I fear I have opened another can of worms. (The last can I opened was back in the 90s . . . anyone remember that?) Maybe this one is more like a hornet’s nest.
This ‘can of worms’ concerns the “Economics 101” quote in the last eTouch, which spoke of poverty and the uneven distribution of wealth and about who is responsible for the poor . . . who according to Jesus, will always be among us.
In actual fact, though it was many years ago, I once was really poor. I remember walking to school with no shoes and eating what was basically slop for 3+ years. But that’s another story, another life . . . and I must never forget it.
Here are some responses to the quote:
“I do appreciate the reminder of 2 Thess. 3:6-12. It is a very apt (though not popular) principle for the nation where I come from... But frankly, I wish you had stopped there. I am really puzzled by your "Economics 101" and if I didn't know you better, I would have thought this was just a myopic North American rant extrapolating current political feelings to the rest of the world. Seriously Peter, the "Economics 101" is mostly about politics rather than economics, and is not sound biblically or economically. Not that it doesn't have any truth in it, but...
Re Point 1: In many cases you definitely can! Where "wealth" is based on oppression, collusion, injustice etc - as it is in much of this world, then righteous legislation needs to do exactly that.
Re Point 2: This sounds fine and has some truth in it, but it falls down in two areas. Firstly, God has made an earth that is abundant in resources and much of what we all have no one worked for. Secondly, work and return is not a zero-sum game as implied in the statement. In much of my current work, I am appropriately remunerated but other people "make" profit on my work.
Re Point 3: Again at first look, this sounds true enough, but you could equally say "a YWAMer cannot give to anybody anything that they haven't taken from somebody else"... does that sound good or fair. And, when you think about it, it is simply not true. In many countries anyway, the recipients of the benefits of taxes (education, infrastructure etc) are the taxpayers themselves.
Re Point 4: Again totally wrong. The principle of all sound investment is that you first divide wealth in order to multiply it… actually it seems to be the way God made the world to function. Try Matthew 25:14-...
Re Point 5: True enough. But equally, when a small minority holds the majority of the wealth of the nation, living a life of self-indulgence, then James 5 describes the results.
For what it's worth, I have an MBA in International Management and have run my own business for more than 20 years (when I haven't been in missions). I am sickened by political correctness, and the devastating effects of welfare dependency in the country where I live, and frustrated by a government bureaucracy that has bloated enormously for seemingly less and less return. But I love truth more... If we present our own opinions and political persuasions with the same black and white intensity that we present biblical truth, then we cheapen the truth and confuse others who are looking for direction. Regards, Daniel
Thank you for writing and taking the time to present your views... which challenge me to go deeper and study this whole thing even more. You speak with wisdom and I am feeling to continue the discussion - there have been others who have commented. Peter
Letter 2 from Daniel;
Thanks Peter for your response, I am sure there are many who support these five points and there is a lot of merit in considering and even debating the underlying questions of what are the biblically right roles of government especially in relation to taxation, the poor. But as I said these issues addressed in the five points are really in the arena of political economic philosophy - neither does some merit in these thoughts make them true or a paraphrase of biblical values. I believe we are called as Jesus followers to distinguish between what is truth - and what is simply good opinion or the "gospel of ... (insert favourite political viewpoint)". Not that we don't have informed opinions about the merits of these ideas, but in my experience taking a view that looks at the whole counsel of scripture makes one unpopular with any of the mainstream political philosophies or parties.
Here is an extremely creative, if a bit cynical expression of the Keynes/Hayek argument and the fruitlessness of large government spending to stimulate the economy. Thought you might enjoy.
While I don't think that your economics 101 was politically incorrect, I really didn't expect to see something like that in something like this. I honestly don't think it is relevant to the mission of the newsletter or the program. Now, if you wanted to compile the far more extensive list on widows, orphans and strangers in your land and the responsibilities towards them :-)
* *I guess that I included the poor with the widows, orphans and strangers :-)
Fact of the matter is I know more than one poor person who is not in debt or unwilling to rise up, often there are issues like poor heath, family tragedies, heavy family responsibilities and multiple financial setbacks that occur. The tendency in conservative political rhetoric, particularly in the US, to blame the poor for being poor, to make sweeping statements about "them" and "those" is problematic and your list had a whiff of that to me. Not, of course, that you would necessarily believe or promote such things, but it is simply a bit too close to the hatefulness that passes for politics in the US these days. A friend of mine, struggling for many years to provide for her family said, and this is a university-educated woman: "being poor doesn't make you stupid, but it is all you can think about, keeping a roof over your head and your kids fed, it doesn't leave room for thinking about much else." Knowing poor people, and standing on that line myself, I hesitate to assess the reasons for people being poor without knowing the person and their circumstances. Perhaps the list, as it was written, didn't have the usual tone that I have come to expect from the newsletter as most of what is written comes with a clear sense of compassion and that was less apparent in that list.
Anyway, you have every right to put whatever you please into your newsletter and challenge however you see fit.
I've been pondering your note the last couple of days... and as you say, widows, orphans and strangers is a big subject and a concern. The poor (who Jesus said we'll always have with us), are perhaps as big an issue, if not bigger. In the Western world (to which eTouch is mostly directed), the poor are significantly poor because of debt, or the unwillingness or inability to rise up out of poverty. Why?
Is it because governments often don't know how to deal with them so they tend to take on a Robin Hood mentality themselves? I have tackled this whole thing of debt before, and though you may not think subjects like this are appropriate to eTouch, in actual fact, one of our (self-imposed commissions), is to not only encourage, but to challenge too...
Letter 2 from Nancy
Believe me, I agree that the worker is worth his wage and we are to work and contribute and those that ask and keep asking without making effort need to be addressed (if within the church but generally, unless there is relationship, not outside that). Within the church and with relationship we can be more aware of the real issues and the problems that people may be facing and most needs don't just go away with one application of giving. Obviously, there has to be wisdom in the body. Outside of the body, well... you never know but my feeling has always been, help those who want to move on and then address those who do not. We can't tell who has legitimate needs and who doesn't just by looking at them or their grocery cart :-) And we don't know their needs, their wounds or just what they deal with each and every day. God does and it is his compassion and wisdom that we need so that we can speak wisely and assist appropriately. Yes, government is part of the problem but it really is the only tool we have for the level of need there is and until the church steps up on a large scale (and some of us are pretty hard pressed) that need isn't going to diminish.
Without vision the people perish and the poor in finances can also be poor in spirit and in mind - they have no idea how to look beyond where they are, and they have no expectations because no one has ever had any for them.
That is a poverty of a different sort and fuels some of the poverty mentality that some people may have. Common sense and rules go over well with those who have common sense and live within the rules, they don't help those who don't - like nutrition guidelines don't help those who can't afford to buy nutritionally - people need to be discipled and taught... and no doubt our material society and the widespread awareness if what other have makes this harder on a local scale (have you met older people who have said, "we didn't know we were poor"? that doesn't exist anymore). Teaching financial wisdom to Christians is important though, for our treasure is not here and we are not to build it up here - we are supposed to be looking to the real treasures of the spirit and the church isn't doing a good job teaching that these days :-)
Anyway, like I said the last email - the tone did not have the typical balance that you usually have - I would have suspected that you borrowed it from somewhere rather than wrote it up yourself :-)
Thanks again Nancy,
You and at least one other, are provoking me to go deeper on this issue... though there are some who approved. Looks like another can of worms, so I may continue this discussion in the next eTouch. Interesting how normal, uncontroversial things stir up almost nothing by way of response... while stuff like this gets people going. I think that's how the media work... to be controversial for the sake of being controversial. Keep me from that. Blessings, Peter
Your Economics 101 does not jive with the Jesus and the Bible I know. It does however smack of self-deluded right wing dogma. Jesus was not a conservative. The wealthy do not need our protection. We are repeatedly commanded throughout Scripture to take the side of and to act on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Your supposed Scriptural defense falls far short of the Biblical witness.
Two percent of Americans hold something like 90% of the wealth. We do not need to multiply wealth as much as we need to multiply faith and well-being. One of the ways to do that is to know and make known the heart of God and that is certainly not manifested by those who espouse the anti-biblical creed below. This creed impugns the poor and takes no account of the tens of millions in America who live in poverty today through no fault of their own, let alone billions around the world. Jesus was not concerned about the tares among the wheat, but you would point to those who might take advantage of government assistance as a reason to deny assistance to the majority of the poor. As Christians in a democratic nation (USA), I believe it behooves us to shape our government according to God's Word to the extent we are able. Your Economics 101 message is simply irreconcilable with the God of the Bible who does not give to us according to what we deserve.
Thank you for expressing your thoughts. I am challenged to go deeper in this subject and intend to carry on in future editions because this has hit a nerve with others too. Just so you know, I spent a good portion of my early days in poverty, so I am not totally unaware of what it is like to have nothing, including hope. Every Blessing, Peter