The purpose of economy

In Matthew 25: 31-46 we read about the final judgement in ‘The parable of the sheep and the goats’. The decisive question in this parable is: ‘How did we behave to the marginalized people in our society and neighbourhood, because I am they’. These people are the ones who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, were naked, ill and in prison and Jesus identifies himself with them.

In my childhood this parable always seemed to me a story of being generous to the poor. I always saw it as an act of charity, but nowadays I think differently. There is no country growing as fast out of poverty as China, because of its economic development. Personally, I am convinced that companies, business and a healthy economy will be the answer to the needs of the people in this parable.

Businesses, economic growth, combined with healthy leadership make it possible to fulfil the needs of the needy. It will make that they can feed themselves, have something to drink, have clothes and it will set them free out of the prison of poverty. With a growing wealth they can build houses, hospitals and an infrastructure to take care of hygiene, sickness and wellbeing.

I think this is and must be the purpose of economy and the goal of governments.

  • Economy finds its purpose and goal in the way it takes care of the people it ought to serve.
  • A society should not be judged by its successes nor prosperity, but on the basis of how the needy, weak and marginalized people are treated.
  • The meaning of life is answered in: Loving God with all I have, and people, strangers, neighbours, family and others like myself. (Matthew 22: 37-39)
  • Real fulfilment is received in loving relationships.

These are strong and unrelinquishable principles of the Christian faith.

Our pitfall as Christians and others can be that we use economy, our companies, growth, work and leadership not as a tool to serve and love people, but as a tool to get rich and cloth ourselves with wealth and luxury. This is the difference between the two cities in in Revelations 17-22.

The city Babylon, a metaphor for the city of man, and Jerusalem, the city of God. Babylon uses people, without shame, to get rich, wealthy and live luxurious. Babylon says: ’I am a queen on my throne’. She sells her lifestyle to all the people and many people committed fornication with her. She is the symbol of our modern western lifestyle and dreams. This longing is the basis of our economic system and wealth, buy and become happy. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, the city is built of precious stones. God doesn’t clothe himself with precious stones and wealth, like the great harlot, but He makes the city beautiful. God has his glory in himself, he doesn’t need to dress up. He is taking care, instead of using people. Jerusalem is characterized as the city of peace, a bride made beautiful for Christ.

We as Christians are questioned: ‘What is the city you are building or contributing to? Is it Jerusalem or Babylon?’. Is it living for yourself or others,? Pleasure or fulfilment? Greed or inner peace? Taking or serving? Do we serve the common good, people and society with our companies or do we take advantage of them? These will be the final questions we are judged by. What is it you are living for? May God influence you and change your life?

 

Wouter Droppers

 

P.S.: In these days where refugees engulf Europe, take in account the notion of strangers in this parable.