Tag Archives: Ethics

The Righteous Rich

Last semester I read an enormously challenging book called “Missions And Money: Affluence As a Missionary Problem”. One of the most helpful chapters is Christopher Wright’s contribution on the “righteous rich” in the Hebrew Bible. He lists nine qualities that can be discerned from the text. If you are reading a blog more than likely you are considered wealthy in the global economy. Perhaps not in your own community or country, but in relation to your global neighbor.

I adapted his suggestions to be a little more digestible:

  1. They remember the source of their riches. (Deut 8:17-18; 1 Chron 29:11-12; Jer 9:23-24)
  2. They don’t idolize their wealth by putting inordinate trust in it, nor get anxious about losing it. (Job 31:24-25)
  3. Recognize that wealth is secondary to many things, i.e. wisdom, integrity, humility and righteousness. (1 Chron 29:17; Prov 8:10-11; 1 Kings 3; Prov 16:8, 28:6)
  4. Set their wealth in the context of God’s blessing. Wealth in righteous hands is servant of God’s mission. (Gen 12:1-3)
  5. Use their wealth with justice. (Ps 15:5; Ezek 18:7-8)
  6. Make their wealth available to the wider community through responsible lending (Lev 25; Deut 24:6, 10-13)
  7. See wealth as an opportunity for generosity–even when it is risky, and even when it hurts. (Deut 15; Ps 112:3; Prov 14:31; 19:17; Ruth)
  8. Use wealth in the service of God by meeting practical needs or materially supporting God’s servants. (1 Chron 28-29; 2 Chron 31; Ruth)
  9. Set an example by limiting personal consumption and declining to maximize personal gain. (Neh 5:14-19)

Jonathan Bonk Missions and Money p. 200

So often we hear about how the Bible criticizes wealth and chastises the rich. Jesus’ words in the story of the rich young ruler are often quoted, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor.” What we don’t hear is how the Bible instructs those who find themselves on the wealthy side of the divide to live with their wealth. The idea that there is a role for the rich in the kingdom is liberating for those crushed by guilt.

This doesn’t at all do away with the biblical critique of wealth and the rich, but it does give a more three dimensional picture of how we relate to and use wealth within the kingdom.


Reflections and Resolutions

I found this excellent list of questions that caused me to reflect on my journey towards ethical eating and the year that looms on the horizon.

1. What new local food did you discover this year?

2. What bad food habit did you give up or replace?

3. What’s your most memorable meal of 2008?


Here’s my thoughts on each. Please share your own in the comments.

1. Every area in America (the world really) should have easily accessible sources of local food. I do not live in an area that does. I would have to drive at least an hour in any direction before I could find a farmer’s market or CSA. It’s true that local food is growing, but I’d be interested in seeing a map that showed access to local food sources within 100 miles or so. So, that’s a pretty negative answer…

2. This year we stopped buying bread from the store altogether. We only eat bread made in our bread machine. It feels wonderful to know that you have cut one item entirely out of your grocery list (of course we don’t have local sources for the ingredients yet). As my wife often likes to say, “It feels good to know exactly what’s in the bread, because I put it in there.”

3. I posted about the meal we had with our friends Tim and Kathleen in Seguin, TX when I was at my alma mater to preach at the chapel. It was entirely local and absolutely delicious. In the journey towards eating justly meals like this taste so good on many levels.

I’ll add one more question for you WWJE readers (both of you…mom and mike)

4. What are your goals/resolutions for eating ethically in 2009?

Pre-Consumption Prayer

This is worth re-posting. Excellent thoughts along the lines of Consuming Christmas from God’s Politics:

“Consumption” isn’t a bad word. Even as we watch the excesses of the consumer economy crumble and collapse around us, we should remember that the word “consume” also means “to eat.”

On Thursday, many of us consumed to excess as eaters; today, on “Black Friday,” many of us also consume to excess as shoppers. But as Eugene Cho pointed out so thoughtfully last week, buying stuff at low prices isn’t by itself a mark of shame or weakness. It is, in our post-agrarian, post-industrial society, a necessity. The issue isn’t whether we buy or not buy things. It is whether we do so with appreciation for all of God’s creation.

Before we eat, we say a prayer to acknowledge our gratitude for God’s bounty. Through prayer, we express both humility and appreciation. If we pray mindfully (rather than out of rote habit), we simultaneously acknowledge our joy at what we have while also feeling compassion for those who have not.

What if we said a prayer each time we bought something – each time we “consumed”?

(read the full post here)

And here’s a prayer to pray before you buy anything:

May the food we eat, feed those who farmed it. May the things we buy, support those who fashioned and shipped and sold them. For everything we enjoy from your good earth, God, thank you.

In Search of Food Leviticus

Speaking of Faith replayed Krista Tippet’s interview last year with Barbara Kingsolver called The Ethics of Eating. I caught a phrase this time around that grabbed my attention. Kingsolver said she was in search of “Food Leviticus.” I can sympathize with that!

For those who mainly stay away from the book of the Bible that famously has lots of strange arcane rules and calls for the stoning of all kinds of people (including insubordinate children 20:9) let me explain. We tend to think of law as oppressive and imposing. The law tells us what to do and prevents us from having fun. In the world of the Bible law was a kind of grace. They lived in a very confusing world (much like today) with a plurality of religions surrounding them with competing deities and beliefs. They were called to be a different nation that worshipped only YHWH (the Hebrew term used to designate God’s personal name). Leviticus, with all of its rules, boundaries and guidelines, actually provided a kind of freedom for the people. Now they knew what was okay and what was not.

I’m often looking for the same kind of guidebook in pursuing an ethical diet. What compromises are okay? What things should I avoid at all costs as absolutely immoral? Should I eat only local food or should I buy fair trade to support poor farmers in Third World countries? A food Leviticus would simply lay out what is acceptable and not and what the consequences should be for buying bananas from Chiquita for example.

Waste Not: Food Crisis Edition

I actually wrote this back on July 11 this summer. The news is not exactly recent, but I think still relevant.

Apparently the good folks at the G8 summit on the food crisis were treated to an 18 course dinner this week, including milk-fed lamb, sea urchins, caviar and a lot of other foods that you and I could pick up at McDonald’s if we really wanted. Something Jesus said about the “least of these” makes me think he would skip the 18 course meal in solidarity with the good people of Haiti who have been reduced to eating mud pies with a dash of salt.

In addition to the Power’s shenanigans in Japan we’ve been hearing a lot about our personal waste being the cause (and/or solution) of the food crisis. Gordon Brown recently urged Britains to curb their food waste in an effort to alleviate suffering around the world. So, we’re back to the clean your plate because kids in Africa are starving debate.

I am all for reducing our waste. Every little bit helps and I would never want to discourage individuals from taking those steps to make a difference. However, it is disingenuous for the world’s leaders to lay the blame at the door of consumers. The truth is that the individual food waste of consumers is miniscule compared to the waste of corporations and other institutions.

Let’s not forget either that there is no food shortage involved in this food crisis. The world continues to produce more than enough food to feed everyone.