Category Archives: Excerpts from Eden’s Bridge the Book

From Eden’s Bridge: And Then the End Shall Come (Teleology)

(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.)

There is on our day a great deal of confusion concerning the end times and such. Teleology, the study of design or purpose, has a great deal to say concerning the future as prophesied in the Bible.

Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14). The “coming end” occurs at a point in time but time is not the focus of the statement. Rather, this end concerns a particular conclu­sion, in the sense of the adage “the ends justify the means.” The end of which Jesus spoke is the achievement of a new (renewed) status of social and political reality, the end of worldly affairs as they now stand under the corruption of sin. Jesus was speaking of the fulfillment of God’s ob­jectives in human individual and socio-cultural reformation.

Under consideration is the Greek term telos, from which the word teleology is derived, the study of the ultimate purpose or design of things. A telos may correspond to a particular point in time but refers more specifically to a change of status. It is in this sense that “Christ is the end [telos] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). To better understand the end of which Jesus spoke, in contrast to a date, consider the use of telos when the angel spoke to Mary of the son she would bear. She was told that Jesus’ kingdom “will have no telos” (Luke 1:33). In other words, the reign of Christ will endure forever unchanged. The Kingdom of God is the end, the culmination of God’s redemptive intention, recovering God’s people and creation from the current corruption of sin.

Different approaches have been tried to bring about Kingdom te­los, such as social engineering, progressive politics, and even scientific development. If not inspired and led of God, attempts at political and social innovation will only improve conditions temporarily. The telos we look forward to is the ultimate reign of Christ in human hearts and social institutions. Where Christ rules (now only in part), the future culmination of the Kingdom begins to come into view.

In the church, the telos of God has been hindered by shallow the­ology, false doctrine, and misguided isolation from the world. Certain theological claims of the past two centuries have unconsciously reverted to a form of Platonic dualism which puts temporal and spiritual reali­ties in opposition. These claims can result in doctrines of escapism and expectations that the earth will meet a cataclysmic end to be replaced by an entirely different planet. The latter, in turn, can undermine creation care as part of the tending the Garden mandate.

The church has also been guilty of devaluing good that comes from secular activities simply because it was carried out by those who deny or ignore Christ, or who do not know of Him at all. If all good things come from God (James 1:17), then the positive impact of humanistic efforts by environmental groups or secular humanitarian agencies, for example, can be attributed to God. They are still dead works however and impute no righteousness to the participants. Opportunities to glorify God and witness to the world are missed when Christians refuse to come along side non-Christians to do good. God is advancing His mission in some cases in spite of the church, such as environmental efforts by secular organizations like Greenpeace, and social advancement activities like the poverty alleviating efforts of the United Nations and other non-government agencies, no matter how misguided or marginally successful either may be.

We are invited to take part in the Kingdom of God now. Evangelism opens the door to personal and social salvation. It is right that preaching “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) hold the preeminent position in the ministry of the church to the world. But the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Discipleship empowers the reformation of the human social condition, infusing godly wisdom and power into systemic institutions through the disciples He calls to influential roles within them.

The telos of God’s coming Kingdom is modeled in the Garden nar­rative. It is to that model of fellowship with God and abundant provision that the world is being returned. In the interim, the powers (social and economic) and principalities (political) against which we contend are largely the corrupted formal (legal) and informal (cultural) institutions of this world. The Kingdom telos will overcome ungodly cultural norms, the greed of economic injustice, the biases of marginalization (racism, for instance), and the towers of corrupt governance.

In the Kingdom telos, overarching human institutions (i) —family, ideology, education, media, the arts and entertainment, commerce, and governance—will be renewed by the power of Christ’s love, to the glory of God and the restoration of Edenic shalom.

Jesus taught a quite a lot about economics, possibly more so than on any other topic, in relating temporal life to the Kingdom of God. The condemnations of Israel by the prophets were largely focused on the disobedience of God’s will in the economic and political oppression of the masses by the wealthy, priestly, and monarchical authorities. An important focus in the Kingdom telos is distributive justice. God gave a redemptive model of human economics in the statements on His provi­sion for Israel in the promised land of Canaan in Deuteronomy 8. He promised that the land would provide for the people in abundance (vv. 7–8) and that they would lack nothing (v. 9), that it would be a place without miskenuth (scarcity or poverty).

In economic studies, scarcity refers to the fact that finite limitations of material and non-material resources preclude fulfilling all human wants. A lecturer once made a logical point: land is not able to produce beyond its natural limitations. That is to say that material scarcity, in some sense or the other, remains. The requirement for Israel to over­come material shortfall (chaser, to lack or need—Deuteronomy 8:9), however, was adherence to God’s commands (v. 6). The eradication of poverty (lack or indigence) hinges on distributive justice founded in the love of God. Jeffrey Sachs, in The End of Poverty, implies that we have the eco­nomic ability to eliminate abject poverty in this generation. (ii) But we lack the political will to do so. That is a condition of the heart, not the mind, nor the limitation of the land to produce. While we have the ability to provide for all, deprivation is propagated by political failure motivated by selfishness, i.e., sin.

The end (telos) will look a great deal like the beginning, the shalom of Eden restored. God provided for and orchestrated the division of the land of Canaan (Numbers 26:52–27:11; 34:1–3:34; Joshua 13:1–21:45) such that all would have access to the primary means of production for their perpetual provision. God also commanded the jubilee law that would restore any sold land to the original owners (Leviticus 25:9–55) every fifty years (v. 28). No one was precluded from retaining the wealth they may have accumulated other than real estate.

It is not unreasonable to consider that inordinate concentrations of wealth are outside the will of God, specifically if poverty reigns amongst the masses and over multiple generations. The word-picture of the New Jerusalem, with its foundations made of precious stones and the city of gold, in Revelation 21:18 and 21 is poignant. It shows that when the wealth of the world is appropriated according to God’s will and distrib­uted righteously, it will overflow all need, and that the measures, sym­bols, and means of accumulated wealth will be moot.

When the end comes, the date will be of little importance. What will be important is the fulfillment of a new (renewed) social and politi­cal reality, and the just distribution of wealth.

i. Hillman, Os. Reclaiming the Seven Mountains, 2011. No pages. Online: I have adapted and modified the list of cultural pillars, substituting ideology for religion.

ii. Sachs, Jeffrey D. “Introduction” to The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, 1–4. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

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from Eden’s Bridge – Excursus: On Capitalism

(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.)

Market functions have existed on a wide variety of levels from creation forward. Capitalism is a relatively new twist to market economics and human history, evolving through various stages of development over the last five hundred years.(i) But the potential of the marketplace has unleashed an unprecedented era of collective imagination and hope.

Within capitalism, entrepreneurs with access to increasing global wealth have been empowered to think in larger and more efficient ways. The collective faith of risk-taking investors has allowed the development of new technologies and new enterprises that few individuals, even the wealthiest, could have facilitated historically. Pooled capital has helped industries leapfrog from local and regional scales to transnational presence while bringing about dramatic innovations. The advance of medical science is an illuminating and encouraging case validating capitalism.

Corporate management is still prone to corruption at times. Though it may seem prevalent corruption is actually the exception rather than the rule (ii)  and corporations have contributed to an expansion of global wealth unprecedented in human history. The poor in developed countries are now seldom poor by the standards of even fifty years ago, based on household amenities and access to healthcare and education. They remain relatively poor only within the context of their local or national economies. They live with fewer of the difficulties experienced by their parents and grandparents and more than twice the life expectancy. Many of the poor in developing economies have been lifted from abject poverty and middle classes are beginning to emerge. In the last twenty years, China and India have increasingly embraced capital markets, instituting legal and governmental systems with foundations in moral reasoning. (iii) Collaboration and cooperation continue to develop higher efficiencies in market activities, increasing global wealth and its reach further down the economic ladder.

Modern corporations allow for stock ownership through affordable buy-in across a broad range of income groups. Many corporations begin informally among family and friends who pool their funds and talents to make a better life. Small business can be an inexpensive means for a broad range of operators to take greater control of their financial destiny by investing sweat equity. Even the very poor can exercise their entrepreneurial talents starting with very little capital as markets continue to specialize and decentralize, and collaboration increases between operators and resource-oriented NGO’s.

Capitalism is the dominant economic system in the world. But the reality of sin dictates the need for moral direction and constraint. The drive to produce and accumulate wealth makes optimizing profit the primary motivation behind many business decisions. (iv) The church is in a position politically, economically, and philosophically to work with secular, socially-conscious business operators and owners to redirect and ensure capitalism is moving toward supporting just relationships. Despite its shortcomings, capitalism still offers enormous economic and empowering potential, demonstrably more so than any other economic system in history.

In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem holds untold wealth. The foundations and gates of the city are bedecked with jewels and the city made of gold. In the day that Christ’s Kingdom is fulfilled, precious metals and jewels, the currency of the ancient world and still valued today, will be of no more worth than cinder blocks and pine boards are today.

The call of the church is to encourage a righteous and abundant culture where the individual accumulation of wealth is all but pointless. Capitalism offers the greatest opportunity in our day toward that goal, but only as it is morally restrained and committed to the common good.

i. Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. New York: The Free Press, 1996, 80.

ii. It is easy to take a jaded view of corporations given the accounts of corruption and greed in the daily news. But corporations include small businesses in every community, from gas stations and light manufacturing to lawn care companies and restaurants. The majority of business owner/operators are hardworking, honest people simply trying to make a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. About 80 percent of corporations have less than 10 employees (

iii. Studying numerous philosophers, political scientists, and economic theorists, like Adam Smith, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson, is necessary to understand the complexities of democratic governance and market economics. Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a good example of the intellectual thought that characterized the democratizing and market developments of the 17th and 18th centuries.

iv. Profit is necessary to ensure financial sustainability. Pursuing profit becomes immoral when it relegates human welfare to a subordinate concern.

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God Calling Marketplace Christians: Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission

(This post is the  Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission.  The book is now available via Amazon at or from the author on ebay at

Missiologists and mission practitioners have embraced the marketplace as a vital component in wholistic(i) evangelism, as it ministers to the needs of the whole person in mind, body, and soul. Jesus ministered through preaching, healing, deliverance, and feeding the people of His surrounding culture as they came to Him in their real world needs. He spoke of the hope of economic justice to the poor, that the covenantal system was being re-established in the world. As indictment that they would be held to account for perpetrating selfish injustices, Jesus called the rich and ruling classes to repentance.

This book proposes that the marketplace was intentional in God’s original design. Due to the scope of the subject, time and space dictate presenting broad themes in a globalistic way.(ii) The global view looks across disciplinary divides. Practice in the marketplace, politics, the arts, medicine, education and so on, move along a trajectory toward increasing specialization. Such narrowing disciplinary foci create blinders to the interconnectedness of diverse interests.

The treatment of specific material here is necessarily brief. Scholarly considerations of even one component could fill volumes and launch decades of legitimate discussion and development. The intent here is only to open the door a bit wider on a theoretical level and invite others to carry the conversation forward.

I came to this manuscript as a convergence of thirty years business management and administrative experience (fourteen as an entrepreneur starting and co-owning three small businesses) and eighteen years pursuing Christ, both spiritually and intellectually. It is also the culminating point of eight years’ research and reflection begun in 2003 while pursuing my Master’s degree at Asbury Theological Seminary. The early research was undertaken at the suggestion of my professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Michael Rynkiewich, an anthropological missiologist.

Chapter 1—Proposing a Biblical Marketplace Theology is a brief statement (one page) of seven propositions supporting the central thesis of Eden’s Bridge—that the marketplace is an institution of God. Those propositions involve content of the creation narrative, filtering the biblical text through economic language and theory, the nature and character of God, Eve’s pivotal role, good and evil in commerce, and the missional function of business.

Chapter 2—An Economic Walk in the Garden is a reflective reading of the first three chapters of Genesis, the narrative of the creation and the Fall. This review is intentional in applying economic terminology to the narrative to illuminate the economic foundations in creation and the juxtaposition of the inherent goodness over against the moral corruption of the marketplace.

Chapter 3—Economic Models and Theological Concerns addresses relevant issues in theological and biblical perspective related to these propositions including economic models, God’s mission in the world (the missio Dei, iii), eschatology (the last things), teleology (the end, as goal or outcome), soteriology (salvation), and ecclesiology (the church).

Chapter 4—Engaging Relevant Modern and Ancient Terminology examines terms which, when understood in biblical and historic perspective and logically defined, help toward acquiring a Kingdom perspective of the marketplace. These include economic verbiage, definitions of business and the marketplace, and key biblical terms from the original Old and New Testament languages.

Chapter 5—Redeeming the Marketplace considers marketplace-related issues in God’s mission of redemption including the godhead and consecration (sacredness), and how these relate to scarcity, stewardship and debt, collaboration, competition and capitalism, eschatological vision, and the redemption of worldly wealth.

Chapter 6—Market and Mission reflects on a variety of Christian marketplace initiatives and socio-cultural concerns, the marketplace and evangelism, and possible pitfalls in current mission pursuits as the church explores reformative theories of commerce.


(i) The specific spelling wholism is adapted as a linguistic means to distinguish Christian application of the term holistic from its general uses, especially in medicine and pagan religious appropriations. In Christian mission, wholism (or holism) has been predominantly used in two ways. The first references the whole ministry of the church, determining that evangelism and social action are inherently inseparable. The second recognizes that persons are whole in being, more than spiritual or temporal beings in isolation, and that Christian ministry should address all aspects of the person, including their temporal (psychological, emotional, intellectual, social, etc.) and spiritual needs in toto, as it seeks to make disciples.

(ii) Globalist was the term used by Thomas Friedman in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (2000, 23–28) to describe one practicing information arbitrage to span vast and divergent topics to reveal the “bigger picture” and the ecology between diverse parts.

(iii) Missio Dei is the Latin phrase for the mission of God, the redemption and restoration of all creation.

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Overcoming Sweat: A Possible Future

(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 consequences of Adam’s sin (taking Eve’s curses separately) were guilt, shame, spiritual isolation, banishment from the Garden, the curs­ing of the ground, toil (`itstsabown), and sweat. While Adam did work in the Garden before the Fall, the ease of access to its abundant resources apparently made for easy work, at least by comparison to how we see work afterward.

Creation outside the Garden took on a contentious nature after the Fall, producing weeds that corrupted the fields, stealing essential nu­trients from Adam’s produce, and adding to the actual work needed to produce food. `Itstsabown (Strong’s 6093) is interpreted as pain, labor, hardship, sorrow, or toil. It is easy to picture Adam sowing seed, weed­ing, and harvesting under the heat of the sun, sweating, and groaning from muscle aches. `Itstsabown is also one of the terms used to describe Eve’s pain in childbirth in Genesis 3:16.

Through the ages work has remained tedious and physically de­manding, but there have been dramatic reductions in the monotony and physical difficulty of work in developed economies. The creation and ac­cumulation of new wealth has empowered the development of new tech­nologies that have eased the burden and increased the productivity of work. Labor saving and productivity tools and systems are everywhere, from indoor plumbing to the Internet, from hand tools to earthmoving machinery.

There is a hierarchy to making work easier. The foundation is the essential cooperative element of the marketplace—the division of labor. While this was instituted in the Garden with the introduction of Eve as ezer (one who aids), the Bible reveals the second key, derived from the division of labor, in the very next generation: specialization. Abel was a keeper of flocks and Cain was a tiller of the ground (Genesis 4:2b). It is likely that they each brought different products, of their individual efforts and expertise, to the well-being of the family community.

Specialization fosters the third key: innovation. Practitioners en­hance productive efficiencies through creating innovative processes and technologies. The creative impulse of God, apparent in our inheritance of the imago Dei, enhances human critical and imaginative thinking, such that that which is unseen might be envisioned and brought into reality. Andy Stanley calls this practice visioneering . . . “the [intellectual and action] process[es] whereby ideas and convictions take on substance.”[i]  Innovation invites the fourth key: collaboration. This development moves the marketplace from its basic operations in the exchange of goods and services to include the exchange of ideas. All these—the divi­sion of labor, specialization, innovation, and collaboration—along with the right moral mindset and favorable circumstances, contribute to an upward cycle of increasing human productivity.

World religions have historically spread along trade routes, such as the roadways of the Roman Empire or along the Silk Road, and with mil­itary and colonizing conquests as invaders brought their own religions with them. Despite cultural resistance to the philosophic ideas brought by dominating powers, acceptance by elite groups in conquered societ­ies is often a pragmatic decision as a means to bring higher social order to the receiving culture.[ii]

After the initial spread in the Middle East in its first four centuries, Christianity spread predominantly to the west into Europe and the Americas. In the last two centuries it has continued to spread and is growing dramatically in Asia and Africa.[iii]

A democratizing influence has spread to the West more or less concurrently with Christianity, especially after the Reformation under­mined the centralized political power of the Roman Catholic Church. The underlying principles of the democratic movement have been ap­propriated from liberal Greek philosophy and conjoined to Christian personal and political ethics, especially thought development on indi­vidual liberty of conscience and responsibility. There are, however, argu­ments demonstrating a fair degree of formative liberal government and economic thought derived from the Jesus teachings,[iv] now evident in Roman Catholic social teaching and emerging Protestant literature.[v]

Classical liberal governance and economics have encouraged the pursuit of free enterprise and individual wealth as reactions opposing the oppression of the masses in the history of feudalism and the enslave­ment of monarchical tyranny. Labor and capital consolidated around individuals, households, guilds, and communities to establish their own economic engines and leave the economic fate of others to themselves.

In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes examines the influence of the Judeo-Christian value system in social and economic de­velopment, especially its views on private property, freedom, decentral­ization, egalitarianism, accountability, transparency, legal institutions, and so on.[vi] Orthodox Christian eschatology anticipates the re-ordering of human society, compelling it toward ever higher levels of cooperation and collaboration and furthering the institutionalization of accountabil­ity. In short, Christianity promotes economic and governmental systems based on trust, not necessarily of individuals but of the social contract and corresponding systems for avoiding or resolving conflict.[vii]

Trust creates environments conducive to complex economic activi­ties, e.g., the emergence of sophisticated capitalism. Though its founda­tions may be traced even to ancient times and was somewhat developed in Medieval monastic orders, capitalism is a pursuit that has come into its own, so to speak, in the last two hundred years.[viii]

The expansion of global wealth through capitalism has brought the human family to the economic capacity to eradicate extreme hunger. But wealth tends to concentrate in high growth and complex economies rather than being distributed evenly universally. The growth of the economies of India and China in the last quarter century have accounted for the percentage reduction in global poverty. Poverty rates in other places have remained stagnant and some have actually increased.

Two opposing approaches to the alleviation of poverty, or at least economic and political inequality, seem to have reached their polar ze­niths in the last century. One extreme seems right for leveling the playing field for all members of a society. Collectivism and social engineering, top-down efforts, have obviously failed in real ways but still draw the support of a broad audience as the shortest route to the equitable re­distribution of resources and wealth. The political left in democratic societies, while not always collectivists per se, favor coerced redistribu­tion through government interventions of taxation and social programs. These interventions are intended to offset the apparent evils (in their minds) of greed and economic oppression inherent in concentrations of wealth in free market economies. They make a good point that money corrupts political power.

There is a downside, however, to the interventionists’ approach. Free societies designed to protect religious, political, and philosophic freedoms and populated by a broad mix of sub-cultures and ideologies bring a wide variety of views and beliefs to the table. To honor the rights of all value systems governance is forced to become theologically neu­tral. Interventionist idealism is motivated by compassion and moral zeal but moral oversight in a pluralistic, free society must ultimately descend to the lowest common denominator allowing all parties to pursue what “is right in their own eyes” (Prov 21:2).

All that is not to say, however, that the motivations of any political leaders are ideologically neutral. Philosophically-based value systems always have guiding hands in the mix. “Theologically neutral” simply removes God’s Word, along with the sacred texts of other religions, from the public conversation on moral guidance.

The other pole, libertarianism, focuses on liberty as uncoerced personal and corporate responsibility and tends to favor unfettered free markets. Libertarianism would remove all but essential government functions and regulation from bureaucratic hands and leave each person to pursue what “is right in their own eyes”. Sound familiar?

Libertarianism relies on personal character and motivation to supply the needs of society and encourages each individual to optimize their lives according to their wits and resources without the hindrance of overly burdensome regulation or taxes. But like interventionism, liber­tarianism also has serious failings. For one, it discounts the fallen nature of the human heart. Without reasonable legal or cultural restraint cor­ruption abounds. It also offers less protection for those who cannot pro­vide for or protect themselves. Libertarianism undermines recourse to hold abusive wealth and its power to manipulate economies to account.

Both systems stand on moral ground. The left expresses a ready willingness toward personal sacrifice for the greater good. The right favors individual liberty and opportunity. Both have merit on moral grounds, as said, but fail in application.

Within the same time frames which exposed the political and economic failings of socialism, free trade has enhanced the creature comfort of human experience. Newly created wealth does trickle down, but does so slowly. Two problems present themselves in open market systems. One is the current trends in wealth concentration. The other is libertarianism’s willingness to forego government protection against predatory business practices and ensuring reasonable provision for the economically vulnerable. Pervasive sin demonstrates the need for social protection of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40; 25:45).

The political left has demonstrated a particular righteousness in protecting the economically vulnerable from falling through the cracks. While both sides of the political aisle advocate for government involve­ment in the public and private lives of the citizenry, the right contin­ues to argue for less government control and decreasing government bureaucracy. They favor privatization to use market competitiveness to reduce the inefficiencies inherent in non-competitive government bureaucracies.

Market advocates regularly cite government inefficiency due to the lack of price indexing as a legitimate value indicator. Judging govern­ment performance can be arbitrary subject to the assumptions of the reviewer’s agenda. The political right views the cost of government pro­grams, mostly funded by taxes on corporate and private incomes, as a drain on economic productivity. And in recent history governments and private individuals have relied on increasing debt to pay for the goods and services the public wants.

Public and private debt is overwhelming both rich and poor nations. High concentrations of wealth, which enslaves debtors, in the hands of a small elite is politically dangerous and socially unjust as interest costs drain economic strength from states and households. There is upside potential to high concentrations of wealth if it is invested to increase productivity or is disbursed philanthropically. The downside is not un­like central planning operating from the top down. Wealthy investors and donors form a virtual economic oligarchy and have inordinate say as to what is useful in society. Their decisions affect millions of people in the middle and lower classes. This concentration of economic power, and in turn, social and political power, is a real danger of trickle-down economic philosophy.

No money ever leaves the global economy and even non-pro­ductive[ix] government expenditures are repeatedly cycled through the marketplace. But the more funds are used to support administrative, non-productive work, the less ability those funds have to fuel increasing productive output, and its growth potential is diminished. Government is inefficient by its nature and especially hinders the efficiency of markets where it over-taxes incomes and over-regulates market activities.

A pervasive problem in government is the same self-centeredness (sin) of politicians and bureaucrats that affects markets. Fear motivates actors to take self-protective and self-serving measures by creating im­penetrable fiefdoms and serving their greed. Legislators have the ability to line their own pockets, as shown by the generosity of the retirement and benefits programs of the U.S. House and Senate. The growth of gov­ernment agencies, which further hinders the efficiency of the economy, allows the career entrenchment of bureaucrats. Both causes, self-service and bureaucracy, are protected and economic justice is undermined when the players in the game are allowed to make their own rules. Business is subject to government oversight but still experiences abusive practices. The oversight of government by an ill-informed, lackadaisical electorate exacerbates base human tendencies and abuse which is no less prevalent than in the business world.

Government is necessary to provide for the common good, espe­cially in defense, safety, and public works, such as managing infrastruc­ture, disbursing aid, and providing police protection. Government is also necessary to house the legal institutions that protect against abuses of power by the tyranny of both independent wealth and over-reaching government. In a republic the ultimate responsibility of government falls to the constituency and freedom tends to undermine itself due to the fallen nature of the human heart. Personal liberty requires personal responsibility which appears to be tenuous at best. Living in a “free” so­ciety, the electorate gets exactly the government it creates, and changing the system is stymied by the vested interest of those with economic and political power.

As becomes obvious, the views of the interventionists and the lib­ertarians both have legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of the other.

One way to help overcome sweat, as the laborious burdens of eco­nomic inefficiency, is to re-engineer government to perform its func­tions in efficient and accountable ways. This requires the electorate to establish new standards of performance, such as demanding balanced budgets. All parties must recognize that material scarcity limits having all that we want and demands compromise and efficiency.

Incorporating a second strategy, through the cooperation, col­laboration, and collective creativity of varied points of view working together, enormous good can be done through emerging commercial strategies like social venture. These models, funded by donations or loans, provide jobs and support charitable needs rather than new high-end subdivisions. Social venture uses market mechanisms to serve public needs without relying on government intervention and thereby reduces the need and size of non-productive bureaucracies.

Overcoming sweat requires a focus that walks in the delicate bal­ance between compassion, realistic and reasoned expectations, and a sacrificial willingness to accept delayed gratification. By enhancing just trade and the economic viability of all, even outrageous goals, like redi­recting the industrial-military complex to unleash capital and intellec­tual potential toward more favorable ends, and ecological and economic sustainability have greater chances of becoming realities.

Trade and expanding wealth, as we have seen, can contribute sig­nificantly to the development of peace. While colonialism and impe­rialism have distorted the expansion of wealth, righteous trade across cultural and political borders reduces international strife. Economic aggression, through corporations seeking to manipulate governments and governments pursuing protectionist policies, continues to perpetu­ate widespread injustice, and results in the unintended consequences of political backlash. Global business has a role to play in overcoming economic injustice and promoting peace. International trade focused on achieving equitable, win-win relationships reduces political tension and expands wealth, fostering peaceful and prosperous outcomes.

Overcoming sweat hinges on recognizing the good of cooperation and collaboration founded on trust, the necessity of free-will redistribu­tion through just investment and charitable giving, and the political will to bring them about. That vision of a hopeful eschatology rests on the choices of human will in submission to God. Given the corrupted nature of the human will, Christian vision abides patiently in grace, aligning itself with the movement of God, and encouraging human obedience. The mission of God, the missio Dei, was set on its path before creation, invigorated by Christ’s obedience to the Cross, and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. Changed hearts embrace co­operation, giving, and political good-will, and are changing the world toward Kingdom culmination at Christ’s return and the restoration of Edenic shalom.

Hearts transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and attuned to the Kingdom of God as a functional, temporal reality are the impetus to create the groundswell for radical social change. Just as unfettered capitalism and socialism result in economic and political oligarchies, grassroots entrepreneurial and political movements, guided by the Holy Spirit, offer the greatest future hope for humankind.

This groundswell needs to occur both in the marketplace and the halls of justice to find the appropriate balance between the marketplace and governance. Then “they will hammer their swords into plow­shares” (Isa 2:4). The contrast of these instruments of competitive strife (swords) and economic productivity (plowshares) offers an encouraging vision of the peaceful, just, and life-feeding aims of the actively coming Kingdom.

[i] Stanley, Andy. Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999, 8.

[ii] Mongomery, Robert L. The Diffusion of Religions: A Sociological Perspective. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1996, 156.

[iii] Jenkins, Philip. “The Future Demographics of Religion,” in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 89–92. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

[iv] Such as, Wilson, Clarence True. “Jesus Christ, the Embodiment of Democratic Ideals,” in The Divine Right of Democracy, 46–62. New York: Abingdon Press, 1922.

[v] Three excellent resources: Claar, Victor V. and Robin J. Klay. Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy and Life Choices. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007; Piedra, Alberto M. Natural Law: The Foundation of an Orderly Economic System. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004; and, Woods, Thomas E., Jr. The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005.

[vi] Landes, David S. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999, 33–35.

[vii] This is not to say that any particular known form of government or economic system is directly or absolutely endorsed by God or the biblical record. The church has flourished under other systems.

[viii] Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. New York: The Free Press, 1996. Oxford University Press, 80.

[ix] Government is unproductive when revenues are not used efficiently to promote increasing productivity and wealth. Corporations, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, and households face the realities of living within their means. Government has limited accountability and little overt motivation to pursue efficiency

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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:

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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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 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 62:11–12: “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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On the Glory and Character of God

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, to be released in January, 2012 by Wipf & Stock Publishers.)

In pursuing knowledge of the infinite, the human mind is severely limited to conceptualizations that necessarily fall short. In seeking knowledge of an infinite God, it is understandably difficult to define God’s glory. There are no less than eighteen words in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament that have been translated as glory or one of its variations (glorious, glorify, gloriousness, etc.). Of those, only kabod (Strong’s 3519) is translated in the New American Standard Bible concerning the glory of God in Exodus 33–34, a good launch point for investigating God’s glory.

Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen”
(Exod 33:18–23).

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exod 34:6–7).

The focus here is on the character of God as the “residual” (back side) of his passing presence. Character is revealed as it manifests in action. That is how we know, insofar as we can, the heart of another, that is, as they behave. Words proclaimed are only words proclaimed. Without evidence in compliance with the words, we judge the moral content of the actor’s performance to define their character. We cannot judge the heart of another so we judge the fruit.

The entirety of the Bible is revelatory. It is the story of God and His relationship to His creation and especially His people. Joshua commanded Israel to pile twelve stones in the midst of Jordan as a memorial (Josh 4:3–7), a testimony, to God’s goodness so that subsequent generations could know God by the stories of His gracious deeds.

Our faith and works will one day stand the test of God’s consuming fire, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Our acts reveal the righteousness of our character. The focus of the passages from Exodus above is on God’s character as a reflection of His glory: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, forgiving, and just.

Previously, God had revealed His name to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Vic Hamilton argues that an exact translation of I AM WHO I AM should be “I am He who is,” that is, He is the God who is present, the One “there with you.”(i) In Creation, God aimed to reveal His glory to humankind that He might make Himself known. Exposure, whether by experience or the testimony of others, is prerequisite to knowing. It was in the passing presence of God before Moses that the glory was revealed. Argued more deeply, the Incarnation was the most(ii) perfect revelation of God’s glory (Heb 1:1–3), His character manifest in Word and deed.

Kabod is derived from a primitive root (kabad—Strong’s 3513) meaning heavy or weightiness, but is used figuratively to speak to both splendor (magnificence) and copiousness (yielding abundance).(iii) This term lends itself to both awe, beholding the majesty of God, and provision, God as the source of our being and supplier of our material needs.

As the Garden narrative demonstrates, God is our provider and sustainer, and the system of our temporal sustenance, the biomechanical workings of the heavens and earth, is good. The Bible also reveals God as loving, and not given to fiat or arbitrariness which would create undue fear in His people due to capriciousness or malevolence.

Kabod witnessed also lends itself to the idea of presence. We take note of those who “change” a room just by entering it. God’s immanence, specifically in the acts of creation, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit present in and equipping the church, has and is impacting the world.

Moses details God’s glory in the Exodus account by cataloguing character traits. This list reveals the outward-working of holy love. It also corresponds closely to the listing of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23) and informs how righteous relationships are lived out. The relevance to guiding marketplace behavior cannot be missed.

Other common descriptions of the Trinitarian God include egalitarian, unified, wise, and creative. These are also relevant to Christians in the marketplace. They will commonly appear in people devoted to Christ and growing in spiritual maturity. By God’s redemptive grace, the way is open to become like Christ as we “are being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18). Christians in the marketplace will pursue the increase of His government (rule or dominion, Isa 9:7) in personal and professional ethics, and in social systems and institutions.

i. Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook to the Pentateuch, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 144–145.
ii. I use most here due to the limitations of human capacity to comprehend the glory of God.
iii. Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament – TWOT Lexicon (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980, in BibleWorks for Windows, V. 5.0.034a. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC, 2001), entries 943d, 943e.


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The Division of Labor in Creation

The thesis of Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (Copyright © 2011 David B. Doty) is “The marketplace is an institution of God to facilitate (by way of material provision) an enduring relationship between humankind and the godhead, to foster holiness within human experience and relationships, and to advance the plan of redemption of all creation.”

The following essay, one of a series of word studies, is adapted from Eden’s Bridge (release pending, January, 2012).

To Help (`ezer): Mutual Interests and Community (Genesis 2:18)—Strong’s 5828

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper (`ezer) suitable for him.” The Triune God recognized the benefits of human community. Eve is designated as `ezer neged before being called wife (Genesis 2:22–24, ‘ishash, as the opposite of man and his mate).(i) This first reference says a great deal about God’s intention for the relationship. An `ezer is a helper, a partner, one who aids and helps protect. The modifier, neged (Strong’s 5048), is translated as suitable only in Genesis 2. Literally, it means in front of (before), conspicuous, in the presence of, or opposite (as in, facing). The opposite aspect may be most clear with Eve as Adam’s sexual counterpart.

Wives share the joys and burdens of life with husbands and vice versa. God expresses concern that it was not good (towb, meaning beneficial—Strong’s 2896b) for Adam to be alone (bad, not bad as in evil—Strong’s 0905). The Hebrew word bad means solitary, separated. It is the term used several times in Exodus for the poles (staves) designed to carry the Ark of the Covenant, as they were individual branches separated (bad) from trees. Allegorically, the lifelessness of a cut branch is not dissimilar to the lonely man cut off from the benefits of being in community. Fellowship in common cause is vital to sustaining human life and increasing the ease with which life is made more tolerable and enjoyable. The deeply intimate social and co-creative aspects of the Trinity were endued to God’s human family in the male and female likeness.

Elijah bemoaned his solitude (bad) in the lonely cave and feared for his life without the company of fellow believers (I Kings 19:9). In Hebrews 3:3, Christians are exhorted to come alongside one another daily to battle falling back into sin. The birth of the church occurred on the day of Pentecost as the 120 were gathered in the Upper Room, likely in deep fear, to encourage one another in light of the recent Crucifixion of Christ and their dismay as to the uncertainty of the future despite Jesus’ already revealed resurrection. Fellowship encourages us, whether in the home, at work, or at leisure with friends, and helps hold us accountable for ungodly behavior. The division of labor, and cooperation and collaboration in the marketplace enhance our quality of life.

The marketplace is where the majority of our social interactions occur. The practice of worship, as trusting and obeying God, was not institutionalized in Genesis 1–2 before the Fall but was experienced in direct fellowship with God. Worship, like marriage and the marketplace, was established in the Garden and was contingent upon the appropriate, submitted relationship of Adam and Eve to God. The earliest form of worship was no more than walking in obedient fellowship with God.

God’s intent for Adam and Eve to work, steward, and procreate (multiply—Genesis 1:28) imply the sacred nature of these activities.(ii) As created and ordered systems, marriage and family, along with business,(iii) were instituted simultaneously with the introduction of Eve as a suitable partner. The ‘ezer neged (suitable helper) facilitated productive partnership. That partnership promoted the expansion of the human family by procreation and of weal,(iv) as the quality of life was improved through increased efficiency making their work more productive.

Worship, marriage (and by extension, family), and business are the original and intended institutions of God in creation. Similarly, theocratic governance, to maintain social order in communal living, is instituted as obedient response to God’s ownership (lordship) and the generous provision of the Garden in the single “rule” (to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) of the pre-Fall Edenic covenant.

The `ezer neged, Eve with Adam, was an echo of the equality and fellowship within the Trinitarian Godhead, completing an acute communal reality of being made in the image of God, male and female. Communalism is a spiritually and temporally (economically) unified reality, hence our mutual human interdependence as emulating and in harmony with God.(v)


i. On humankind created male and female, Genesis 1:27 uses the Hebrew neqabah (female) to note the genitalic sexual distinction.
ii. This is discussed in Eden’s Bridge, 5.2 Sacrament: Sacred versus Secular.
iii. This is discussed in Eden’s Bridge, 4.2 Redefining Business—as mutually beneficial exchange between cooperative laborers to facilitate and enhance relationship.
iv. Weal, welfare or well-being, is defined as prosperity, happiness, the general good, and welfare of the community. In effect, true weal is shalom. In the modern sense, wealth (abundant material provision) provides for creature comfort so can be easily understood in the sense of its root, though it can lose its communal character to individualistic greed and material insecurity.
v. Such that communalism not be misunderstood outside the context of the whole of Eden’s Bridge, godly communalism is an uncoerced social construct, that is, living with the regard for all willingly out of the character of one’s spiritual nature rather than as a legal condition created by governmental edict.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace

Business as Sacrament: On the Sacred versus the Secular

(This essay is a close adaptation of an excerpt from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, which is due to be released in January, 2012 by Wipf & Stock Publishers.)

Two statements made at a 2010 summer conference undermine the Christian’s role in the marketplace. Both were made by mature Christian business practitioners and in response to pointed questions after speaking to a largely Christian gathering of theologians, business practitioners, students, clergy, and administrators.

The first concerned the role of business in God’s mission in the world (paraphrased): “Business is not ordained of God. It is only a vehicle for doing good.” This would hold true if it were qualified that business is only for the purposes of financial gain. But business serves numerous and far more important purposes.

Experience validates that those in agreement with the speaker are generally uncomfortable trying to reconcile the extensive abuses of the marketplace to the character of God. This concern with the “corrupt nature” of the market, therefore it must not be “of God,” is quickly undone if marriage is held to the same purity test. The corruptions of marriage and the marketplace are due to human sinfulness, not God’s design or intent for either institution. An obvious parallel is God’s allowance for the sin of divorce. Jesus addressed the Mosaic divorce decrees as acquiescence to the hardness of the human heart. God hates divorce (Mal 2:16) just as He hates unjust scales (Prov 16:11; Prov 20:10; Prov 20:23) because both are violations of just relationship.

Marriage is a covenant, an earthly model of the marriage of Christ and His bride (Eph 5:22–33). The household, as marriage and family, serves as a microcosmic model of the marketplace as a unifying and provisional social community. God’s relationship to humanity is covenantal. God did not destroy humankind when the (pre-Fall) Edenic covenant was broken. Grace remained for human provision and to provide the opportunity for restored relationship with God. In the marketplace, formal contracts are legal covenants but we seldom witness grace (forgiveness) from the world when contracts are broken, further evidence of sin’s corrupting presence.

The human social (informal or cultural) contract, as a manifestation of God’s stated moral laws and naturally-ordered law in creation, is fundamentally concerned with economic issues. Law and culturally-based behavioral norms contribute to peace of mind and body and stability to society as they broadly serve the common good. Economics appear to have played a dominant role in God’s indictment and judgment of Sodom, as they did not “help the poor and needy” (Ezek 16:49), and Tyre, where they “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood” (Amos 1:9). The abhorrent acts under indictment were, in the view of God and the godly, clearly unacceptable and violated the shalom of society.

Parts of the human social contract and the pursuit of the common good are upheld by law. But God-followers are morally obligated to do good (Isa 1:17; Mic 6:8), delighting in kindness (Hos 6:6), and preserving justice by doing what is right (Isa 56:1; Zeph 2:3), especially for the poor, orphans, widows, the weak, and afflicted (Ps 82:3; Jer 22:3). These are the sacrifices pleasing to God (Heb 13:16; 1 Pet 2:5) which may go beyond the letter of the law, as Jesus often taught. The focus is toward social equilibrium and flourishing, shalom such that all in society are well provided for.

God commands His people to do good. Business is one means for doing good and in fact does a great deal of good (i), even as it is carried out by non-believers or operators from other faith traditions. Whenever business is carried out justly, it does good and is God-ordained because we are assured that all good things “come from above” (Jas 1:17). God created the marketplace to serve several positive ends. Human provision, facilitated by the beneficial exchanges of the marketplace, is a fundamental function of creation. Commerce can also be, at least informally, a means of revelatory grace, specifically as immanent charis, the kindness, mercy, and goodwill of God in the world, as business generates wealth that can be used to pay wages, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for widows and orphans. Business can be evangelizing witness to the glory of God as operators share their lives and hope with their employees (by paying fair wages), vendors (by being credit-worthy), customers (by giving excellent service), communities (by supporting and participating in civic activities), and to all by their profession of faith and general congeniality. Christ is present in the marketplace when the devout carry out their business in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and character.

The subordination of the marketplace to “worldly” status, as a form of dualism, is an offense to the Scriptures and God. God decreed the cooperative relationship between Adam and Eve and in all its inherently economic, spiritual, social, relational, and ecological nature. We undermine God’s design when we disallow God’s ordination of the marketplace as part of the proper created order.

The second comment came when the other businessman referred to his “secular” business. When that description was challenged from the audience, he claimed that the business was “secular but not secularist.” I admit freely that I did not and do not understand what that means. I believe that, like the first speaker, this man views business as not ordained of God and under God’s ownership and operation, but meant that as the operator of the business he has godly intent and aims. I cannot disagree more vehemently with drawing such a distinction.

How Christians perceive the division of secular and sacred is important. The popular definition of secular absolutely divides temporal and spiritual matters (dualism). Several Biblical and theological concepts, however, reinterpret that definition. In addition to God’s people, all of creation is being redeemed in Christ, as waiting in earnest expectation (Rom 8:19). Is being redeemed, an active process, is the operative phrase. The functional reality of the Christian life is tension between the worldly (fallen temporal) and the heavenly (restored spiritual). Paul sees this as normal when telling the Corinthians that “we will all be changed” (future passive—1 Cor 15:51–52) and that we “are changed” (present passive—2 Cor 3:18). The first is in reference to the bodily resurrection, the second to taking on the image of Christ. Charles Cranfield, the author of the commentary on Romans published in The International Critical Commentary series, argues that this tension is not resolved between Romans Chapters 7 and 8, but rather that the war between the flesh and spirit is the ongoing conflict of the Christian disciple, striving to serve God in holy living yet recognizing how they continue to fall short of his glory.(ii) Both personally and systemically, the Kingdom of God, the growing reign of Christ in individual hearts and the ongoing redemption of social institutions, is already-but-not-yet, now in imperfect operation yet looking to a future, perfect fulfillment.

This moves the discussion toward issues of eschatology, the study of the last thing (eschaton) or last things (eschata).(iii) Mortals peering into the future certainly see “as through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). The views on what is to come in this world and in heaven run across a broad spectrum. Western orthodox Christian traditions—Roman Catholic, Reformed and the majority of Evangelical—lean toward forms of a post-millennial view that holds Jesus Christ’s earthly reign will occur when He returns (the Second Coming) at the end of a long period of time: a period in which the church is spreading the Gospel throughout the world and leading the transformation of social institutions and cultural norms toward God’s will. These Catholic, Reformed, and Evangelical traditions hold an optimistic view of the future, drawing on Scripture, and the advancement of human institutions in the West, including democratic government and liberalized markets, and the Christian calling to godly ethics in all spheres of life.

The validity of these views is defensible in much of the Old Testament prophetic expectations and the New Testament witness, and poignantly expressed by Jesus’ petition in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:10).

Eschatology is fundamentally concerned with God’s reign in the last days in the world, from Jesus’ Ascension until His return. The presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Christian life advocates for a significant degree of Kingdom presence in the world as adherents live in obedience, doing good as the agents of God. Kingdom speaks to ownership and rule as it is under the authority of God’s sovereignty that good works are carried out.

Here the discussion shifts to issues of stewardship and sonship. Two strong arguments in Scripture for pursuing the sacred in Christian life are that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1), “and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17). Adam’s appointment as steward (to keep) the Garden was clear. The Bible is filled with considerations of the moral responsibility and character of godly (and ungodly) stewardship.

But more than stewards, Christians are the children of God which involves the important elements of inheritance, ownership, and dominion. It is helpful to remember God’s original intention in creation to create a family for Himself, to ultimately bring “many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10). As any good father would, the heavenly Father wants to bestow a rich inheritance on His children, not just of material blessing but, more importantly, of character. Christians anticipate that inheritance explicitly in being called joint heirs of the glory of God with Christ (Rom 8:17) and look to being changed step-by-step, from glory to glory, into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) as the “event” of receiving the inheritance.

The nature of the glory of Christ and of the heavenly Father is summed up by the four living creatures in adoration before the throne of God: “Holy, holy, holy.” As God followers, Christians live under the hortatory “Be holy for I am holy” (Lev 11:44b), “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15–16). The call to holiness presents challenges for Christians in the marketplace, in particular by the phrase “in all your behavior” here and Paul’s “do not be conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). Holiness (hagios—Strong’s 40) is determinative of character in all aspects of Christian practice. To be holy is to be morally upright by intrinsic or divine character. Holiness is available to Christians only through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Christians in the marketplace, feeling pressed by worldly circumstances, may impose an unholy bifurcation on market decisions to allow excuse for ungodly behavior. The nature of holiness has been defined as otherness. God’s glory is so far from our fallen state, for example, that it is understood that we cannot be like God. We cannot be omnipotent, omniscience, or omnipresent. We can, however, seek to know and practice the will of God. Accepting and loving one another, taking on the mind of Christ (Rom 15:5), willingly deferring and sacrificing for one another, submitting ourselves to lives of humble service—these attitudes and acts may challenge the logic of worldly pragmatism (human wisdom) which is limited by the narrow vision of human knowledge.

Holiness may oppose what appears to makes sense: “let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless’” (1 Cor 3:18–20).

It easily follows that, beyond any limited righteousness “enforced” by the world’s legal documentation and contracts, businesses operated by Christians are to be held as sacred trusts, set apart for the glory and worship of God. That set apartness means these endeavors are sacramental with a small s, having a sacred nature. Any lesser view relegates the marketplace and the workers’ efforts to the profane.

A major influence dividing the spiritual and the secular in Western Christian minds is one hallmark of Platonic dualism: the view that the material world is inherently evil. While creation has been corrupted, this dualism leaves no room for redemption except as an escape from the material realm. This view of the material world encourages false eschatological notions and stands against an already-but-not-yet realization of the Kingdom.

Such isolation of secular and sacred even clouds the argument that God’s glory is demonstrated in nature (Ps 19:1). For example, consider the pending birth of a child. Secular humanism wrestles with the essential nature of a fetus (“When does it become a person?”). Yet logic is not troubled that the fetus is present and possesses the potential of a fuller realization. It is at once a thing living though in a transitional state and as yet unfulfilled. Before I was married, I had the potential to be a father (conceptual), but when my wife became pregnant I was in a state of flux until the child’s birth actualized that role. In a real way, I was already-but-not-yet a father during her pregnancy.

Compartmentalizing our spiritual and temporal natures is a slippery slope excusing and even justifying the necessity of ungodly policies and practices. Profit, for sustainability and increasing wealth, is ordained of God (Deut 8:18), but that ordination remains only as God is obeyed in both generating wealth (means) and using it appropriately (ends). The primary function of the marketplace in creation is for the facilitation of just relationships toward adequate universal provision, the Edenic shalom as both means and ends.

Marketplace Christians are under enormous tension because it is easy to live with just one foot in God’s Kingdom. Compartmentalization is enabling and pragmatism can be self-justifying. Greed and power are strong temptations and compromise easily leads to hypocrisy and dishonors the glory of God.

The false divide of sacred and secular presents difficult disciplines and choices for marketplace Christians. That is why personal and systemic economic issues arise in every section of the Bible. In the Torah we find laws and commandments pertaining to the treatment of the poor (Lev 25:35–55) and the valuation of property (Lev 27). In the historic books, we find the military and economic oppression of Israel by Midian (Judg 6:1–10), Boaz leaving gleanings in his field for the poor (Ruth 2:1–9), and the abolishment of usury (Neh 5:1–13). In the wisdom literature, we see that a righteous man does not exact usury (Ps 15:5), that honest scales are of God (Prov 16:11), and that the Lord hears and responds to the cries of the poor (Ps 34:6).

And so it goes, throughout the prophets, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. Creation is economic by design, and economic justice (equilibrium, shalom) is a primary aim of God’s mission.

i. Kennedy, Robert G. “What is the Good That Business Does?,” in The Good That Business Does, 67–85. Grand Rapids, MI: Acton Institute, 2006.
ii. Cranfield, Charles E.B. Romans: A Shorter Commentary, 168–72. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.
iii. See Walls, Jerry L., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology. Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 2008, as an excellent resource for studying eschatology generally.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace

To Work (`abad): To Work, Serve, and Worship (Genesis 2:15)

There has been a great deal written about the dignity of work, and rightly so. The following is adapted from Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission (©2011, David B. Doty – pending publication under contract to Wipf & Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon).

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate (`abad) it and keep it.” `Abad is an especially poignant word in Scripture. In this passage, it is translated into a variety of familiar terms: to dress (KJV), to cultivate (NAS), to work (NIV), and to till (RSV). According to Strong’s Concordance, `abad means to work but also, by implication, to serve, or to till.

But `abad also carries a sense of worship. In Exodus, `abad is used repeatedly in the dialogs between Moses and Pharoah about Israel going out to the desert to serve the Lord. In Numbers, the Levites served (`abad) in the Tabernacle of Moses.

It is easy to understand this multi-leveled term. Consider ownership retained by an investor who pays wages in return for the labor necessary to fulfill the purposes of the thing owned, whether a field or factory, a store or the whole world. Moving into the idea of worship is no more difficult to understand than embracing the idea of honoring one’s master and provider as a matter of respect, in humble and ardent gratitude for benefits bestowed.

The Bible exhorts that God-followers do all things as unto the Lord (Col 3:23). We honor God by how we serve His aims in following His commands. Just and righteous works are acts of worship. In undertaking our work as worship, the holiness of God will manifest in our daily lives, witnessing Christ’s glory in the marketplace and the home.

Interestingly, God did not command Adam to work and keep the Garden. To work and keep it was simply part of the DNA of being human, of our function and purpose in the universe. Our work is part of the design of creation and disseminates the redemptive grace of God in the marketplace. How we anticipate the marketplace as an ordained institution in God’s created moral order, and act accordingly in all we do, helps clarify the sacred nature of our commercial endeavors.


Filed under Excerpts from Eden's Bridge the Book, Faith in the Marketplace