9The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil.
This is one of those places where it is important to read the scriptures carefully, especially those of us living in the United States where we worship prosperity and use it as a measure of success.
The prosperity God promises is fruit: fruit of the body, livestock and soil – to which I think we should also add the fruit of the Spirit.
If my fields yield an abundant harvest, no one else in the human community has lost anything. It is not gained by cleverness in business. It is not gained by taking advantage of anyone’s need. A rich harvest is not gained by pushing wages down and moving jobs overseas. It is not gained by creating obscure derivatives and paying others to rate them highly. It is not gained by underselling the competition until I have a monopoly. It is not gained by taking advantage of insider information or manipulating the market. The Biblical image of divine blessing is rooted in the natural world, not the socio-economic one.
This is not an attack on capitalism, only a caution. We slip so easily into the worship of wealth and power that we can lose sight of Biblical values. It’s not good business to leave the margins of your fields unharvested – but it is good for the poor. It’s not good business to leave your fields ungleaned – but it is good for those in need. It is not good business to give away the first tenth of your harvest – but it is good for the human community. It is not good business to pick up a beaten man at the side of the road and provide him free health care (unless you can get good media attention from it) – but it is good for the human spirit.
The market does not care about the well-being of my neighbor. But God expects me to do so.
9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1, our second reading for Sunday)