Question: What is the responsibility of Christians with regards to economic development, leadership within the community, and the mandates of the Gospel?
The question posed before us this week in our Discussion Board can cause even the most casual believer to step and reflect on their life and the choices they have made. The message of the cross is simple: All humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God required a sacrifice to pay the price for sin and Jesus gave His life on the cross so the price has been paid. This is evidence that God so loved that He gave His Son, and whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection from the dead can be saved. As believers, Christians have been given the ministry and the word of reconciliation. As ambassadors of Christ, believers are to make known the message of salvation through Jesus, and bring people back to the living God. And as ambassadors of God’s word, believers are to live by example and serve others as Christ served us.
With regard to economic development, it might best serve the Christian to consider a more serious reflection on the doctrine of creation. An obvious lesson of creation is that man is created in God’s image, meaning, man is a creator. Since God creates, we should as well, and this includes the creation of wealth. God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” may well have significant implications beyond procreation; it may be interpreted as a general encouragement to productive labor. The discomfiture at economic inequalities leads it to suggest a moral necessity for an equality of outcomes, and thus to emphasize not production but distribution. Distribution of all social resources should be equal, unless an unequal distribution benefits the disadvantaged of society. The responsibility of Christians is to draw important distinctions as to who is responsible for carrying out God’s commandments with regard to the poor. There are the lines of responsibility in biblical instruction on the proper roles of individuals, family, and church. Christian values require cultivation within the body of Christ. Christian values transcend economic markets and are used in the decision-making process concerning careers, savings and investments, making purchases, and the treatment of our fellow man and co-workers . The responsibilities of civil government in executing charitable duties are less certain. However, the individuals who attain a role within the community and government hierarchy as leaders do understand their role in helping the less fortunate in spite of passing economic policies where the actual results of helping the poor is ambiguous at best. The conception of solidarity with the poor suffers from excessively economic interpretations of certain biblical passages. For example, the interpretation of stewardship emphasizes only the distributional aspects of the doctrine and disregards the equally important factor of productivity issues encompassed in the same passage. As the Parable of the Talents suggests, good stewards are also good investors, creatively using God-given resources to produce new wealth.
As Christian leaders, we have a responsibility to aspire to make a difference in our community and provide an example for others to follow. Scripture has the ability to affect change in the community for the sake of God and to exert pressure upon not just the thinking of the community leaders but also create a means for a fundamental transformation in the lives of those most in need. It is the possibility for transformation in order to create and nurture communities that thrive by responsibly using the resources available as well as stepping forward to address the issues of the less fortunate. In Acts, thriving includes provision for and inclusion of the weak and the downtrodden, not something that is in addition to the central mission of the church and Christian leaders, but rather as something integral, internal and eternal to the identity of both. What is needed in order to create and nurture communities that thrive as foretastes of the kingdom of God are reminders of what it the benefits of positive actions and programs in the lives of the residents in individual communities.
The mandates of the Gospel are the foundation by which all Christians should strive to live by. First and foremost, Christians are to go forth and share/preach the gospel in the world. Each Christian can be a witness empowered by the Holy Spirit and share their testimony in a ministry of their own, whether it is working in a non-profit, working in the government, or even working in a diner. Part of the Great Commission is to build others into the body of Christ and make them disciples for Christ. These disciples are responsible believers who are placed in positions of leadership in the church and in the community in which they live.
Some Christians speak of cultural mandates in which God has directed men and women to work, create, produce and create . This form of activity and exchange is rooted in the story of Creation (Genesis 1-3, NIV) and calls people to engage in economic activity in the name of the biblical principles regarding stewardship and justice. Christians, no matter the circumstance, are never relieved of this responsibility towards their fellow man.
The passages chosen for this week’s Discussion Board speak to the heart and soul of how Christians in positions of responsibility and leadership should pursue their vocations in the field of economic development. In James 1:26-27 (NIV), Christians are commanded to look after the widows and the orphans and to endeavor keeping their actions pure and focused on helping the less fortunate and Proverbs 29:7 (NIV)further supports this premise by stating that the righteous care about justice for the poor. As Christians, it is a primary duty to seek justice for all, but especially the poor. Even more importantly, it is vital to be good stewards of what is given to be in charge of. There is to be no withholding of the gifts and finances that Christians are in possession of. Malachi 3:6-12 speaks of not withholding what is God’s but using it for good and for His glory. The passages contained in this week’s discussion all lead one to pause and reflect what exactly is the role and responsibility of Christians in the role of economic development, leadership and the Great Commission.