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Doing so, might well alleviate many of the tensions currently tearing apart our societies worldwide. Rod St. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists.
A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos. A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth. To be sure, we must be taught by Scripture on such matters as baptism, prayer, election, and the church, but Scripture speaks centrally to everything in our life and world, including technology and economics and science. In a paper published in , Richard Easterlin argued the following turning points in many countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:. By many measures, a revolution in the human condition is sweeping the world.
Most people today are better fed, clothed, and housed than their predecessors two centuries ago. They are healthier, live longer, and are better educated. Although Western Europe and its offshoots have been the leaders of this advance, most of the less developed countries have joined in during the 20 th century, with the newly emerging nations of sub-Saharan Africa the latest to participate.
Easterlin presented data from five countries Brazil, France, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom that showed a turning point in life expectancy occurring one to two generations after a turning point in growth of real gross domestic product GDP. The exception was India in which the turning points in life expectancy and real GDP both occurred in , well after the others. The historical data support the idea that improvements in what Easterlin referred to as the level of living lead to improvements in the standard of living that embraces many other indicators including life expectancy.
For the Christian, the historical data point to the possibility that God gave humanity the creative capacity and resources to create wealth, not for its own sake, but for a purpose, that of holistic transformation. This paper is focused on exploring biblical views and perspectives on wealth creation and holistic transformation. That biblical principles are associated with the rapid improvement in standards of living is apparent in the aforementioned quote from Rodney Stark.
The other quote above makes the point that the Bible  speaks to all areas of life, including economic life. Little is known about wealth in the Roman Empire at the time when Jesus lived on earth. The elites of the day, including the senatorial order, the equestrian order, civic notables, wealthy landowners, and other wealthy people comprised only 1.
Upper level non-elites comprised some seven to 13 percent of the population and accrued 15 to 25 percent of total income. Lower level non-elites comprised the vast majority of the population 84 to 90 percent and they accrued about 22 percent of the total income with at least 10 to 22 percent living at starvation level. The Gini coefficient was between 0. This section of the paper is devoted to exploring the concepts of wealth and holistic transformation. Biblical and lay concepts of wealth are compared, and the contribution of the Business as Mission movement to the idea of holistic transformation is noted.
As emphasised in section 1, it is important to remember that the Lausanne Consultation process focused on the case for wealth creation for holistic transformation, not wealth creation for its own sake. The former recognises explicitly that God is concerned for the poor and oppressed whereas the latter does no such thing. Wealth creation for its own sake is not biblical. Followers of Jesus would do well to remember that God told Israel he had given them the power to create wealth for the purpose of confirming his covenant cf Deut Biblically speaking, wealth is a concept embodying strength, power, riches, and substance.
Laypersons often use the terms wealth a stock concept—at a point in time and income a flow concept—over a period of time interchangeably, but in the interests of precision, wealth is regarded as the value of net assets gross assets minus gross liabilities of an entity such as a business, household, or individual. The concept may also be applied to nations.
Motivated by neighbour-love, McCormick sought to develop machinery that would alleviate the drudgery of farm labour. He did just that when he invented a mechanical reaper. Not only did he relieve thousands of farm labourers from the drudgery of scythe and sickle, but his machine created wealth through farm businesses.
Wealth was unevenly distributed, with the bottom half of wealth holders accounting for less than one percent of global wealth and the top ten percent accounting for 89 percent of global wealth. There were 21 million people in the United States who were in the lowest global wealth quintile. Interestingly the lower income nations of the Asia-Pacific region contributed some 25 percent of the growth in global wealth between and , which was greater than the high-income nations of the Asia Pacific and not much lower than the high-income nations in Europe.
A tiny 0. The global Gini coefficient was 0. Figure 1: Wealth Pyramid, . It is known that the distribution of wealth is more concentrated than distribution of income. The National Bureau of Economic Research published one of the earliest works on global wealth distribution.
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The Gini coefficient for global wealth for was 0. Holistic transformation is a concept that needs some discussion. Mats Tunehag developed a diagram in that has influenced thinking in the global Business as Mission BAM movement, which is reproduced below. Figure 2: Holistic transformation . The first three are embraced by the concept of corporate social responsibility CSR , but the addition of the spiritual bottom line emphasizes the important fact that holistic transformation involves eternal as well as temporal considerations.
Furthermore, the diagram explicitly includes followers of Jesus as being stakeholders, along with business owners and other stakeholders.
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In a limited business paradigm the primary or sole focus is on maximizing profit for the owners. BAM affirms all of these but also includes a 4 th bottom-line, intentionally revealing and honoring Christ and seeing Him transform lives through business. Broadly, and perhaps crudely, speaking, in the pre-modern period the Church shaped society, in the modern period the nation state shaped it and in the contemporary, or post-modern, world society is shaped by business. Most unreached peoples are found in the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist world. These areas often have very high unemployment rates of up to 50 percent.
These correlates imply that the wealth-creating capacity of business is a key to achieving both temporal and eternal outcomes. Tunehag argued that BAM offered a new paradigm for mission, one in which entrepreneurs and business people establish profitable and sustainable businesses that focus on all four bottom lines. BAM is about business with a Kingdom-of-God-perspective, purpose, and impact and is an example of the quote from Wolters at the top of this paper.
In this section biblical foundations for wealth creation and holistic transformation are explored. The foundation for discussion of contentious issues in section 4 are established here. The impact of the Fall is addressed. It is suggested that business is a power originally intended by God for the benefit of humanity. The Bible makes a bold claim, namely, that wealth creation is rooted in God the creator. He is the ultimate source of all wealth. The goodness of his creation is celebrated in Psalm , which provides a kind of mind map of creation starting with God vv.
In doing so, God did not transfer ownership see Ps That wealth creation is ultimately rooted in God the creator is emphasised in Leviticus and Proverbs and echoed in 1 Chronicles The celebration of creation in Ps , 23 includes a poetic picture of God as the ultimate source:. The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands Deut a. It would seem that God intended people to work for the purpose of satisfying human needs and wants and to create wealth. Paul Stevens aptly says,. Wealth creation is the process by which needs and wants are satisfied. Wealth creation is part of bringing shalom to people and the world. For the Christian, work is redemptive. It is kingdom-focused, for wealth creation embodies the principle of shalom.
According to Wolters:. So, in the person of Jesus the kingdom of God is already present. Since his ascension Jesus has continued to make his kingdom come, but now by means of the ministry of his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is the point of the parable of the pounds Luke This directive holds for our private lives e. That God intended humanity to have a close relationship with his creation is revealed in the Genesis record of the creation of man. Relationship with subhuman creation was broken in the Fall, but is included in redemption:.
The [subhuman; creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the [subhuman] creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the [subhuman] creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole [subhuman] creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time Rom This passage alludes to the Fall. Moo argues that by the same token, this passage indicates that nature has a future within the plan of God.
One group of theologians suggests:. Perhaps Creation is waiting for us to remember who we are, to relocate ourselves as thoroughly earth-bound creatures, to embrace our calling to practice skilled mastery, and find ways to bring healing and hope to the Earth. Such a perspective reminds us of the hope we have, located in our very identity as children of God. Old Testament law protected wealth through laws concerning private property. Relevant Scriptures include Exodus , 17 see also Deut , 21 , , and Genesis 23 records in detail the exchange of private property when Abraham purchased a burial plot for his wife, Sarah.
Apparently freedom of exchange is intertwined with private property rights. One of the factors that appears to be associated with poverty in the lower income countries today is poorly defined and inconsistently protected private property rights. One of the best-known advocates of formalizing property rights in lower income countries is Hernando de Soto. One way of understanding what it means to be made in the image of God or to carry the imago Dei is to consider an anthropological perspective. Work may be defined as the diligent, consistent application of the imago Dei to provide goods and services that contribute to human flourishing.
In contemporary times a high proportion of work is formalised in structures with policies, processes, and practices that are referred to as businesses. A business may be thought of as an institutional arrangement, formal or not, that serves the common good by providing goods and services that enable the community to flourish and that serves employees by providing them with a partial set of opportunities to realise their God-given identity through creative, purposeful work.
Much occurs within the household, for example, caring for children, producing food that is consumed within the household, and protecting property. Nevertheless, business is one important institutional arrangement within which work takes place. Until mid-way through the last century these phrases were widely viewed as references to angels and demons, and given very little attention. After World War I and especially in the context of the rise of Nazism, however, these passages began to receive greater scrutiny and new scholarly attention.
A number of scholars have now begun to associate these concepts with structures, worldviews, institutions and other orders that give shape to the world we live in, or, alternatively, to spiritual forces that inhabit and animate these structures and orders. The purpose of these powers, which were originally created by God Col , is to bring order where there would otherwise be chaos cf Gen As noted above, business is one institutional arrangement in which work takes place.
When the first markets emerged, businesses were mainly households that exchanged their produce with other households for goods or money at the Greek agora public square. In the New Testament this word is usually associated with stewardship. Over time more and more production moved out of the household and was formalised in specialised institutions, businesses, with legal protections and responsibilities , and production was exchanged in formalised markets. As helpmate, Eve introduces at least four critical economic considerations: the sharing of work the division of labour , protection though no viable physical threat is anticipated in the Garden itself , collaboration cooperation in thought and deed , and procreation sexuality given for the perpetuation of the species and the broader facilitation of the first three functions.
These, respectively, contribute to efficiency, security physical and economic , creativity, and the further division of labor. Today, there is ample evidence of division of labour, but it is arguable that the impulse to share is lacking, particularly in those nations where the joint stock company dominates. Principles of corporate governance dictate that directors act in the best interests of the company stock holders which usually defaults to a focus on profit, corporate social responsibility notwithstanding.
I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business. That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue paying wages year after year. Therefore, if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses. In large measure this will come about through starting businesses in poor countries and in poor neighbourhoods in developed countries.
Another, less visible way businesses help overcome poverty is through increasing efficiency and productivity, and thus making goods less expensive, in the world market. Moreover, wages, where they exist, tend to be lower in microenterprises compared to larger businesses.
Of the countries included in the figure, Ethiopia has by far the highest proportion of employment in microenterprises. It is noteworthy that microenterprises provide the bulk of employment only in the lowest income countries. In higher income countries larger businesses provide the majority of employment.
It might be lack of opportunity to grow that explains why microenterprises provide the bulk of employment in the lowest income countries. Figure 3: Private Sector Microenterprises in developing countries. Jobs are important because they account for much of the recent decline in extreme poverty. Furthermore, despite population growth, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1. China, India, and Indonesia account for much of the improvement, but there is compelling evidence from the World Bank that many countries have experienced improvements.
Figure 4 reproduces an informative chart. Jobs have been much more important in some countries than others eg Bangladesh and Peru and in some countries have made a negative contribution eg Romania and El Salvador. Extreme poverty remains stubbornly high in Sub-Saharan Africa where the number living in extreme poverty fell by only 4 million between and Figure 5: Relationship between security and income.
There is clearly yet much to be done, but businesses providing jobs will remain an important factor in ridding the world of extreme poverty. This begs the question of what constitutes good business. In this regard, two seminal contributions may be identified, both published around the same time, but developed independently.
He argued that a business best glorifies God when it serves. In particular, a business that seeks to glorify God should aim to serve in two ways: First, it should seek to provide the goods and services that a community needs to flourish an external focus. Second, it should seek to provide opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identities through meaningful and creative work an internal focus.
Moreover, what it means for a community to flourish has two foci. It has a creative, forward-looking piece: is there an innovation, a new product, a new way of delivering a service, a new market that will help bring a healthy, increasing abundance to the community? But it also has a restorative, redemptive perspective as well: Is there a product or service that can help address the broken relationships, the oppression and injustice in the world today?
Van Duzer argued that this approach suggests that the first question to be addressed in business decision-making is not what might maximise return on investment, but what will enable the community to flourish and provide opportunities for meaningful and creative work. In addition, a business should operate in a way that is sustainable and it should cooperate with other institutions in pursuing the common good. Regarding sustainability, a business should seek shalom as established in the Garden. Shalom involved sustainable relationships between God and humanity, among human beings and between humanity and all the created order.
This requires that business:. In his view, these broad statements were too broad, allowing one to argue that making a profit shareholder maximisation is the contribution that business makes to the common good. Equally, they allowed one to ignore the issues of how and for whom is wealth created. Kenman Wong and Scott Rae, well-known for their work on business ethics, published their seminal book on business in under the title Business for the Common Good. The framework is set out in Table 1 below in which private benefit and common good are contrasted.
Business that is predicated on private benefit to the exclusion of the common good reflects the brokenness of human institutions since the Fall. Table 1: Private benefit and common good. Purpose Short-term wealth attainment. Retrieved 3 Dec The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure. New York: Warner Books. Conspiracy Archive. Retrieved 27 November The Secret Source. Law of Attraction Solutions, Llc. Retrieved 20 November Exposing the Secret Law of Attraction. Retrieved 6 November The Varieties of Religious Experience. Retrieved 12 November Retrieved 13 November July Medical History.
Retrieved 19 November The Annotated Emerson. Belknap Press. Bible Gateway. Retrieved 5 November Chapter 11, section 17" PDF. The New Thought Library. The Secret. Beyond Words. Retrieved 13 February Annals of Internal Medicine. Beyond Words Publishing. In Tune With The Infinite. Published Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction. Advanced Thought Publishing.
The Ocean of Theosophy. United Lodge of Theosophists. Theosophical Publishing House. Retrieved 16 May Napoleon Hill Foundation. Retrieved 3 August Positive Inspiration. Retrieved 15 May Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. Pocket Books. Illini Books. Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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Charlie You. Prosperity Attraction — you create your own reality. Apply the Law of Attraction. Bourgeois pseudoscience Suppressed research in the Soviet Union Traditional medicine. List of topics characterized as pseudoscience. Spiritual mind treatment. Ernest Holmes. Moreover, what it means for a community to flourish has two foci. It has a creative, forward-looking piece: is there an innovation, a new product, a new way of delivering a service, a new market that will help bring a healthy, increasing abundance to the community?
But it also has a restorative, redemptive perspective as well: Is there a product or service that can help address the broken relationships, the oppression and injustice in the world today? Van Duzer argued that this approach suggests that the first question to be addressed in business decision-making is not what might maximise return on investment, but what will enable the community to flourish and provide opportunities for meaningful and creative work. In addition, a business should operate in a way that is sustainable and it should cooperate with other institutions in pursuing the common good.
Regarding sustainability, a business should seek shalom as established in the Garden. Shalom involved sustainable relationships between God and humanity, among human beings and between humanity and all the created order. This requires that business:. In his view, these broad statements were too broad, allowing one to argue that making a profit shareholder maximisation is the contribution that business makes to the common good. Equally, they allowed one to ignore the issues of how and for whom is wealth created. Kenman Wong and Scott Rae, well-known for their work on business ethics, published their seminal book on business in under the title Business for the Common Good.
The framework is set out in Table 1 below in which private benefit and common good are contrasted. Business that is predicated on private benefit to the exclusion of the common good reflects the brokenness of human institutions since the Fall. Table 1: Private benefit and common good. Purpose Short-term wealth attainment. Abundance is gained at the expense of other stakeholders or other measures of well-being. Lasting and holistic value creation optimized for all stakeholders. Purpose is embedded and reflected seamlessly across all functions and decisions sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, accounting, etc.
Relationships with God, others, self Others are treated as though they only exist to serve our purposes or as objects to be moved. Vulnerable people remain invisible and voiceless. This divides people needlessly, creates or promotes envy and strife. Greed, dishonesty, and dehumanizing others is encouraged. This harms a healthy sense of self. Material objects, individual financial success, ambition, self, and power are worshipped more as a result.
Others are treated with dignity and respect and have a deepened sense of purpose. The vulnerable are given a voice. People are brought together in a spirit of reconciliation and harmony. Generosity, care, honesty, and humility are cultivated. A healthy sense of self is enhanced. God is worshipped more and the beauty of others is enhanced. Resources economic, physical, etc. Managed carelessly without regard for long-term impact. Managed in ways that honour the spirit of stewardship and trusteeship.
There is a deep concern for long-term impact and the lives of future generations. Services what business we are in Products and services that have little or no regard for enhancing life and are not respectful of our physical environment. Methods how we do business Dishonest, manipulative and unjust. Disrespectful of self and others. We would not want to swap places with a customer, employee, supplier, shareholder, or community member. Honest, dignified, and respectful. Treating others like we would members of our own family. We would gladly swap places with other stakeholders.
In the home trade his capital is never so long out of his sight as it frequently is in the foreign trade of consumption. He can know better the character and situation of the persons whom he trusts and if he should happen to be deceived, he knows better the laws of the country from which he must seek redress.
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Secondly, every individual who employs his capital in the support of domestic industry, necessarily endeavours so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest possible value. In proportion as the value of this produce is great or small, so will likewise be the profits of the employer. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can.
H e intends only his own gain, and he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention. Given that Smith was writing during the early Industrial Revolution, it is not surprising that he focused on material welfare because, for the first time in human history, there was the prospect of whole nations being raised out of subsistence.
With respect to transformational service, Wong and Rae suggest that the concept embodies two dimensions: the creation mandate and the eschatological transformation of the new creation. In other words, work is transformational service to God in his new creation too. The term transformation implies positive change toward ourselves, others and our social institutions to reflect human flourishing.
So, in many cases our task is more akin to remodelling a house than tearing one down and completely rebuilding it, though some parts may need total demolition and ground up construction. The word service fits well from a look at the overarching theme of the Scriptures. Isaiah 53 depicts the coming Messiah as a suffering servant. Some needs and wants of consumers or employees those that may be harmful to themselves or others should not be met or served.
It is important to note that none of the above implies that profit and wealth creation are negative concepts. However, it does imply that profit and wealth creation are means to human flourishing or holistic transformation rather than ends in themselves. Hence the title of this Lausanne Consultation.
That business was intended by God to contribute positively to the flourishing of the individual and community is further supported empirically by the results of happiness research. Generous business might also lead people to be generous themselves. The report also found that employment is an overwhelming influence on happiness and that spells of unemployment have lasting negative effects on happiness. Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. B e glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. M y chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune for they will be a people blessed by the Lord.
It is a fact that wealth creation has improved the standard of living for the vast majority of people on the planet since the Industrial Revolution. However, there remain, even in high income countries like the United States, many millions of people who do not receive much, or any, benefit from the grand story of development.
God does not deal with averages, but is interested in every single individual. This raises a number of contentious issues, debated actively among Christians. The first addressed below is whether or not believers should be in partnership with non-believers. The third is whether or not the excesses of capitalism can be mitigated by the implementation of shared-rewards.
Other issues could also have been addressed, but they were outside the scope of the Consultation. An issue that arises in many discussions about Christian interaction with the world is whether we should have business partnerships only with Christians, or also with non-Christians.
It is not a question with a simple, direct answer, given that Christians operate in the world differently, despite sharing values, goals, and strategies from the Kingdom of God. Scriptures, however, do give some partnership principles and words of wisdom that need heeding by the serious Christian. Three very interesting passages provide orientation for these sometimes anguishing choices.
He was a God-fearing successful statesman who reorganized the judicial system at home. Abroad, he led victories against the vast enemy armies Moabites, Ammonites, and some Meunites gathered against Judah without even having to fight, and established peace with the Northern kingdom of Israel. By all accounts, it was the faithful and competent leadership so much needed for the relatively small nation of Judah at a crucial time in its history.
Once peace was established in the region and the judicial system was working at home, it was time to go forward and increase the wealth of the nation through trade. There was a significant market opportunity to bring gold, silver, sandalwood, and precious stones from Ofir. Solomon had used the proceeds to build the Temple. All this Jehoshaphat certainly knew. The opportunity was evident, the business plan proven, the strategy well defined, and the prospects were good.
All foreshadowed a favorable impact in the nation. So, Jehoshaphat started executing the strategy, building not one, but a fleet of trading ships, a critical success factor for the enterprise. What could go wrong in such a solid venture? Imitating Solomon, to further enhance the safety and profitability of the plan, he established a partnership with his relative Ahaziah, the King of Israel in Samaria.
Ahaziah was, after all, a relative and Israel was a powerful northern neighbouring nation with whom Jehoshaphat had good relations. The rationale was logical, but problematical. He had values that contrasted starkly with Jehoshaphat. God simply sunk the enterprise literally because of the partnership with an evil king.
His partnership was abominable to God. The year reign of Jehoshaphat was generally sound, but here ended on a sour note. On the other hand, it does not follow from the example of Jehoshaphat that we should have business dealings or associations solely with Christians. Their proceeds were lavishly used in the construction of the first temple, the completion of which brought joy to the whole nation.
Wealth Creation: Biblical Views and Perspectives
How to apply the implications of these Old Testament lesson to our present times becomes even more complex, given the complexity or our present business structures with their far-ranging mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures or capital infusions. One must pray earnestly for discernment. Many centuries later, this history seemed to be in the mind of Paul when he was writing to the Corinthian believers. The city of Corinth was a commercial and industrial hub ceramics and other produce , hosting two ports and many enterprises. Having lived in this context for eighteen months, the straightforward Paul warned Christians:.
I have written to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. With such a man do not even eat 1 Cor Rather, his warning is to disassociate with all forms of wickedness that is unrepentantly named among so-called brethren.
In a third passage, in the context of the separation of a pure people for God, Paul writes to the same Corinthians, once again to address the issue of partnership:. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of god and idols? For we are the temple of the living God 2 Cor These verses have been traditionally applied to marriage, disavowing marriage with non-Christians. However, they can be equally applied to business.
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It contains the same business language with which both Paul and his readers would have been familiar. Many are the sound businesses, schools, and organizational ventures that started well, only to be completely drawn away from their initial purposes due to this issue of ungodly yoking. A fundamental safeguard according to these authors is that an organization must be certain of its purpose and must weigh culture more highly than strategy. Although the authors focus on not-for-profit organisations, the principles apply equally to businesses.
This may require working with both believers and nonbelievers. That is, if wealth is somehow un-Christian, then there is no point in asking how to increase it biblically. It is a contentious issue. Various positions can be taken here: either that wealth is inherently questionable, or, less negatively, that creating wealth for others is legitimate while its indulgence for oneself is sinful at worst and unwise at best, or, most positively, that it can be both created for others and enjoyed for oneself.
The Lausanne Covenant of took quite a clear position here. Indeed, its opposite was mandated. The Cape Town Commitment mandate on simplicity can be best understood when put in context: first, that it was specifically responding to the Prosperity Gospel or Prosperity Theology PT. We take each of these challenges in turn. How these two principles can co-exist must be explained. Initially, certainly, they seem in total contradiction. One cannot logically affirm both that material wealth is legitimate or, in certain cases, even desirable for Christians and simultaneously require simplicity of them.
It is vital that we get this right. This demands explanation. In other words, they set out duties—mandates, not suggestions. That is, has it confused a vocation to which some are called with a virtue universally required? This is quite likely. Simplicity is clearly a valid and important option for those called to it; but it is not for all. And the degrees to which some are called to simplicity may vary.
Nowhere does Scripture unambiguously command that Christians live with a bare minimum this being the most common-sensical definition of simplicity. Certainly, none of the Scriptures cited in The Lausanne Covenant did so see above endnote. And when the apostle Paul addressed the rich, he required generosity, not simplicity. Generosity to others was the focus, not the need to divest themselves in order to do so.
Once again, generosity is the required virtue. Moreover, to enable such generosity, preserving these Corinthians in a simplified lifestyle is precisely not what God was intending. The book of Acts similarly puts the focus on generosity, not on simplicity. Quite clearly, some were giving out of their abundance—the opposite of a simplified state.
The very next chapter in Acts gives us, in the persons of Ananias and Sapphira, an example of some of these landowners. The apostle Peter was quite clear that their wrongdoing did not consist in their owning land or in having abundance. Their error was not here, but in lying to the Holy Spirit. What about Jesus? Jesus, once he started his public ministry, did indeed live a simple lifestyle. Is not Jesus the perfect, sinless embodiment of the gospel, whom we should then imitate at every step, even here in his simplicity?
Complicating this question is that Jesus, as both man and God, combined two realities: as the Perfect Man he lived out the universal virtues to be copied by us all, and as the divine Saviour he exercised his own unique and inimitable ministry and vocation.