The economy does not work equally or equitably for everyone. Decades of reporting on poverty, wage inequality, wealth inequality, disparities based on race and gender, and a shrinking middle class offer ample evidence of economic distress for millions of Americans. What is important to remember is that these are not simply data points or economic trend-lines; they represent people. Faith groups need to be active in advocating for economic practices which favor people over money and special interests.
Economic justice is a central part of God’s message in calling humanity to reconciliation. Jesus impressed this upon his first disciples. In fact, his teachings and manner of life indicate resources must be shared more equitably. And the Early Church patterned their community life and ministry after an economic fellowship in stark contrast to economic disparity in the world. Numerous biblical scholars give clear evidence of not only economic oppression in antiquity but, also, the prophetic witness in advocating for economic justice in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann wonderfully summarizes this when he observes that biblical texts are critical of “[…] an economy of extraction whereby concentrated power serves to extract wealth from vulnerable people in order to transfer it to the more powerful. That extraction is accomplished by the predatory if legal means of tax arrangements, credit and loan stipulations, high interest rates, and cheap labor. […] That recurring predatory economy of extraction is countered in biblical testimony by an economy of restoration […]”¹
The church today is largely removed from the economic advocacy of the prophets, Jesus, and the pattern of economic life and advocacy modeled by the first disciples. Christian faith in our culture tends to treat economics as a side subject of the biblical tradition rather than a central element of God’s activity in the world. When we do reflect on economics and poverty it is mostly in relation to supporting outreach efforts. While outreach is an important response of faith, the biblical testimony goes far beyond helping those in need. Advocacy for a restorative economics which is rooted in God’s distributive justice are central to biblical texts.
Biblical, and other ancient, texts draw a clear map of an economy of extraction and how that is countered in biblical testimony of advocacy for an economy of restoration. Brueggemann correctly points out that the biblical texts are descriptive of our own time as we have an economy of extraction operating both in the United States and globally. The Faith Network for Economic Justice serves to educate and advocate for an economy of restoration which operates on the principle of neighborly economics for the common good.²
The Faith Network for Economic Justice is partnering with faith groups and other people and organizations of good will in advocating for actionable solutions toward economic justice. We endorse and pledge to help achieve Americas Goals, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals USA (SDG USA) and FutureNow, as they are consistent with the biblical testimony of advocating for an economy of restoration.
- Walter Brueggemann, Money and Possessions (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), p. xix.
- Ibid, pp. xix-xx. We draw on Bruggemann’s terminology of economy of extraction, economy of restoration, neighborly economics for the common good as articulating both society’s economic structure and the biblical testimony of an alternative economic structure.