egocentric view that the moralist will be blessed with personal prosperity. Tsadaq, however, suggests that righteousness is manifest in beneficence and virtue practiced outwardly toward the common good and help for specific people and classes. Hence, the morally upright will be blessed with communal prosperity.

Justice and righteousness emanate from the nature and character of God. That the people of God are called to abide in that character is presented throughout the Bible. “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isa 1:17). And in Isaiah 16:5 we find, “A throne (seat of honor) will even be established in loving-kindness, And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; Moreover, he will seek justice And be prompt in righteousness.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And James 1:27 explains, “This is pure and un­defiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

The New Testament reveals that Jesus committed Himself to no home or personal economic endeavor during the years of His minis­try. He was detached from worldly ambition and things. On the other hand, though some may be, we are not all called literally to “sell all” and “give it to the poor.” (Luke 18:22). Jesus was prone to hyperbole to drive home His points (like cutting off a hand or plucking out an eye—Matt 5:29–30). His concern was that wealth has a way of ruling over us and we would do better, if necessary, to rid ourselves of the burden. Marketplace Christians, especially those blessed with power and wealth, run the risk that the cares of this world may overtake the call to Christ (Matt 13:22).

The four vital relationships in which we live—with God, with others, with our environment, and with ourselves—remain under the microscope of mishpat and tsedeq. Constant review of how our market­place relationships are tempered by biblical justice and righteousness is a necessity in following Christ.

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