Monday, June 1, 2009

Business in the Kingdom: 20 Theses Toward an Ethics of Christian Economic Practice

1. Economic practice is created by God and necessary for human life.

2. The God of Israel, the one called abba by Jesus of Nazareth, is a righteous and impartial Judge, executing justice for the foreigner and the downtrodden, the widow and the orphan.

3. The liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt was for the greater freedom of the Law given at Sinai: Torah provided Israel a charter for community life wherein there should be no poor or needy, but all would be provided for. The radical practice of Jubilee every 50th year, announced in the inaugural sermon of Jesus in Nazareth, in which all slaves are freed and all debts are canceled, is the defining biblical call for economic justice.

4. The reign of God as preached by Jesus the Messiah stands squarely against the competition and domination that mark the nations, offering instead suffering servanthood as the paradigm for social, political, and economic life.

5. The true form of human life has been revealed in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Nazarene, exactly against the insanity of the ruling principalities and powers that dominate and oppress the nations.

6. Greed is idolatry: Mammon a rival to the one true God.

7. Financial simplicity and lack of worry are central marks of the life of discipleship, alongside love for enemies as the hallmark of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

8. Sharing, and not ownership, is the economic activity embodied in the life of Jesus and the church in the New Testament.

9. The face of Christ himself is most evident in the faces of those without food, money, clothing, shelter, freedom, status, or power.

10. The spirit of capitalism -- to make the absolute most profit from what a customer will and may legally pay -- is contrary to the Spirit of the living God.

11. Because all is gift, thankfulness rather than envy is the only proper response to God.12. The gift of true Christian community in the church involves necessarily the gift of truthful speech -- to one another, and to those outside the church.

13. The language of forgiveness and redemption is intrinsically and not accidentally economic: just as God forgives us our debts, so we forgive the debts of those who owe us.

14. All employees, colleagues, bosses, competitors, and customers are -- and every demographic, social class, town, city, state, and nation engaged in economic activity is made up of -- human beings made in the image of God and for whom Christ died.

15. In a world of false desire, the intentional inculcation of desires previously absent or not conducive to properly oriented desire for the triune God is a practice opposed to the kingdom of God.

16. All economic activity able to be called viable by the Christian gospel must contribute to and not diminish the flourishing of human life and community.

17. The unswerving witness of the Catholic Church through the centuries has been against the practice of wealth creation devoid of work done or service rendered.

18. As Wendell Berry quotes as the epitaph to his Citizenship Papers, from 2 Peter 2:3 (KJV): "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you." No action in accord with this prophetic warning -- to make chattel out of human beings through envious deceit -- belongs in the life of any member of the redeemed body of Christ.

19. No form of slavery, economic or otherwise -- whether explicit, distant, unseen, culturally approved, or supposedly acceptable in a realistic world -- has any place before Yahweh of Hosts, the one who preached release to the captives, the Spirit whose presence is freedom. The proclamation of, and the community created by, the gospel inexorably leads to the breaking of chains.

20. The church, as the people of God, is a social body which, in its life together, offers an alternative to the distorted human forms of life found in the world, including and especially economics. The politics of Jesus' church, then, must be centered on creating the (economic) space in which sharing, dignity for the poor, mutual giving, honest relationship, hospitality, care for the earth, simplicity, and wise stewardship may be discerned, discovered, tried, and practiced in peace.

[Images courtesy of Daniel Erlander.]


  1. These are wonderful. Incredibly clear, persuasive, and inspiring. Why have we Christians not yet made the choice clear between following Jesus and the madness most of us have simply been taught to take for granted?

  2. Came across your blog just today...this has brought joy to my heart. Thanks.

    Did you make the pictures?

  3. Weasoe -- thanks for the kind words.

    Sharkdog -- nope, those are by Daniel Erlander. The link to his site is at the bottom of the post. Glad you enjoyed them though! He's got plenty more of equal quality.