The third paper “It’s a Rich Man’s World?”Exploring the Biblical Material on Money, Wealth and Economic Justice was given by Revd Dr Andy Hartropp Research Tutor, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.
1. A Framework for Using the Bible Ethically – With Economics in Mind
Creation – Fall – Redemption – Eschatology
Eight biblical principles for economic life: human beings as stewards of God’s world
Principle 1 : Human beings must use the resources of creation to provide for their existence, but they must not waste or destroy the created order (e.g. Gen. 1:26‐30; 2:15).
Principle 2 : Every person has a calling to exercise stewardship of resources and talents (e.g. Num. 26:52‐56; Lev. 25:8‐10).
Principle 3 : Stewardship implies responsibility to determine the disposition of resources. Each person is accountable to God for his/her stewardship (e.g. Lev. 25:23--‐24).
Principle 4 : People have a right and an obligation to work (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 104:23; 2 Th. 3:6‐13). Note that work existed before the Fall! (Gen. 3:17 cf. 2:15): work is a creation principle.
Principle 5 : Work is the means of exercising stewardship. In their work people should have access to resources and control over them (Deut. 24:14‐15).
Principle 6 : Work is a social activity in which people cooperate as stewards of their individual talents, and as joint stewards of resources (e.g. Neh. 2:17‐18; 1 Cor. 12:12‐31).
Principle 7 : Every person has a right to share in God’s provision for human beings for their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. These needs are to be met primarily by productive work. See Leviticus chapter 25, especially the sections beginning at v 25, v 35 and v 39. See also Lev. 19:9‐10/Deut. 24:19‐22.
Principle 8 : Personal stewardship of resources does not imply the right to consume the entire product of those resources. The rich have an obligation to help the poor who cannot provide for themselves by work, e.g. Deut 26:1‐12. This was partly by means of loans , at zero interest: see Deut 15:1‐11. In the NT we find similar principles at work: Lk 12:32‐34; Acts 4:32‐35; 5:1‐11; 1 Tim 6:6‐10, 17‐19.
2. Righteousness and Justice - With Economic Life in Mind
Two main aspects of righteousness: (a) there is a relational context/meaning; and (b) conforming to a norm/standard
“Righteousness”and“justice”in the OT
Righteousness and the GospelThe righteousness of believers in response to God’s righteousnessJustice is part of the outworking of righteousness
3. A Biblical Understanding of Economic Justice
(a) Economic justice means appropriate treatment, according to the norms commanded by God
(b) God’s justice involves justice to the needy
(c) Justice is not only about allocation, but also concerns the quality of relationships
(d) Justice in the allocation of resources means that everyone participates in God’s blessing
4. Meeting Challenges to Biblical Economic Justice in Today’s World
Rights, need or desert?
Justice in production and justice in distribution
Justice in production and distribution: the contribution enterprise can make to help overcome poverty
We need a fuller conception of “social justice”
Challenges posed by the recent financial and economic crisis
This paper has presented a biblical understanding of economic justice, and it has shown that the Bible has much to say about economic justice in today’s world. Clearly this is not, ultimately, a matter for academic analysis only. Justice and righteousness involve action. God’s own example demonstrates this plainly. Christian believers–both as individuals and as church communities–should be demonstrating economic justice in their lives and relationships, from Sunday through to Saturday.
1) Can you think of ways in which Christians in the UK underplay the importance of Creation and New Creation? (See my paper on this point.)
2) The paper claims that the impact of Christians in the City of London has - in terms of the City’s values, culture and ’greed’ - been close to zero. To what extent do you agree? If you do agree, why do you think the impact has been so small?
3) In your church(es), how big a problem is the ‘love of money’?
4) What more help do your congregations need in living as disciples of Christ in the workplace?
5) ‘The righteousness of God clearly does have a relational meaning” (my paper). To what extent are you familiar with this idea, and do you agree?
6) The paper says: “Thus we have the following definition: justice is appropriate treatment, especially of human beings, and usually in a relational setting, according to the norms commanded and set by God in each particular case.” To what extent is this different from how you think of justice?
7) What are your reactions to the paper’s claims about four main aspects of a biblical understanding of economic justice?
8) The paper criticises the currently-prevailing sense of ‘social justice’. What do you think about this?
9) What can Christians say, from the Bible, about bankers’ bonuses?