Bible Studies
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Friday, 20 May 2005

By Jim Jordal

And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men….The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, "alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!" For in one hour such great riches came to nothing….Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!

Rev. 18:11-20 (NKJV)

Could the author of the above passage have been thinking of economic society today as he described a global commercial system valuing ostentation, profit, and wealth over human life and welfare? I think it highly possible. Today we see the twins of the apocalypse--automation and globalization--threatening to devour not only the earth, but most of its people. Based upon flawed concepts of private property and free enterprise, these terrible twins pillage nations, destroy cultures, rape environments, and debase virtually everything they touch. Political rulers bow before them; merchants worship them; financiers use them; churches ignore them--and we the people become their slaves. Enough! O Lord.

Working together, automation and globalization could provide the greatest deliverance in human history from the age-long curses of scarcity and backbreaking toil. Instead, they threaten to devastate the planet with unemployment, poverty, political unrest, and war. Their effect is universal, sweeping unimpeded across national boundaries, social classes, ideologies, and all human institutions. Previously, disasters were limited to certain geographical areas, affected only certain people, or lasted only for a relatively short time period. Not since the Deluge has anything so potentially destructive threatened the people of earth.

The philosophical underpinning of these twin terrors is the Western concept of private property coupled with the prevailing understanding of free enterprise. Our society views private property as exclusively ours to use, profit from, or destroy as we desire, with little thought or concern as to the effects of our actions upon others. Add to this the prevailing view that free enterprise entitles owners of productive factors (resources, labor, capital, management, and technology) to mercilessly exploit these factors in the drive for profits, and we have a recipe for economic and social disaster.

Arising from this economic malpractice is the modern rapacious multinational corporation, which now threatens society in ways never before experienced. These goliaths--many of whom have more power and wealth than many countries--manipulate truth, deny reality, exploit labor, crush the weak, subvert governments, despoil the environment, destroy indigenous cultures, and exhibit an utter lack of concern for the human and ecological despoliation resulting from their actions. That, friends, is the opposite of biblical love. It's total apathy concerning human welfare other than their own.

And why are automation and globalization not what advocates promise: saviors of economic society, producers of untold wealth for all, and harbingers of a new earthly utopia? These apocalyptic twins are not in themselves evil--actually they are gifts from God at the end of the age, meant to lift the Adamic curses of heavy toil and scarcity. In themselves they make eminently good economic sense. But evil arises from the greedy, arrogant, power-hungry motivations of the political and economic forces behind these movements. They view them, not as means for economic deliverance of the planet, but as opportunities for personal and group aggrandizement. Scripture considers such values violent, unjust, and oppressive.

So again we find human arrogance and greed perverting something God meant for a blessing. Actually, we shouldn't be surprised, because that's what happens when we substitute human wisdom for that of God. King Solomon of ancient Israel saw the age-old problem clearly when he lamented: "If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter…. Moreover the profit of the land is for all, even the king is served from the field (Ecc. 5:8-9, NKJV).

Were we to heed God’s definition of private property, we would view our possessions of land and other resources as a stewardship to be treasured, nurtured, conserved, and renewed. We would value people, not money, as true wealth, and would use our material assets for the benefit of all. Yes, there would still be widespread differentials in wealth--after all, not all humans are equally intelligent, industrious, or creative. But the extremes of wealth and poverty would be avoided, not by force of law, but because those of us "born on third base," so to speak, would understand that our welfare is tied dramatically to that of all people. We would understand that when the bell tolls, it tolls also for us.

If we heeded God's word, as we will when the Lord softens our hearts with His New Covenant (Heb. 8:10-13), then automation and gobalization could become, not curses upon the earth, but true blessings used to spread economic plenty throughout the earth.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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