Worth Reading - 2/5

The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, made a number of very good points about the moral and spiritual dangers of consumerism in a recent talk. And from a certain perspective he’s right when he says that consumer society is a “mechanism for distributing unhappiness.” As he says, “When money rules, we remember the price of things and forget the value of things.” Sentamu is on less sure ground in his assertion that “The whole of consumer society is based on stimulating demand to generate expenditure to produce economic growth.”

Economist George Riesman observes that Adam Smith and other 19th century British economists see the basis both of “economic activity and economic theory in the fact that man’s life and well-being depend on the production of wealth.” He goes on to compare this view, unfavorably, with Mercantilism which, thanks to “the influence of Lord Keynes,” has come to dominate how many people, including many Christians, think spontaneously about our economic not in terms of “the production of wealth, but the production of consumption.”

2. My article on the difference between markets and consumerism at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ urges the crowd to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Again, the message is not the renunciation of the material world, but pursuit of God in all of life.

Greed is a pursuit of personal gain that neglects the common good and places ultimate value on the material prosperity. It results in serving money as a master and excessively valuing possessions on earth, which Christ cautions against (Matthew 6:19–24).Greed and contentment cannot coexist.
According to the court opinion, Alyce Conlon worked at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF) in Michigan as a spiritual director, involved in providing religious counsel and prayer. She informed IVCF that she was contemplating divorce, at which point IVCF put her on paid—and later unpaid—leave. Part of IVCF’s employment policy is that “[w]here there are significant marital issues, [IVCF] encourages employees to seek appropriate help to move towards reconciliation” and IVCF reserves the right “to consider the impact of any separation/divorce on colleagues, students, faculty, and donors.

4. A Parable for the unemployed and underemployed:

The theme of work recurs and reverberates throughout the Christian scriptures. We see it from the very beginning in Genesis 1, where human beings are created in God’s image and blessed with the call: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” The call to work appears again in a more specific form with the creation account of Adam and Eve, in which Adam is “placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” and Eve is created to be Adam’s co-laborer (Ge. 2:15, 18). The import of these early accounts for our understanding of work is of foundational import: work is not a result of the Fall into sin, but an aspect of God’s created purposes for human beings.