Monthly Archives: February 2013

2.1 – Upcoming Events

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Business as Mission

GLOBAL THINK TANK

Global Congress

Chiang Mai, Thailand

April 25-28, 2013

bamthinktank.org 

  • Discover what God is doing around the world through business
  • Tap into the latest research and thinking on business as mission
  • Hear from leaders sharing cutting-edge material
  • Be equipped through practical input
  • Meet practitioners sharing real business models
  • Build the connections you need for the future

The Congress is open to anyone interested in business as mission and offers:

…an unprecedented global gathering of business as mission leaders;

…a ‘one-stop shop’ for business as mission;

…sharing outcomes from the Business as Mission Think Tank;

…bringing together BAM practitioners and leaders from all over; the world

…the latest best practices, tools, recommendations and real examples;

…a facilitated networking with Regional and Country representatives;

…what is happening in BAM and how to get involved.

C2Bnetwork-on 

main-Chaingmai  

Marketplace Leaders

Join us for the first ever international

Call2Business Trade Fair

Chiang Mai, Thailand

April 27-30, 2013

www.c2bevents.com

Are you looking for best in class marketplace businesses that can be duplicated or scaled?

Are you interested in impacting emerging markets?

Are you interested in connecting with others with similar passions and callings in business?

I would like to personally invite you and members of your organization to attend or exhibit at the call2business Trade Fair. We are anticipating 300-400 attendees and 40 exhibits where you will have the opportunity to meet and talk to successful businesses from all over the world. Call2business has partnered with the BAM Think Tank to create back to back events which will bring together some of the leading organizations and people working in the global marketplace providing well established opportunities. For more information visit our event website or see the invitation below.

I would love to see you there!

Blessings,

Al Caperna

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BAM Profile: Creating ‘Indivisible’ Jobs in Michigan

– Rodolpho Carrasco

(Originally published May 1, 2012 at www.urbanfaith.com.)

The job creation bracelets on sale at 7,000 Starbucks stores across America are assembled by a West Michigan organization with a higher calling to provide unemployed people with both work and purpose.

Banding Together

More than 40 individuals have worked for Next Step on the Indivisible bracelets assembly contract. Together they produced and shipped more than 1 million bracelets.

Last fall Starbucks announced that it would sell $5 bracelets at every one of its 7,000 stores to boost job creation in the United Sates. Starbucks customers may purchase Indivisible bracelets at point-of-sale, with the proceeds going to support small business loans in underserved communities across the country through the Opportunity Finance Network. A $5 million grant by the Starbucks Foundation in 2011 seeded the Create Jobs for USA initiative.

The purpose behind the initiative is direct action to meet a need. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CBS News that “over 13 million Americans [are] unemployed, [including] a large percentage of Hispanics and African Americans, 42 of 50 states are facing budget deficits … and we’re celebrating 8.3% unemployment as a victory. I just can’t allow that … What I’m trying to do is ask the question, ‘How can business, and specifically Starbucks, use its skill for good?’”

Last month Starbucks announced additional partners in the cause. Google Offers and Banana Republic have committed to raise a combined $4 million to add to the $7.5 million raised to date, noting that the Create Jobs for USA program to date has helped create and sustain 2,300 jobs.

Another notable partner in this initiative exists down the supply chain. An assembler of the Indivisible bracelets, Next Step of West Michigan, has an impressive track record in connecting employment opportunities to people looking for a chance.

Small Steps

Next Step got involved in the Create Jobs for USA initiative last fall. At a Wednesday-morning Bible study hosted at the Next Step site on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Scott Jonkhoff entertained a question. Jonkhoff, founder and executive director of Next Step, was asked by a fellow participant about Next Step’s capacity to create a production space and hire people to assemble the Indivisible bracelet.

That conversation led to a busy October. Conference calls with BDA, a supply vendor for Starbucks, led to a site visit at Next Step. Recommendations from that site visit led to two intense weeks where Jonkhoff’s construction team transformed their dark warehouse into a well-lit and clean assembly and production space. A deal was signed that made Next Step a certified supplier for Starbucks, working under BDA, and 22 men and women were hired. “Product began rolling in every day,” said Jonkhoff. “Every day there was a FedEx Next Day Air shipment to bring us on line.”

To date Next Step has assembled more than 1 million of the Indivisible bracelets. On a visit to the office, I looked over the mounds of bracelets, plastic bags, and description cards that go into a single unit. Months earlier, at a Starbucks in New Jersey, I had purchased a bracelet as a small way to help job creation in the country. It was great to see not only the process, but to meet some of the people behind this effort.

Some of the hires were underemployed or unemployed. Others were in the process of rebuilding their lives after encounters with the justice system or homelessness. All of the employees I met on my visit were cheerful and working together as a team.

Going All In

Next Step founder Scott Jonkhoff lives out his faith by creating opportunities for others.

Next Step’s spirit of camaraderie flows from its leader, Jonkhoff. He ran a fastener company for 14 years before selling the company in 2002 and dedicating himself to a missional purpose. A Christian his entire life, Jonkhoff heard a sermon on Matthew 25. “Our loving Lord says what we do unto the least is done to Him, and what we do not do to the least, we did not do to him,” Jonkhoff said. He felt convicted about how the poor and the hurting were just “faceless statistics” to him.

One cold day soon after, Jonkhoff noticed a man pushing a cart on the street. He left his office and gave the man a warm coat. “The look of amazement, gratitude, and hurting in his eyes exposed my cold heart, my judgmental attitude, and my lack of caring in years past,” Jonkhoff recalls. “I returned to my office and prayed for a new heart and the courage to live in a way that’s ‘all in’ for Him.”

After selling his business for a small profit, Jonkhoff began working with Habitat for Humanity to start a ReStore. There he worked with prisoners on deconstruction jobs and learned of the struggles and challenges they had in finding affordable housing and paid employment. They purchased homes, renovated them, and continued hiring men no one else would hire. In 2008, they incorporated Next Step as a 501c3 organization and began taking construction and remodeling contracts with the City of Grand Rapids and other businesses and organizations.

Today, in addition to the contract to assemble the Indivisible bracelet, Next Step is active in a variety of restoration and renovation projects. They are also exploring development of a community garden across the street from its facility that is owned by a local church. The Indivisible contract, however, has been a unique opportunity for more than 40 people who have been employed to date.

“So many are looking for a chance to turn it around,” Jonkhoff told The Grand Rapids Press in 2008. “That’s who we want to be there for.” Remember that the next time you’re ordering coffee at Starbucks and look down to see the Create Jobs for USA Indivisible bracelet.

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Agency Marketplace Ministry / BAM Initiative Profile

Reaching least reached peoples using business

The Mission Society’s Marketplace Ministries Division releases its strategic plan

(Reprinted by permission from UNFINISHED, Winter 2012, Issue 54)

Reaching the world’s unreached and under-evangelized communities will require “all hands on deck.” This, of course, includes business people. In fact, now, maybe more than ever before, Christian business leaders have the chance to play a pivotal role in transforming society and spreading the gospel, according to Michael R. Baer, businessman, former pastor, and author of Business as Mission.

“Business is another way to reach into unreached areas,” says Denny Brown, who heads The Mission Society’s Marketplace Ministries division, which launched in January of this year [2012]. “Business is a model for ministry that sustains itself and gives business owners and managers an opportunity to disciple their employees, because employers are with their workers every day. And a business that treats its people well, provides a good service, and puts money back into the local economy glorifies God.”

A former businessman himself, Denny served from 2003-2011 as The Mission Society’s vice president for advancement. “I felt God calling me to do business as mission,” he says. “I’m thankful to our president, Dick McClain, and to our board of directors for allowing me to pursue this calling.”

Recently, Denny released the plan for the Marketplace Ministry (MPM) Division, which is now being implemented. The plan focuses on three areas as follows.

1. Support missionaries who are engaged in Business as Mission

“One of the most effective ways to begin marketplace ministry is to come alongside missionaries who are already involved, to some extent, in the marketplace,” notes Denny. To that end, The Mission Society’s Marketplace Ministries division provides missionaries with business expertise, advisory support, information, and contacts which they may otherwise have no access to. Marketplace Ministries also networks with other Christian business professionals willing to provide support and counsel to cross-cultural workers.

2. Provide business development/training for church planters

A strategic alliance is being developed with Global Disciples, a ministry that provides training to help national church planters and evangelists start very basic businesses that will fund and sustain their ministries. Global Disciples’ program has been successfully used with nearly 1,000 church planters in a variety of areas and has been translated into 14 different languages. Training is already underway for a select group of Mission Society team members who are appropriately suited for this area of ministry. “As the Lord directs,” says Denny, “we anticipate developing strategies in marketplace ministries that will allow us to address all of our fields, including areas otherwise closed to the gospel but open to business efforts.”

3. Offer marketplace ministry training through local churches

“We have found that many U.S. businesspeople in churches have an interest in marketplace ministry,” says Denny, “but have no idea how to get involved or the opportunities available to them.” The Mission Society’s Marketplace Ministries and Church Ministry divisions are collaborating to develop a seminar. It will (1) update businesspeople on what is happening in the United States and around the world, and (2) show how business is being used to help others and lead them into a growing relationship with Christ. The seminar curriculum will give examples of people successfully engaged in marketplace ministry. It will also provide materials to help and encourage participants to be “on mission” in their local workplaces, in hopes that some will hone their skills and gain confidence to reach out to others around the world. The initial launch of this seminar will be announced at a later date.

“Of utmost importance,” says Denny, “is to note that our Marketplace Ministries activities are being done in connection with missionaries, nationals, and local churches (in the United States and internationally). In other words, business is just one tool, and we trust the Lord will use our efforts to enhance the ministries of others and to help reach into unreached communities with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.” 

The Mission Society was formed as supplemental missions sending agency for the United Methodist Church on January 6, 1984. Since then, more than 500 men and women have been confirmed to serve Christ in more than 35 nations. At present, more than 200 Mission Society missionaries currently serve on the field, are in homeland ministry (furlough), or are raising their support to go out for the first time. A support staff of more than 30 people works out of our home office in the Atlanta area.

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MPM / BAM Thought Leadership Profile: The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (IFWE)

Evangelical Christians today find themselves living in an environment of economic strain, and are asking tough questions about how to think biblically about economics. They have also come to believe that their everyday work six days out of the week doesn’t matter to God, and has no meaning. The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (IFWE) was founded in August of 2011 to address these critical issues with biblical truth and sound economic teaching.

At IFWE, we seek to educate and inspire Christians to live out a biblical theology integrating faith, work, and economics. We want to awaken Christians to the strategic role their work plays in God’s loving and redemptive narrative in the world. By rediscovering the biblical doctrine of work and by viewing economics through this lens, Christians, through their work, will bring about flourishing in their communities, our nation, and our world.

Each person is created in God’s image and, like him, has a desire to be creative and fulfilled using God-given talents through work. As we explore a comprehensive, biblical view of work, we understand that our work – whether paid or unpaid – deeply matters to God. It is an integral part of his purpose in this world.

For many Christians, this is a paradigm shift in how they view their work. Sadly, many have been taught work is just a place for evangelism, or to earn a paycheck to donate to the church and missions. I worked for years in the business world, seeing little to no connection between what I did as a businessman and God’s Kingdom. I secretly envied pastors, missionaries, and others who got to work “full-time” for God.

It wasn’t until I began taking seminary classes that I discovered the church’s historical teaching on the biblical doctrine of work. I helped start IFWE to help Christians realize that their vocations are the means God has given them to change the world.

In addition to this life-changing message about work, what many Christians fail to also realize is that their ability to freely live out their vocation requires liberty and economic freedom. As citizens, we must sustain an environment of economic freedom – one that not only allows individuals to flourish in their work, but also reflects the inherent dignity of each human being.

As a biblical advocacy think-tank, we believe that changes in attitude and practice can come through building awareness, presenting scriptural evidence, and challenging individuals to believe the truth of scripture.

To carry out this life-changing mission, IFWE partners with leading Christian theologians and economists to develop a biblical theology of work and economics. We bring these thought-leaders into conversation with one another, and we translate their research into practical resources.

These resources include our first book, How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work, and “Why Does Income Inequality Exist? An Economic and Biblical Explanation,” one of our first published research reports. Yet another practical resource is our blog, Creativity.Purpose.Freedom.

We are currently producing a book on poverty and the poor entitled From Poverty to Shalom: Applying Biblical and Economic Principles for the Flourishing of All Mankind. This edited volume aims to equip Christians with a biblical and economic understanding of how to best care for the poor. Expert Christian theologians and economists are contributing chapters. Among the contributors are Dr. Walter Kaiser, Dr. Art Lindsley, Lord Brian Griffiths, Marvin Olasky, Jay Richards, Fr. Robert Sirico, Peter Greer, and others.

Other IFWE resources include op-eds, white papers, talking points, videos, and curriculum, which communicate these principles of work and economics to the Christian community and beyond.

We’re starting to see the impact of our message. People who felt weary and heavy-laden by guilt or a sense of meaninglessness in their vocation are freed up by the truth that ALL work matters to God.

While we’re seeking to reach all ages with our message, we feel particularly compelled to reach those just entering their career. One young woman thought that in order to serve God well she must go work in Africa, even though she wasn’t necessarily passionate or gifted for that work. When she learned that all work matters to God, she rejoiced, realizing she could still support the poor in Africa, but instead seek work that was a better fit for how God designed her.

One college student was motivated to enter the field of politics, but thought that it would be more valuable to God to become a pastor. A half-completed application to seminary had been sitting on his desk for weeks. When he learned that all work matters to God, he was ecstatic and eagerly completed internship applications to work for various public policy organizations.

These are just two examples of people whose lives have been impacted by the biblical doctrine of work. As Christians begin to grasp the biblical meaning of work, the importance of economics and whole-life stewardship comes into focus. People begin to understand how economics can help them be better stewards not only of their finances, but of their God-given gifts and abilities as well. Comprehending the biblical doctrine of work is the first step in transforming how Christians think about work and economics.

Through this work, we are seeking to help Christians embody Jeremiah 29:7, which says Christians are to, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The outcome we seek is the flourishing of all mankind to the glory of God. 

Hugh Whelchel is executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.

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Christian Marketplace Ethics Theology: A Reflection on Biblical Generosity

–       Dr. Sas Conradie

Introduction

Generosity is becoming a global buzz word. The chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Lord Sebastian Coe, hailed the “spirit of generosity” demonstrated by British public during the Games while Sarah Crompton wrote in The Telegraph that “the real legacy of the Games must be that determination to be generous to each other.”[1] This is just the latest indication of what could become a principal value in the global community. But with the Scriptural foundation of God’s generosity, generous living should come natural for Christians, as an integrated part of who we are. And if the generosity of the British public made such an impression during the Olympic Games, just think about the impact if Christians across the globe will live out Biblical generosity.

Generosity in the Bible

The word ‘generosity’ does not occur in early English Bible translations. It is only since the 18th Century that the meaning of generosity evolved to denote the more specific, contemporary meaning of munificence, open–handedness, and liberality in the giving of money and possessions to others.[2] The word generosity is not used at all in the King James Version although it appears 4 times in the NIV, twice in the Contemporary English Version, 6 times in the English Standard Version. Generous is used 22 times in the Contemporary English Version, 16 times in the English Standard Version and 19 times in the NIV.

 In the Old Testament generosity or generous is used as translation for several Hebrew words:

In the New Testament the following Greek words are translated with generosity or generous:

There are other instances where the same understanding as generosity is expressed but where the specific word is not being used in the English translation. For example Mt 10:8 – “Freely you have received, freely give.”

From this cursory look at the Biblical words that are translated as generosity or generous it is clear that generosity or to be generous relates to:

  • An abundance, openness, willingness, freedom, being a blessing, not holding back of goodness, sharing and giving;
  • Giving and sharing with and care of those in need (strangers, the sick, the poor), but it is much more. It is more of a life-style that finds expression in different ways of giving and sharing;
  • Not so much about material goods but about relationships, also between givers and receivers.

Though the words generosity and generous are not that often used, it is implied throughout the Bible as characteristic of God and His people (eg Mt 25:34-46):

  • God is by nature generous who has given everything to enjoy;
  • God’s generosity finds its highest expression in the sending of Christ who showed His generosity by giving His life so that people can experience life. Jesus is also the perfect example of generous living in action as somebody who gave His life to the benefit of others without expecting something in return;
  • God calls all his followers to sacrificial generosity, free from the seduction of riches;
  • Unlike other religious traditions, Biblical generosity is not aimed at gaining merit, favour or reward. It is a response to God’s generosity and is unselfish by nature;
  • Generosity is ultimately about a spontaneous response to the grace of a lavishly generous God;[3]
  • As Dennis Tongoi emphasises, generosity should find expression in our giving to God, not to people or even ourselves.[4] “Our biggest sacrifice is therefore giving ourselves to God, then to others (2 Cor. 8:5). Wealthy people often give their money rather than themselves”;[5]
  • Christians are generous by nature because the Biblical understanding is that everything ultimately belongs to God. They share freely and abundantly of what in the end is God’s and not their own.

Christian generosity initiatives and resources

The increased emphasis on generosity in society presents the global church with an incredible opportunity to show Biblical-based generous living in action. The good news is that multiple Christian generosity initiatives and resources that facilitate and enable generosity had been developed and launched or in the process of being launched. Here are just a few:

  1. The Global Generosity Network (http://generositymovement.org/about/);
  2. The Global Generosity Movement (www.generositymovement.org);
  3. The Generosity Resources List (http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/resources/detail/12929#.URvIF-TviSp) while different resources had been posted on the Lausanne Conversation website for use in teaching and preaching, (http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/resources/browse/category/Resource+Mobilization);
  4. Campaigns such as the 40 Acts campaign (www.40acts.org.uk), Micah Challenge, Missions Africa Trust Fund and others motivate Christians to give and take steps of generosity.

Conclusion

There seems to be disillusionment with greed and selfishness in at least certain parts of global society. The question is how we as Christians will show the way through Biblically-based generous living. Such generous living is a form of mission in itself in the 21st Century. As John Bunyan said “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Will we take up this challenge everyday?

Dr. Sas Conradie is the coordinator of the Lausanne/WEA Global Generosity Network (http://generositymovement.org/about/) based in London. An ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, Sas had been involved in various mission capacities since the 1980s. He holds a DD in Missiology from the University of Pretoria, worked in the Faculty of Theology at the University of South Africa, served as missionary in Ukraine, was assistant international director of a mission agency based in the UK and since 2010 coordinates the Lausanne Resource Mobilisation Working Group that became the Global Generosity Network. Sas guest edited the January 2013 edition of Evangelical Review of Theology that focused on generosity(www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/list/index.php?com=tc&page=1&id=25&detailid=2575).

His e-mail address is ggncoord@gmail.com.


[1] Crompton, Sarah: ‘Keep the flame alive: The Olympic legacy and the new country we could be’ <www.telegraph.co.uk/education/keep-the-flame-alive/9467023/Keep-the-flame-alive-The-Olympic-legacy-and-the-new-country-we-could-be.html > accessed 15 August 2012.

[4] Dennis Tongoi, Mixing God with Money: Strategies for living in an uncertain economy (Nairobi: Bezalel Investments, 2001)

[5] Tongoi, Mixing, 85

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Christian Marketplace Ethics Theology: The Cleansing of the Temple: Christ Turning a Marketplace Upside-Down

 –       Seth Asher

Any time we grapple with questions of dealing with Christian interactions with an increasingly un-Christian environment, we do well to bring these questions back to the person of Jesus Christ. Did Christ deal with a similar event within Scripture? If so, how did he act? If not, can we observe other instances of Christ’s actions and see if they shed light on the matter?

Bringing these questions back to the person of Jesus Christ remind us that we are agents of his Kingdom who seek to be his disciples, striving to bring about his Kingdom in the world in which we live.

This practice becomes all the more necessary when we begin to think about Christians working, playing, worshiping, and living in a broader world that seems to get smaller and more crowded all the time. As Christians, how do we engage “marketplace” environments where differing messages, diverse peoples, and unspoken expectations seem to govern the arena? Beyond that, how can we bring Christ’s Kingdom to such places?

The Gospels record an account of Christ entering just such an environment and acting boldly and redemptively. All four Gospels record the account of the event commonly known as, “Christ Cleansing the Temple” (Matthew 21.12-17; Mark 11.15-18; Luke 19.45-48; John 2.13-17). While each account differs slightly, the main event remains the same: Christ enters the Temple marketplace and violently disrupts it, driving away animals intended for sacrifice, and destroying the stations of those who exchanged currency. He quotes Isaiah 56.7 (“…My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”) and Jeremiah 7.11 (“‘has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I have seen it,’ declares the Lord.”).

After disrupting the local trade, Christ teaches and heals while the Temple leaders fume and begin to plot his death. What do Christ’s actions mean? In order to answer this question, we must acquaint ourselves a bit more with the significance of the Temple during the days of Jesus.

The Temple: The Hub of the Jewish World

Before its destruction in 70 A.D., the Jewish Temple enjoyed great status as a religious and economic center in the ancient world. This grand structure, constructed of gold and marble, stood brilliantly visible for miles. Thousands of people, Jews and Gentiles alike, passed through its gates daily, while a Roman garrison stood close by to keep the peace. In this place, worlds clashed: Jew and Roman, priest and commoner, buyer and seller, crippled and whole. The Temple stood as the hub of Jewish religion and commerce.

The proper observance of the Jewish faith remained the highest functions of the Temple. Pilgrims would come from all over the Empire to fulfill their religious obligations, and the Temple became filled with people during festivals. The outer courts of the Temple served as a marketplace and a kind of one-stop-shop for pilgrims. Those coming to the Temple could fulfill their religious duty of almsgiving by giving to the poor and crippled on their way into the Temple. Upon arriving at the outer courts, they could seek out a moneychanger to acquire the proper Temple currency, as foreign coin was not permissible for use; after getting money, one could seek out a livestock dealer to get a necessary animal for sacrifice.

If the pilgrim were unsure as to which animal to purchase, priests made themselves available for consultation. Other priests led worship songs and activities during the constant stream of sacrifice. Merchants sold and transported their goods across the Temple courts, taking advantage of the massive crowds that flocked there. Jews and Gentiles both could enter the outer courts and observe the events of the day. Beyond the business matters of the marketplace and the Temple proper, the outer courts became a gathering place for all people.

When one considers the marketplace atmosphere of the outer Temple courts, it comes as no surprise that the Temple also housed the wealth of the Jewish people. During the Temple’s construction, sizable donations and valuable gifts came in from other rulers around the Roman Empire. Monetary gifts were used to pay superior wages to workers and fund projects, while precious metals and other items contributed to the spectacular appearance of the Temple itself.

Each devout Jewish male across the world made a yearly donation to the Temple, and collection stations were erected throughout the Empire in order to take in the offerings and oversee the safe transport of the funds. The Temple also operated as a sort of bank, with safety-deposit boxes for local citizens who wanted to keep their valuables safe. The Temple housed the national treasures of the Jewish people as well.

Turning the Marketplace on Its Head

Now that we have gained a clearer picture of the significance and function of the Temple, we find ourselves in a better position to understand the magnitude of Christ’s actions in clearing the Temple courts. That day, by disrupting the business taking place, Christ attacked the religious and economic status quo. Everett Ferguson, in his work The Backgrounds of Early Christianity, says: “…Jesus’ action in cleansing the Temple looked revolutionary. It was an assault on the economic system and a challenge to the position of the Temple authorities” (pg. 565). How?

Throughout his ministry, Jesus chastises the religious leaders of the times. In Matthew 23.23-24, in the midst of a strong diatribe against the religious elite, Christ condemns the Pharisees for upholding the precise details of the Law and while neglecting justice and mercy and engaging in extortion and self-indulgence. In Luke 20.46-47 Jesus warns his followers to beware of those who enjoy lofty appearances and positions of power while “devouring widows’ houses.” Jesus takes issue with the fact that the priests and Temple rulers cared more for their own comfort and influence than the causes of the oppressed and needy.

The Temple marketplace reflected this. The Law mandated that all must pay the Temple tax, and accounts exist of priests forcibly taking money from those who were poor; however, some wealthy religious leaders re-interpreted the command so as to count themselves exempt. The Law allowed for smaller offerings for those who were poor; however, in the Temple marketplace, the price of these supposedly cheaper animals would skyrocket, causing further financial distress to those who already found themselves with limited money.

To top it all off, the Temple marketplace maintained its own form of currency; to do business within the Temple courts, one must exchange for the mandated currency, often at poor rates. The profit would go directly into the Temple coffers. The priests gained immensely from the steady stream of money and sacrifice through the Temple gates, at the expense of those who could ill afford to pad the pockets of others.

Christ’s action paralyzed the normal economic business of the Temple for the day. Pilgrims could not exchange money and purchase animals, and the priests could not offer sacrifice. Even if only for a short while, the Temple business ground to a standstill. Christ denounced those operating there as thieves – the priestly class chose to neglect proper matters of faith, such as justice and mercy, in order to take financial advantage of the poor and needy for their own inflated egos and personal comfort. Jesus made the message clear: Such “business” has no place in the House of God.

The Gospel of John also contains an interesting epilogue to this event, in which Christ speaks to the nature of the Temple itself. John 2.18-22 tells of Jews who approached Jesus and demanded a sign of his authority, after seeing the Temple business had been disrupted. Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews thought Christ spoke of the physical Temple, but John tells us that Christ spoke of his own body. Christ makes a point: the presence and power of God dwells within people, not within structures. If people are being cheated and justice is being neglected in the Temple, the responsibility for these sins lies with the people in charge of the Temple instead of the Temple system itself. Christ’s assertion challenged the authority and spiritual condition of the Temple leaders as well as their worthiness to lead others in worship and true adherence to the Living God.

Christ’s actions cut deep into both the daily operation of the Temple and the basic understanding of the purpose that the Temple served. By disrupting the status quo, Christ could bring about a different set of activity within the Temple: redemptive acts of teaching and healing that bring about personal and corporate holiness.

Directly applying this passage to daily life appears difficult at first glance; the times have changed, and our interpretation and application of Scripture must take this into account. However, a couple of points emerge as we study this event. Christ’s changed understanding of the Temple itself challenges all those who seek to follow his teachings, while his willingness to disrupt the status quo of a deeply flawed marketplace sets a strong example of how Christians should engage contemporary settings.

One’s body serves as a Temple of the Living God. Christ brought a new understanding of the concept of Temple when he answered the Jews in John 2.18-22. Those questioning Jesus held that the true presence of the One and Only Almighty God lived within the Temple; however, Jesus spoke of his body as a Temple while the Jews spoke of the physical structure. The Apostle Paul develops this understanding in 1 Corinthians 6.17.20 when he exhorts the Corinthian church to avoid immoral behavior because the Holy Spirit lives in them. The religious leaders of the Temple may have upheld the Law and honored the presence of God within the Temple building, but they failed to understand and honor God’s presence living in them by acting unjustly and exploiting the poor. The actions of Christ condemn the leaders for being unworthy to act as stewards of God’s house.

Christ’s actions serve as a stark reminder for Christians who live and work in marketplaces today: we must honor the presence of God that lives in us by living accordingly. Just as the Temple should have been a house of prayer, we must be people of prayer. Our interactions must be guided by mercy and justice, while our decisions must be led by God’s Holy Spirit. Each marketplace will have understandings and norms that operate contrary to God’s Kingdom principles. As called ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must live out this understanding of personal Temple-hood and not compromise God’s living presence for the sake of marketplace acceptance or operation. Will we heed Christ’s call to be people of integrity and justice who live only by the principles of His Kingdom?

Redemptively engage the marketplace. The picture of Christ that we see here provides us with an example of how to engage marketplace culture: redemptively, and even disruptively, if necessary. Christ knew that the marketplace status quo did not uphold the principles of God’s Kingdom. He acted by disrupting the current operations: overturning tables, driving away sacrificial animals, and bringing redemption into the marketplace through teaching and healing.

Christ calls us as his followers to redeem the marketplaces that we engage. Part of this redemption means having a full understanding of what takes place within the marketplace and not turning a blind eye to operations and causes that defy God’s Kingdom. Once aware of how the marketplace falls short of the Kingdom of Heaven, we can then engage the marketplace in ways that introduce Christ’s paradigms of justice, mercy, and redemption rather than paradigms of greed and consumerism. At times, this will mean breaking the status quo. In these moments, we should remember that we are acting as agents of God’s Kingdom, setting up shop in places that desperately need the presence of the Almighty to break in. Operating redemptively in marketplaces may fly in the face of how many think marketplaces should work. However, we, as disciples of Christ, live by a different paradigm.

As we seek to engage marketplaces in our day and age, the account of Christ cleansing the Temple provides us with an example of how the power of God can break into an environment, challenge the economic and religious status quo, and act redemptively in ways that bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may we do the same.

Bibliography

Aland, Kurt., ed. Synopsis of the Four Gospels: English Edition. Broadway: United Bible Societies, 1982.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus: An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.

Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Betz, Hans Dieter. “Jesus and the Purity of the Temple (Mark 11.15-18): A Comparative Approach.” Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997): 455-472.

Ferguson, John. “The Cleansing of the Temple.” Modern Churchman 24 (1981): 27-30.

Evans, Craig A. “Jesus and the ‘Cave of Robbers:’ Toward a Jewish Context for the Temple Action.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 3 (1993): 93-110.

Casey, Maurice. “Culture and Historicity: The Cleansing of the Temple.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 59 (1997): 306-332.

Dawsey, James M. “Confrontation in the Temple: Luke 19.45-20.47.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 11 (1984): 153-165.

Seth Asher received a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in May 2011. He combines a passion for Scripture with a heart for practical application. He authors the seasonal devotional Continuum of Grace (available at http://continuumofgrace.wordpress.com). After being ordained in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Seth relocated to Newark, Delaware. Read more about the author here: http://continuumofgrace.wordpress.com/about-the-author/.

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Off the Shelf: On Books: The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

By Hernando de Soto

(New York: Basic Books, 2003)

Reviewed by Rodolpho Carrasco

I was raised and educated in environments that viewed moneymaking as unrighteous and free markets as exploitative. Being poor and Mexican in Southern California meant that I had a hard heart toward rich, white capitalists who I perceived valued money over justice. As time passed, however, I changed my view of our economic system. My life was transformed by the educational and economic opportunities afforded me by our free-market system. I learned I was blessed to attend high school for free when I discovered that my counterparts in Mexico had to pay for the same privilege. That blessing was connected to the robust U.S. economic system, and toward this system, I felt gratitude.

My experiences as an urban youth minister have cemented my understanding of the magnificent potential of free markets to lift people out of poverty. I know Mexican immigrants who spent years living several families to one house while they saved the money to purchase that property and two others. I know young African Americans who built legitimate and sizable savings accounts while delaying gratification and working at multiple minimum-wage jobs.

Even so, I remain concerned about the pain that free-market capitalism causes around the world and at home. Admittedly, the rise of widespread health insurance and advances in medicine were principally driven by market forces, but there is something wrong when one episode in the hospital can create a hole from which a poor person spends years digging out.

There is also the ever present question of why a small percentage of the world’s population is as rich as Croesus while a great number remain as poor as Stone-Agers. Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto’s latest book echoes my conflicting feelings: an admiration for the free market tempered with concern about its inequities.

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Basic Books, 2003) directs attention to the importance of property law in making capitalism work for poor people around the world.

De Soto, who runs a think tank in Peru that the ECONOMIST magazine considers the second most important in the world, delivers a compelling set of arguments that good property law makes all the difference:

  • Capitalism is a tool that has improved the lives of millions and has the potential to improve living standards in every nation on earth. However, it has lost its way in developing nations and former communist nations.
  • Capitalism’s failure in the two thirds world is not an issue of culture. WASP culture is not the magic ingredient that makes capitalism work, and the traditions of indigenous peoples are not inextricably at odds with capitalist tenets. De Soto puts it like this: “Is illegal squatting on real estate in Egypt and Peru the result of ancient ineradicable nomadic traditions among the Arabs and the Quechuas’ back and forth custom of cultivating crops at different vertical levels of the Andes? Or does it happen because in both Egypt and Peru it takes more than 15 years to obtain legal property rights to desert land?”
  • The tipping point for the seemingly inexhaustible wealth of the United States is property law. Effective property law secures an asset, such as a home, in a way that allows it to be used for another purpose, such as getting a loan against that property. This is what we call working capital. Americans take for granted that we can obtain a loan against the value of our homes and thus acquire working capital. But such a means of acquiring startup money – the number-one method of funding a new business – is unavailable in most parts of the world.
  • The United States was in the exact same mess 150 years ago – lacking a uniform property law that could title property in a way that a bank would make a loan against it – as most countries on earth are in today. The lack of uniform property law was a headache as the U.S. government and the Supreme Court contended with illegal squatter settlements throughout the Western territories. De Soto’s chapter, “The Missing Lessons of U.S. History,” details the transformation of competing land claims and hundreds of legal jurisdictions into a singular, coherent set of property statutes.
  • Uniform property law is the difference between capitalism as a system accessible by the masses, as we have in the United States today, and capitalism as a tool only for a clubby elite, as prevails in most of the world.

De Soto’s ability to pinpoint capitalism’s shortcomings while glorying in its potential is rare. If your book club is populated equally by rabid free-marketeers and storm-the-gates anti-capitalist protestors, start with Mystery. Of course, I don’t know where one would find such a book club, given the radical divide that exists between the two groups. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that poverty fighters on both sides of the divide will turn to De Soto’s theses for years to come.

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