Monthly Archives: December 2012

Marketplace Theology Webinars

David Doty, Founder and Executive Director of Eden’s Bridge, Inc., will present a four-part webinar series entitled “Building a Marketplace Theology: From Conception to Execution of an Evangelistic Marketplace Practicum” via the Acton Institute’s AU (Acton University) Online in late January (visit for registration details). Anticipated beginning date is during week of January 21 with two lectures weekly for two weeks.

The series consists of four one hour interactive lectures following a construction analogy and is largely based on the speaker’s book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, and material developed subsequent to its publication.

The purpose of this course is to broaden and deepen the current theological discussion surrounding the role of the marketplace in the Kingdom of God and the redemptive process of God’s mission (missio Dei) in the world. We hope to move toward empowering and actualizing the whole Church for Kingdom advancement through marketplace mechanisms.

Lecture 1: Laying Foundations for Solid Footing

To include a review of key economic elements within the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, exploring economic superstructures, and linking the overall topic to major theological themes (eschatology, teleology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and redemption).

Lecture 2: Framing Kingdom Walls

An exploration of key economic and biblical language and concepts as defining (and constraining) elements of the discussion, including the importance of economic language, how we define business and the marketplace, and the relevance of particular biblical Hebrew and Greek terms (radah, abad, shamar, ezer, shama, oikonomos, pais and diakonos, doulos, mishpat, tsedeq, and shalom).

Lecture 3: Finish Work for a Productive Environment

An additional exploration of relevant economic, biblical, and theological concepts including the glory and character of God, the meaning of sacrament, stewardship, the tension between competition and cooperation and collaboration, a redemptive view of the future, and the recovery of wealth gone awry.

Lecture 4: Occupancy and Getting Down to Work

Considerations of broadening the view of what it means to evangelize, understanding a “hierarchy of needs” in redeeming business (especially in business-as-mission outreach), how our works reveal (glorify) God, and a handful of undermining attitudes and practices to overcome.

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Send Me Away . . . Be One of the Forty

This is an appeal to readers of this blog and of Exchange: The Journal of Mission and Markets. The ministry of Eden’s Bridge, to be a point of connection and communication for marketplace Christians and marketplace ministries, is not a full time job (yet) but includes activities that have related costs. One such is my current involvement in the Lausanne Global Business-as-Mission Think Tank. The Think Tank Congress will convene in Chiang Mai, Thailand the last week of April, 2013. I have been active in (and hopefully significantly contributing to) in the Think Tank’s Advocacy and Mobilization Issue Group. I would very much like to attend the Congress to help finalize plans to reach out to engage increasing numbers of individuals and organizations in bringing the Gospel to the marketplace and especially among the unevangelized global poor.

To attend the Congress and to cover other incidental expenses of Eden’s Bridge, I need to raise $4,000 in the next eight to twelve weeks. That is just forty people or organizations committing to $100.oo (USD) each. Gifts can be made through my web site at via PayPal or checks mailed to the ministry office at Eden’s Bridge, 991 Lancelot Drive, Norcross, GA 30071. All gifts are 100% tax deductible.

The Church is at the forefront of an amazing move of God in the marketplace, a coming movement acknowledged by many prominent evangelical leaders including the likes of Billy Graham. Eden’s Bridge, as a communications link within this movement has the opportunity to help a multitude of people expedite this movement by sharing information and helping push the envelope in missional initiatives and biblical thinking.

Would you please prayerfully consider being One of the Forty who facilitates Eden’s Bridge as we blast into 2013 for the cause of Christ?

I pray that you are well as you read this and that you have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, godly New Year.


Dave Doty

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Matt Ridley – Beyond the Rational

Some food for thought. What do you think? How should this inform how we go about trying to alleviate poverty through marketplace mechanisms?


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Off the Shelf…On Books: A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey

By Jeff Sandefer and Rev. Robert Sirico

(Grand Rapids, MI: Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, 2012)

I posted the following review for A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey on Amazon this morning. Visit the book’s own website at – Dave

As I read this smallish volume I pondered how best to convey its content and value. In so doing, I was met with mental images of readers, absorbed in its pages: a schoolgirl faced with the daunting challenges of entering a new school and her teenage years simultaneously; a college freshman wrestling with the classroom deconstruction of values of his familial culture, a young couple, not long married, with a small child on the knee and a fledgling business plan on the kitchen table, the middle-aged executive troubled by his incommunicative wife and children and the emptiness of his material gain; the widow (always widowed far too young) pondering the paperwork piled high on the abandoned desk down the hall; or, the octogenarian putting pen to paper writing legacy letters for great-grandchildren still far too young to read.

The point is, A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey, by Jeff Sandefer and Rev. Robert Sirico, intelligently captures the core lessons of many lifetimes, the secrets not only to success but the true meaning of success, then offers them up in compelling, manageable, and memorable short bits, easy to read and inviting to be read time and time again. I do not know Mr. Sandefer but find an immediate common ground in our entrepreneurial careers. I have met Rev. Sirico on several occasions and see in this new book the man I met in person . . . intelligent, concerned, gentle, and joyful. Sirico is also President of the Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Michigan), the foremost think tank on the integration of faith, economics, and public policy.

After insisting that no one who buys A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey is likely to be disappointed, then I would encourage them to plan on buying several more copies as gifts for anyone whom they truly love. Putting my money where my mouth is, I have purchased three copies today, having just finished my first reading, for my wife and my two grown children. They are too important to me not to share the principles and themes of this book . . . but I have no intention of one of them wandering off with my copy.

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Off the Shelf…On Books: Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

[* Off the Shelf …On Books will be a regular feature of Exchange and will include short commentary on books that may or may not be faith-based but that offer sound insight into advancing the Kingdom, full-on book reviews (please limit to 750 words), and teasers about books coming soon to a bookstore near you…or Amazon as the case may be. Please feel free to submit pieces for inclusion in this section, especially those books which have had a profound effect on your thinking or methodologies in practice.  The point is to draw attention to books that are not necessarily in the limelight but are worthy of consideration. – Dave]

By Keith Sawyer

(New York: Basic Books, 2007.)

This book should be a standard in the library of every aspirant to leading change, especially those leading change for the cause of Christ. Sawyer’s thesis rests entirely on the premises that two heads are better than one, sixty four heads are better than two, and different heads contribute different perspectives and lead to more creative solutions. To tackle these in reverse order, the importance of each premise to the missional work of the Church should become fairly clear.

Different Heads

If you want nothing more than a simple engineering solution to a problem, gather a group of engineers and tackle the problem. If you want a market-oriented solution to an engineering problem, which will also appeal to the general public to promote sales and still come in under costs, gather a group of engineers, product designers, marketing and advertising specialists, and accountants. The solution to that ugly, dysfunctional toaster lever will emerge and serve a multitude of purposes. Amalgamating a broad diversity of thought promotes high levels of creative resolution.

For Example…

I work with a broad range of constituents in the interaction of the Christian Gospel and marketplace mechanisms and ministries. The players include business practitioners, missionaries, academics, prayer warriors, donors, pastors, and a range of other subgroup categorizations we might relate to the topic. Unfortunately, when a conversational group was convening, and I suggested that we draw together a diverse group from all these constituencies, I was rebutted because the group only wanted to include those from their own profession: academia. Well, okay, but all the input will be academic, the ivory tower doors will remain locked to everyone else, and everything inside will likely become unappealing and sterile to most outsiders. Theories are great and necessary but scientists still need engineers to create working products and accountants to keep the lights on.

A variety of inputs from a variety of perspectives allows what Thomas Friedman referred to as interdisciplinary, globalized thinking, an invaluable tool in an increasingly complex and integrating world. I believe Sawyer’s book is a thought provoking, must-read for any interested in most effectively moving the Church and the Kingdom forward in the coming decades.

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Off the Wall and Off the Cuff: Game Theory and Moral Economics

(Off the Wall and Off the Cuff is intended as a section for thinking outside the box. Most articles in this Journal will relate directly to faith-oriented discussions. However, the world often understands things and does many of them better than the Church. This section invites articles or commentary that lets us think more broadly and critically about our call to mission and accomplishing God’s aims in the midst of the world. – Dave)

–       Dave Doty

(This essay was previously published at on March 18, 2012.)

I have become a fan of game theory. Since I believe I am physically allergic to mathematics (it makes my brain hurt real bad), it is not the application of formulaic minutiae that intrigues me so much as some of the defining concepts and understanding how to apply them to questions of moral importance. But before we get to far, let’s chat about what game theory is. I think the title of Roger Myerson’s book, Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict (Harvard University Press, 1991), goes very far. Game theory is a scientific approach to understanding the past and predicting future performance. It is a powerful tool to help overcome the downfall that besets those who refuse to understand history as it informs how to live into the future, i.e., informing wise decision-making.

Since I am much more interested in the moral issues of decision-making (which only sometimes make my brain hurt) than the migraine inducing wrath of higher mathematics, I engage game theory only as a framework for the discussion because, as said, its logic includes terminology that has enormous moral implications. I will not go deep into that terminology since derivations within the constructs of game theory introduce ideas that require proofs and theorems, which are precursive symptoms of my migraines and untowardly involve actually indulging in calculations and odd symbols that need too much explaining, so much that I refuse to have them explained to me. Frankly, proofs and theorems have no place in genteel discourse as they necessarily require at least everyone other than the speaker in most social settings being left feeling the fool and afraid to ask the detailed questions, nor take the years of additional education, necessary to grasp whatever it is the speaker seems to be rambling on about. I always nod, think of other things, and take her or his word for it.

However, all that rambling behind, there are some baseline concepts in game theory that are useful: there are two types of games (we all understand games, right?) which are actually three (and see already it is starting to involve mathematics so I will tread very lightly). The two types of games are zero-sum games and…wait for it, non-zero-sum games, the opposite of zero sum games…but not so much. Non-zero-sum games can be either negative sum games or positive sum games. Allow me to illustrate each simply.

A zero-sum game is one in which whatever reward one player achieves cannot be achieved by another player and the outcomes are of a fixed amount. For example, in a poker game, the sum total of all the bets are no more or less than the sum total of all the bets. The outcomes are simply a matter of who goes home with other folks money and who eats Ramen noodles until payday. If $100 comes to the table, that amount is exactly what leaves the table. If one person gains, another person loses. That’s the way we expect most games to be played…but it ain’t so!

There are games which result in negative sums. The classic example is war. While conquest may be yield tribute or immediate gain through loot, the downside is incalculable simply due to the long term lost productivity of those killed in the war and the productivity of all of their progeny into the unforeseeable future. The immediate loss of life in a war is only a small measure of the ultimate accumulation of losses. A lot of criminal activity is also negative sum, especially if it results in loss of life (same progeny issues as war) or physical harm (whether to limb or property), but also in the overall costs to society for legislative expenses, policing, jailing, courts, etc. A large portion of the costs of the legal system include the housing and attempts at rehabilitation of criminals. The accumulated losses of such games outweigh any measurable positive that may have resulted, though in war and crime it is difficult to justify that there is much in the way of positive gain other than some forms of immediate gratification (though the establishment of freedom and the removal of economic and political oppression can throw a monkey wrench into the calculations).

BUT! There is one type of game, the positive sum game, which holds real promise. In fact, throughout biological and cultural evolution, the proliferation of plant and animal life, as well as the advancement of creature comfort and security for humankind, it is the accumulation of positive sum games far outweighing the negative or zero sum games that delivers us to this day wherein, despite an increasing global population, material wealth is accumulating more quickly than population…and the world is getting better off.

The fundamental principle of God introducing Eve into the Garden of Eden as helpmate (before He called her Adam’s wife) is cooperation. The greater the cooperation (and the incumbent collaboration – the sharing of information, whether data, processes, or creative ideas), the greater the productive efficiency and economic growth and prosperity.

So, here the logic of game theory meets morality: we can choose how we play the game! That is, we can intentionally avoid zero and negative sum games, if we can muster up the will power, and focus entirely on how to craft positive sum games. Jeffrey Sachs, the author of The End of Poverty, makes clear that there is now more than enough wealth in the world to end abject poverty. Thus far, we (the human race) have not demonstrated the political will to make it happen.

In addition to the abundance that already exists, there is an upside potential among the global poor, of some two billion people, that remains largely untapped. The productivity of these folk, once unleashed, will enhance global economics to levels only dreamed of before. Now, for the first time in human history, we have the resources (beyond the purely financial, especially in information and communications) to make that change happen. Will we choose to do so?

I invite conversation on possible strategies that can far surpass the failed beliefs and practices of central planning, trickle-down economics (which has lent itself to deeper levels of disparities of wealth distribution), and dependency-creating aid models. What is most encouraging is that game theory models can prove that the upside of investing in small enterprises, especially among the poor and marginalized, creates a more decentralized system, which even creation bears out (look into the diverse, decentralized complexity of the global ecosystem) as holding the greatest potential, that will bear the much more fruit.

The inequitable distribution of global wealth is THE moral issue of our day. Poverty lends itself to the proliferation of numerous evils, including crime, revolution, abortion, and so on. Much of the impact of these travesties can be mitigated by economic empowerment. I believe that changing how we do things economically is the standard by which this generation will decide if we see the next major movement in advancing God’s Kingdom in hearts, as the witness of economic justice, intentionally carried out by Christians, will gloriously demonstrate the love of God for all creation.

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Ministry in Business Practice: Profiling Caroline Mendez, called4, LLC

–       Dave Doty

Caroline Mendez has a fascinating life story to tell. But more than that, she has her life to give for Christian women business leaders. A self-made woman professionally, Caroline literally rose from the mailroom to the executive suite as a vice president with an information technology company. She spun that and other professional experience into a consultancy coaching entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers financial planners, and business executives helping them develop leadership skills and redesign their organizations for greater performance. Then she came to Christ.

With the accumulation of her professional skills, Caroline joined the C12 Group ( as a Chairperson of C12 North Georgia Leadership where she has fully integrated her expertise and her desire to advance God’s Kingdom through the women-led businesses in the Metro-Atlanta marketplace.

While it is recognized that equality for women in many parts of the world is a still a struggle, Caroline’s heart was turned by the realization that even today in the West, women often struggle to rise into the executive ranks of business. What stood out to Caroline was how natural it seemed for men to enter into mentoring relationships, even proactively taking younger colleagues under their wing. But most of the women she met have been flying solo and often felt isolated or abandoned. And, she noticed, women must work harder and smarter to achieve many of the same leadership goals and positions as men.

What she found at church to answer her professional questions as to why was not of much help either. The prevailing models the church seems to support are almost exclusively that of wives and moms. [I can attest, having moved to the North Atlanta area just over a year ago, there are dozens of local small groups meeting weekly tailored for men, including how their faith should integrate into their work lives. There appear to be almost none of those same groups for women. – Dave] That is what motivated Caroline to launch the Christian Women-Leader Advisory Boards with C12, the first of its kind nationally.

Her assessment of why women were not finding the same peer support as men at work led her to find that some women fear sharing what they have gained for fear that somehow it might lessen their success, or make them appear “weak”. Others, having toughed through a lengthy and tedious battle to rise in business, believed the benefits they gained by going the route of hard knocks would somehow benefit other women trying to reach the same goals . . . but only if those other women had to fight through the same way. And some women, like some men, were simply too competitive or prideful, to help anyone gain corporate ground, let alone another woman who might supplant them.

These experiences, coupled with God’s promptings, led Caroline to launch her personal ministry to women, through C12, to develop their leadership gifts and advance the reach of their organizations. She wants to foster a new dynamic and mentality:  that as Christian women, they are all in this together and, by extending themselves for other women, all women gain.

I have known Caroline for about six months now and I think what jumps out at me when we talk are several things. While Caroline is gregarious and transparent as a piece of rice paper, you can also tell she is a no-nonsense professional. If you are not interested in applying yourself to your God-given work, don’t waste her time. She even has clients sign covenants to toe the line in their commitment to their business and personal development.

At the same time, it is hard to imagine a more energetic and helpful shepherd than Caroline when you are ready to step up. But most of all, Caroline has the heart for making disciples of Jesus Christ in and through their business. Her faith in God, to be used as His tool, and to serve God’s Kingdom are at the forefront of her pursuits. She stands on the truth of the Bible that admonishes women to mentor younger women, such as Naomi, a righteous woman, advising her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And that the leadership roles of women in the Bible, such as the Prophetesses Miriam and Deborah, Esther, Mary Magdalene, and so many others, illuminate the important roles God has for women in ministry today, and for working women, that means today, in your place of work.

If you have the opportunity to meet Caroline, you will immediately be taken with the warm, joyful person before you. And if you spend any time with her at all, you will soon discover she is on a mission from God to change the landscape of women-led business, and one that she, through God’s grace, will accomplish!

Read more about or contact Caroline at

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Ministry in Business Practice: Car Deals and Distance Learning

– Chris Patton

Eight years ago, I realized that God wanted me to acknowledge His ownership of our business and to begin running it from an eternal perspective – as a platform for Christian ministry.  I was completely in the dark as to what an automobile dealership group would actually look like in that light, but I was willing to try!  Little did I know that I was in for a ride!

Over the past eight years, we have transformed His business from the ground up.  While it is not perfect, God has used His business to impact many people for eternity.  There is so much I have learned during this process that I am eager to share it wherever I go with whoever will listen!

Just over a year ago, I began a blog called “Christian Faith at Work.”  Though I have never had a blog before, it seemed like an efficient way to spread the word about Christian business.  I am writing it to business owners and leaders who are trying to figure out how to integrate their Christian faith into their businesses.

I want to share the resources I have accumulated over the past eight years, as well as real-life examples from my experiences.  I also want to teach others how to run their business from an eternal perspective.  They can not only learn from the resources I have gathered, but they can also interact with someone who is actually doing it, learning from my mistakes and victories.

It was through this blog that I met Rajeev Mahan.  Rajeev and I exchanged emails after he commented on one of my blog posts.  After several weeks of communication, he asked me to teach members of his church about marketplace ministry.  I was flattered, but there was one problem.  His church is in Chandigarh, India!

He told me how we could use Skype to bring my teaching into his church.  If I would only be willing to prepare the material and teach it, he would set up the event and do the translating!  I would not even have to leave my office!

At first, it sounded crazy to me.  I did not feel qualified to teach into that culture.  I had many questions, but Rajeev assured me he would handle the translating of the language as well as the cultural nuances.  All I had to do was be willing to dedicate the time.  Not sure how well it would go, I agreed to try it!

We have now held three of these conferences in India.  The audience has ranged from 15-50 at a time.  One of the audiences was mostly made up of pastors from various villages near by.  In each case, we have spent between two and three hours online teaching, praying, and answering questions.

My material has been very basic as their Bible knowledge is limited (even some of the pastors).  Before going into any depth in discussing how marketplace ministry works, I have focused on the following main topics:

  • Christians should have an eternal perspective.
  • True ownership of everything is God’s.
  • We are to love God with our whole life – not segments.
  • We are commanded to go and make disciples.

From there, I have simply applied these truths to the marketplace.  There is nothing amazing about the material – just simple biblical truths applied to business.  But the potential impact is incredible!

If you had told me a year ago that I would have the opportunity to teach about Christian business to an international audience, I would have called you crazy.  But that is exactly what God has caused to happen.

Simply by using readily-available technology, along with the knowledge and experience He has given us, we have found a creative way to reach around the world and across cultures to make disciples.  I promise you this – if God can use me to do this, then He can do the same with you!

Chris Patton is President of the Mike Patton Auto Family in LaGrange, Georgia.  With his brother (and partner) Brian, Chris is a third-generation owner. The Mike Patton Auto Family has approximately 95 employees and retailed over 1,800 new and used vehicles in 2012. Chris is also an active member of the C12 Group.

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Agency Profile: Life in Abundance International

–       Anne Landers

Life In Abundance International, commonly referred to as LIA, is an African-founded, faith-based community development organization that exists to mobilize the local church to restore health, renew hope and inspire lasting transformation for Africa’s most vulnerable families. The final result is true transformation – the kind that allows people to live life more abundantly, as Jesus intended.

Working in more than 30 communities in eight African countries and the Caribbean, LIA serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

The organization has pioneered a transformational development model that requires community ownership and sustainable solutions. This unique model cultivates local leadership through the Church and requires the participation and ownership of the community itself.

In partnership with the Church and civic leaders, LIA helps determine communities’ most significant needs and then trains, supports and works alongside community members to meet those needs for the long-term. Specifically, LIA trains, equips and walks with local churches throughout Africa and the Caribbean to:

  • Promote health and prevent disease
  • Empower the poor with economic opportunities
  • Equip the vulnerable to break the cycle
  • Educate the marginalized

The goal is that these long-term solutions address the root causes of poverty in these communities, with a Kingdom focus in mind. With the church at the center, and multi-faceted solutions, the physical and spiritual brokenness of the people in the communities is repaired through both Word and deed.

When a program has matured and development is taking root, a natural multiplying effect occurs. New programs are implemented in the community, while the mature program is often replicated in another nearby community, linking the people together for long-term support.

The result is powerful: local leadership participates in identifying their needs, assets and solutions. After walking with LIA through the process, that same leadership is equipped to meet the needs of its community in a sustainable way. Preventative actions are implemented, not just curative actions, and the community begins to replicate the ones that are most effective. As a whole, the community is healthier and the people have a better picture of what abundant life looks like.

Take for example, the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the second largest slum in Africa and thousands of people call it home.

LIA has an established relationship with several churches in this community. In developing the leadership and identifying the community’s greatest needs, it became evident that economic empowerment was a primary need for the community.

LIA worked with the Kibera Pastors Fellowship to create the Konjo shoe project. The local churches selected the most vulnerable members of the Kibera community – those who are un/underemployed, who are caring for children and are facing the toughest challenges – to be trained how to create a product that could be sold in the marketplace. These people, primarily women, are selected based on their desire to acquire new skills and knowledge, and their willingness to earn an income by playing a role in the production of Konjo Shoes.

These participants have also been taught business, savings and manufacturing skills. These newly acquired tools enable them to not only provide for their families now, but also equip them to save and dream for the future, so that they might be able to set out on their own. They’ve gained the tools, confidence, dignity and capital necessary to create their own entrepreneurial venture.

Because of the Konjo shoes project:

  • People living in cycle of poverty are now breaking free to provide for their own families.
  • Under-utilized resources are being restored and reused.
  • Mothers who once accepted “free” shoes now have the dignity and self-worth to be able buy their own children’s’ shoes.
  • Previously unemployed people are going to work each day, and getting a glimpse of their purpose and value.

Konjo Shoes are not the end product. Rather, LIA’s vision is that it would serve as a catalyst toward economic independence and life in abundance. And these types of projects are just one part of LIA’s transformational development model.

The end result of this multi-faceted approach is a transformed community of eternally changed individuals – people who have been trained and educated. They feel empowered and supported. They are providing for their families. They have more dignity and self-worth, and are living life more abundantly. And best yet, these individuals are becoming agents of change in their community.

According to LIA, that is what true transformation looks like for the Kingdom.

Visit or for more information.

Anne Landers is the Manager of Communications for Life in Abundance International.

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Thinking Theologically: Marketplace Theology: Holiness, Exchange, and Profit-making

– Dave Doty

As an armchair theologian, I believe any endeavor we undertake in the name of Christ should be thoroughly grounded in theological and biblical study, as well as bathed in a healthy dose of reason. The ideas assembled here are an amalgamation of thoughts spread through other writings, including my book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, and blog posts at

The marketplace is based on one foundational activity: exchange. Whether transactions involve information or material goods, every exchange involves the transfer of some value, though that value may be either positive or negative. Every exchange enhances or detracts from the quality of the lives of all those affected by the exchange. Fortunately, exchange is found deeply nested in the character and nature of God thus the question of humankind, created in the image of God (imago Dei), pursuing exchanges is definable as holy or unholy activity dependent upon the motivations, means, and outcomes of exchanges.

The obvious nature of exchanges requires the involvement of two or more parties. The life within the perfect community of the Trinitarian godhead serves as our example of the execution and potential of perfect exchange(s). A great deal of theological development has been done on the topics of work and stewardship simply due to the surface reading of Genesis 2:15: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate (work) it and keep (steward) it.” I in no way want to undermine the importance of these human activities as foci of biblical and theological consideration, but taking either as the launch point for considering a theology of the marketplace subordinates the centrality of the core activity of a marketplace, the exchange. Work and stewardship are obviously functions that facilitate exchange and are quite closely connected to exchange but they are not, in of themselves, of the same nature of the activity of exchange which, again, requires more than one participant while work and stewardship may be performed in isolation.

So, the vital key to exchange is its communality, as implied in the Trinitarian discussion above. Though God deemed creation good, it was not very good while Adam remained alone. The very good came after a community of equals was created (meeting Eve as the ‘ezer neged, in effect, “an appropriate complement” while also reflecting the image of God in Gen 1:27, both male and female). Hence we can conclude that exchanges among peers are a function of the very good (or, as it could be translated, good in abundance, not of material good but perhaps more in keeping with the “completeness” understanding of shalom) of creation since Adam did already have communion (exchanges) with God before the creation of Eve.

Because God is Creator and humankind is creature, exchanges between the two take on a decidedly one-sided perspective. God is the giver and sustainer of life, which is enormously beneficial to humankind, but God has no need of humankind or even anything we might “return” to God in exchange, even giving our lives sacrificially to him. God is perfectly complete without us.

There are three ways humanity benefited from the community of peers established at Eve’s coming into the Garden. First is progeny for the sake of continuity and proliferation through procreation, perhaps modeling the productive outcome of cooperation and collaboration. But Adam’s material well-being as well as his spiritual well-being was also enhanced. The value of exchanges to advancing material well-being is relatively easy to grasp from our common experiences of the division of labor, cooperation, collaboration, and trade throughout history. The gift of human intellectual capacity – for enhancing productive work through efficiencies gained by the division of labor, innovation, and exchange – coupled with the provision of land (the material resources gifted with the earth itself in creation as the primary means of production) provide the foundation of God’s reminder to Israel that it is he alone who has empowered the ability to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).

That ability might well provide for the material survival and, through increasing abundance, the proliferation of God’s people. But what may not be as obvious are the spiritual implications inherent in the activity of exchange. Since there is no need in God of our sacrifices or work, the only way for us to express holiness in exchange must take place in the context of equal or lesser beings or matter, such as with other members of the human family, and in our interactions with the flora, fauna, and inert resources of creation. [It is appropriate to acknowledge the intimate relationship stewardship and exchange, especially as we work with material resources. But the intersections of the holiness / unholiness of exchanges and stewardship also coincide in how we care for people, institutions, the earth, and its lower creatures, and even time as a manageable commodity.]

Shifting gears just a bit: the abundance of the Garden renders the idea of profit pointless, at least in that context. But profit is a logical result of exchanges as it is the gleaning of value added to a product or service by the worker’s labors and expertise. That there would be profit in creation is also explainable by the very expansive nature of creation, the increase of abundance inherent in the seed of fruit, the prolific reproduction of children, or by the practices of animal husbandry. A single mature oak tree will produce as many as 150,000 acorns in a single season. Through time, the human family has grown from a mere handful in its early generations to now more than seven billion members.

Jesus used the proliferation of seed in his Parable of the Sower when he pronounced that good seed, landing on good ground, would yield returns of thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. Increase (or profit) is a product of the very design of creation itself. However, concerning “funding” our provision, we mustn’t place profit at the forefront of our aims in exchanges. Rather, as Jesus admonishes, if we will seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness (the restoration of God’s moral and natural order), at the very least, our basic needs will be met. Profit is not the goal of Kingdom-oriented business but a byproduct of the amalgamation of work, stewardship, and exchange exercised in righteousness.

There are a couple of illustrations in Scripture that demonstrate the reality of fallen humanity in relationship to the holiness / unholiness of our exchanges. One comes in the juxtaposition of Deuteronomy 15:4 – there shall be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land – and Jesus’ statement concerning his own day in quieting those disturbed by the extravagance of his anointing with expensive perfume when he says, “For the poor you always have with you” – Mark 14:7. God had intended that Israel would live according to his commandments, including the just treatment of the marginalized – the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sojourner. Had that expectation been carried out, the absence of the poor and the reality of God being “near” Israel would result in a just society: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”  – Deuteronomy 4:6-7.

The objective of exchange in creation is blessing through the pursuit of righteousness, a central characteristic of the imago Dei reflecting the Giver and Sustainer God. Righteous exchange, achieved consistently, results in shalom, the completeness of society. Shalom, like holiness, is a communal term. Neither can transpire in isolation. While individuals may experience personal fulfillment, true shalom applies to a society, encompassing not only people but inhabiting the spaces between them. That is, the morality of righteousness pervades such a society creating a cultural mandate aligned with the loving Spirit of God. Shalom is the fruit of righteous relationship, or plainly, of holiness, the fruit of the activity of holy – pure, loving, righteous, just – actors.

So the foundational points in a theology of the marketplace are not work nor stewardship per se. The foundations of our theological understanding begin in the character and nature of a holy God and manifest such we see that

1)     Exchange is designed into creation to enhance material and spiritual provision and proliferation;

2)     Just trade reflects the loving kindness and righteousness of God;

3)     And increase (profitability resulting from the productive efficiencies of cooperation, collaboration, and innovation) is a natural outcome of functioning within the originally created, holy order.

If we align ourselves to the righteousness of God in exchange, the resulting shalom illuminates the presence of God among us. Our stewardship of the manifold grace (kindness manifest as blessing) of God, through economic, social, and environmental justice, by our good works carried out in the name of Christ, is our most powerful evangelical witness to the glory of God amidst a lost and dying world.

Dave Doty is the author of Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission and the Founding / Executive Director of Eden’s Bridge, Inc., an information brokerage and marketplace missions networking  ministry based in Norcross, Ga.

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