Economic Idolatry

There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty." (Acts 19:27)

In America, we view capitalism sacredly.  It is not only sacred, but to question  some of the core concepts is akin to treason and heresy.  Unquestionably, the American dream and the incredible ability to accumulate wealth and maintain a high standard of living would not be possible without an aggressively capitalistic economy.  However, this weath can co-opt and inform our understandings of what is right and just.

In first century city of Ephesus, the community was in an uproar over the new message of Jesus.  The narrative tells us that many accepted the message of Jesus and lives were changed in dramatic fashion. (Just writing that sentence reminds me of how the contemporary Church has very low expectations of the power of Jesus compared to the Biblical record.)  There arose significant opposition.  Interestingly, the opposition was not based upon differing theologies (how people saw God), differing ecclesiologies (how the people of God are organized), or even the extraordinary claims of the faith (Jesus literally died, rose again, etc).  The opposition was mainly economic.  As the opening scripture reveals, the merchant class of Ephesus was mostly concerned about loss in wages related to the Temple of Artemis.

Less we think that this is only a first century issue, we need only to look at the nineteenth century arguements over slavery, where the contention was not the immorality of slavery, but the economic neccesity of it.  In fact, one can argue that the economic benefits of slavery informed and influenced how many churches understood love for another.  The only way to be remain faithful to the golden rule was to interpret it by denying the humanity of slaves, and making them exempt from the dignity required by Jesus' commands. 

Today, I hear debate after debate on lower the national debt, cutting social programs, militarism, and taxes.  There is plenty of rhetoric and propaganda from all around, so understanding what is true is difficult.  However, what remains true is the often we allow the economic needs of our cultures to inform our theology, instead of allowing our theology inform our economic, political, social, and cultural approaches.  Whats even more interesting is how Christian leaders have accepted the secularization process (God is only interested in our private lives, and is not active or practical in the larger spheres of life).

If you are a follower of Jesus, I challenge you to be a prophetic (speaking truth to power) voice in these conversations regarding money.  Lets stop the economic idolatry and have the courage to agents of transformation.

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment