In what serves as a nice complement to my recent posts on obedience and the spiritual side of socio-economic decision making, PovertyCure recently posted a video of Peter Greer (HT), in which he adequately captures the church’s unfortunate tendency to embrace God’s message without seeking God’s method.
Watch the video here:
Economist Victor Claar captures similar activity in the first part of his critique of fair trade, documenting the modern church’s impulsive, near-trendy promotion of counterproductive trade schemes.
My question: When we see “good intentions” (quotes intended) result in something like the temporary inflation of a market — not to mention the subsequent destruction of otherwise beneficial and growing enterprises — what are we to assume the driving motivations are behind those specific decisions? Are such efforts to “help people” really taking a holistic Biblical approach? When our “charitable” endeavors fail miserably, should we use our Bibles to justify those actions, or should we deeply question whether those actions were all that “Biblical” in the first place?
Yes, Jesus told us to help the poor, but how do we do that, and what else did he tell us to do?
In the case Greer describes, the church may have achieved its short-term aim, but in the process, it did some serious damage to a local provider, and probably many others. This would seem to make the given community’s long-term prospects worse.
Is this what God wanted? Was it God’s intention to temporarily flood the egg market and put people out of business, only for the need to reemerge the very next year, but this time with a lack of suppliers? Was it the voice of the Holy Spirit that told this church to “give x to y!” or was it the voice of “Hey, I’ve got a cool idea!”?
I understand we are humans prone to error, and yes, God will tell us to do certain things that our earthly circumstances will not allow us to implement in perfect, utopian fashion. Cultural norms and popular trends will continue to allure us and confuse us as we struggle to discover what God would have us do.
But these are obstacles, not excuses. These are things we can work to overcome. These are setbacks we can learn to avoid by pressing forward in our relationships with God and continuing to grow in our ability to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The problem is that we aren’t even considering whether our version of “good” motivation and action actually aligns with his. The answer to whether God approves may indeed be “yes,” but we aren’t even asking the question.
We can pack up whatever material stuff we want and ship it off to however many people we feel like, but why are we doing these things and what will we say if our actions contribute to some form of social or economic destruction? How will we respond the next time around? Who are we listening to when we choose specific actions in response to general mandates?