Responding to Economics Through Wonder, Heartbreak, and Hope


We need to be careful when discussing the intersection of economics and religion, lest we improperly conflate the two or segregate them altogether.

One goal of this blog has been to push toward achieving and discovering the proper approach: to determine the real questions Christians should be asking and proceed to tackle them head on. Far too often our debased disposition gets the best of us and we approach such matters legalistically and/or materialistically, as if there is a sanctified list of dos and don’ts for general economic activity paired with Biblical prices, a God-ordained wage, and an easily discernable end-game equilibrium.

Such an approach impacts our entire view of value — both temporary and eternal — and in turn, is likely to distort our personal economic decisionmaking, our responses to basic economic activity, and our overall attitude and orientation toward the economic sphere at large. This is likely to also impact our view of God, whether directly or indirectly.

Our discussion needs to press toward a deeper tension, and in a recent piece at Cardus, Gideon Strauss lays forth the types of questions that will challenge us toward getting there. Although the piece is geared toward “business leaders” — the likes of which are certainly a relevant audience — the questions therein also apply to your average minimum-wage worker (or whoever else).

Indeed, if Christians did so much as simply struggle with these types of questions from the very beginnings of their work experiences, we could probably get more things right earlier (and probably get a lot more true “business leaders” overall). Our answers will surely bring disagreement, but I’ll leave that for other discussions. For now, I would simply submit that we be attentive to respond to each with a transformed mind.

To frame his approach, Strauss organizes the questions under three groupings, each of which center around human responses to God: questions inspired by wonder, heartbreak, and hope. These, Strauss says, “we may ask of a particular business or market, or a national economy, or perhaps even, of the global economic order.”

Here’s the rationale for each: 

[#1] I believe that: The whole world of making products, providing services, buying and selling, building companies, establishing relationships of trade—marketplaces filled with businesses and their customers—can be a vibrant expression of what it means to be human in God’s wonderful creation.

[#2] At the same time, given the fractured state of this world, our economic lives are often a source of heartbreak: when poverty overwhelms us; when we cannot find work, or make payroll; when our businesses fail, or governments make it hard to do business; or, when we slavishly devote ourselves to the hunt of money and discover at the end of our pursuit that all we have does not matter.

[#3] And yet, part of the good news that crested over the horizon at Easter is that also this vital but broken part of our lives is a theatre of hope: despite the evil and suffering that can make human life a misery, the original promise of business activity and market relationships is being redeemed, and we can work with courage, lead with love, and expect our efforts to bear fruit of very long-lasting value. (emphasis mine)

I encourage you to contemplate each and read his responses and explanations. For all ye lazy ones (or simply for a teaser), the main questions are listed below (copied/quoted directly):

Questions inspired by wonder:

  • Is it possible to be a human person fully alive, in the businesses and markets I am helping to shape?
  • Is it possible to weave rich human relationships within the business interactions I am helping to make possible?
  • Is it possible to make something good of the stuff of creation in the workplaces for which I share responsibility?

 Questions inspired by heartbreak:

  • Are we diminishing the humanity of the people involved in our business, markets, national, or global economies?
  • Are we allowing our governments to occupy or vandalize the room markets need to grow?
  • Are we allowing or assisting the values of the market to burst their proper bounds?

Questions inspired by hope:

Gideon Strauss

Gideon Strauss

  • Do we inspire hope or foster despair about business among the people we influence?
  • Do we practice business leadership as an art?
  • Do we build business and shape markets, contribute to national economies and the global economic order, with an eye only on quarterly results, or with ten-thousand-year eyes?

Read the full post here.

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/123434913658707968 Remnant Culture

    "The story that the Bible tells of God's great acts of creation, judgment, and redemption, & the human responses… http://t.co/VOKytxSs

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/123435736249798656 Remnant Culture

    .@gideonstrauss provides some great questions for responding to economics through wonder, heartbreak, and hope. http://t.co/ROt8Fjac

  • http://twitter.com/gideonstrauss/status/123437663796727809 Gideon Strauss

    .@gideonstrauss provides some great questions for responding to economics through wonder, heartbreak, and hope. http://t.co/ROt8Fjac

  • http://twitter.com/gideonstrauss/status/123437758638333952 Gideon Strauss

    "The story that the Bible tells of God's great acts of creation, judgment, and redemption, & the human responses… http://t.co/VOKytxSs

  • http://twitter.com/chrisingr/status/123491034004062208 Chris Robertson

    Responding to Economics Through Wonder, Heartbreak, and Hope http://t.co/xy2HGFvq @gideonstrauss #value #religion

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/124148423778766849 Remnant Culture

    How should Christians be responding to the economics? What types of questions should we be asking? http://t.co/ROt8Fjac

  • http://twitter.com/valuesandcap/status/124208787803471872 Values & Capitalism

    RT @remnantculture: How should Christians be responding to the economics? What types of questions should we be asking? http://t.co/6GcKrozO