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From an AP article at the Atlanta Journal Constitution site, on Friday October 24, 2008:
Wall Street joined stock markets around the world in a huge selloff Friday, sending major market indexes to their lowest levels in more than five years on the belief that a punishing economic recession is at hand.
The market has been coming back up. But a lot of damage has been done.
I have a couple of questions:
1. What should be a Christian’s attitude as things seem to be – at least to some extent – falling apart? I wrote about that recently.
2. Is there any value in placing blame? Let’s talk about that.
If it’s only to be angry and/or condemn, probably not. But this certainly is a marvelous opportunity for some self-education! That requires, unfortunately, some analysis of how we got here.
So what’s the root of this?
Many economists (and others) have been warning us for decades that if we undid the safeguards put in place after the great Crash and Depression of ’29 and the early ’30s it would be because greed blinded our eyes and warped our intelligence.
So I’ll say the culprit is human greed – greed running under a full head of steam, and working vigorously through our governmental institutions to remove all restraints on and supervision of the wealthy greedy. Greed is strong, and can account for a lot.
“Mainstream” Free-Market Theory Boils Down to Greed, Period
This is from Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus – the Pakistani Muslim economic genius. Yunus is not an enemy of free markets. But the version of free market theory that’s been operating for some decades now is very explicitly an economic philosophy of greed.
Mainstream free-market theory postulates that you are contributing to the society and the world in the best possible manner if you just concentrate on getting the most for yourself. (p18)
[In Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, PublicAffairs, 2007, p5-18]
How could it be more explicit? “Just concentrate on getting the most for yourself.”
Is there any better definition of greed? I have heard committed and well-informed Christians argue for this value system with no apparent sense of it’s violation of their Christian faith. That places greed and self-serving at the pinnacle of human value. And there are many who see that clearly and defend it enthusiastically.
Greed as Evaluated in the Bible
Look at a few of the mentions of “greed” in the New Testament:
But Paul spoke of the “greedy person—such a man is an idolater.”
… since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil …
I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler …
-I Corinthians 5:11
Oooh. What company Paul puts the greedy into!
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Wow. We really ARE expected to be not greedy? But what would happen to the economy? What force could we then trust to arrange our economic life rightly?
Maybe Jesus and Paul had a clue back then about what the prize-winning economist explains so succinctly today.
Unfettered markets in their current form are not meant to solve social problems and instead may actually exacerbate poverty, idisease, pollution, corruption, crime, and inequality. (p5)
So greed not only
1) takes our personal allegiance and faith away from God, as Jesus said (“You cannot serve both God and money”).
2) It also damages and destroys people around us. And probably also even ourselves.
See, he is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied …
Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying,
‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
How long must this go on?’
Will not your debtors suddenly arise?
Will they not wake up and make you tremble?
Then you will become their victim.
Debtors could rise up against their oppressors. Creditors can rise up against their debtors and seriously reverse the tables on them.
Maybe that is what’s happening to us now. And this peasant prophet from dozens of centuries ago could see it coming!
But then, if greed IS idolatry – no wonder it leads to disaster. We have worshipped a false god! Could anything be more clearly a Biblical values issue than deliberately trusting a false god to run our affairs for us? This is a very serious matter.