Towards a (Christian) economic alternative.

The following is a mash-up of quotes from a chapter entitled “Socioeconomic life: a way of confession,” from Bob Goudzwaard’s work An Aid for the Overdeveloped West.

Socioeconomic life is always a kind of confession in the sense of making known, or even unconsciously betraying, what a person’s life is all about, what he really lives for, and where the meaning of his life lies. No one can live without a lord, and no one can refrain from making confession. People make confessions not only for themselves individually but also communally. For us in the western world the crucial question is: what do we confess within and concerning socioeconomic life?

The Judeo-Christian way of socioeconomic life is distinctly different from the predominant cultural views. Whereas our culture is economically and social closed we (in fact, to be truly human) are called to be a people that are economically and social open. This difference can be seen in three contrasts. First, “in Israel there was an openness to the rest that God alone can give. Shalom is the basis for human labour.” Shalom thus precedes work and gives it its framework. In our society, however, everything is first of all concentrated on our restless pursuit of what we can produce through our own efforts. Here our economic confession is that in the last instance our labour must produce our well-being. Second, unlike the grace of a new beginning when the slave in Israel returned to the ranks of free men, our society bears the curse of ceaseless conflicts between men, conflicts which are intensified for our own interests. Third, our socioeconomic life does not recognize God’s first right to the land and to nature. Rather, for the sake of expanding our own prosperity, we have almost completely depleted and plundered nature.

Because socioeconomic life is a way of confession, we Christians may (in fact, we are) be expected to establish a socioeconomic lifestyle that differs from what we see all around us.

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