Several months ago I was handed a book by a former co-minister at a church. He gave me the book because he did not like it and he did not want it on his shelf. He knew, however, that I have a “sure-I’’ll-read-that” policy with books. I’ll start anything, but only finish things that are valuable. The book, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World’>Mere Discipleship, has challenged my thinking lately. Lee Camp wrote one of those books that instinctively he knew people would not want to read (I know this because when I was at graduate school doing my Masters of Divinity Lee Camp made a visit to campus to defend some of this ideas). He, like the prophet Jeremiah, felt that the words could not be shut up (Jer. 20:9). The book is unpopular in mainstream circles because of its negative comments regarding American nationalism, it’s endorsement of pacifism, and finally, its challenge of capitalism. Like I said, not likely to go over well with most folks. BUT, there is a lot of good thought provoking material.
What Does ‘Grace’ have to do with Economics?
Addressing the issues of grace and economics Camp writes:
Many Christians rightly celebrate “God’s grace” as the operative principle establishing personal relationship with God; but many appear unwilling and intransigent [unwilling to compromise] when it comes to grace serving as an operative principle in various spheres of real life. Compartmentalizing grace in this way, grace becomes merely a “religious” principle or merely a “spirituality” that remains in its own socially and politically irrelevant sphere. Grace may be the way that God works with sinners, but in the “real world” of politics and criminal justice and business, “merit” and eye-for-an-eye and like-for-like are seen as the operative principles (p. 180-181).
Cliff Notes translation – Grace is good when we keep it at church, but don’t be a-brigin’ that sorta’ talk to business.
So what are we to make of all this? Is grace to be locked up on Sunday, while we head out to address the real word with a more practical approach to business?
Not until we realize that we do not deserve all that we have can Christians ever begin to get a grasp of the biblical vision of economics. We live, we exist, we breathe by grace. (p. 183)
Obviously, there is a tension. That tension was discussed when we asked, “Is God or man the source of financial increase?”
Camp seems to think those biblical teachings about forgiving debts, showing justice to the poor, and sharing wealth are actually meant to apply to all parts of life. Call me crazy, but I sort of think he is touching on something valid. What about you?
- Do you have what you have because of grace or effort?
- Could a business survive (or thrive) if grace was the foundational principle instead of merit?
- Is it time to let grace out of the church so it can see the light of day?