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. Both faith groups and the economic profession need to take more responsibility 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.
Economics was originally considered a part of moral philosophy. Even Adam Smith, whose book The Wealth of Nations is considered the birth of economics as a distinct field of study, considered economics part of moral philosophy. Smith — contrary to the widely held claim that he advocated for purely “free markets” — stated that economic markets, and their division of labor, needed to produce not only wealth from market activity, but also justice and freedom — particularly for the poor.
Next week I will launch a seven-part series of blog posts (Moral Economy Series) looking at the faith tradition in proclaiming economic justice, economics’s roots in moral philosophy, and how we might restore a sense of ethical economics toward building a moral economy that works for all. Here is an outline of the blog topics:
- Poverty in the Bible
- Yahweh’s Covenant and Call
- Prophetic Witness to God’s Distributive Justice
- Social Science Context of the New Testament
- Jesus and a Gospel of Economic Justice
- Economic Witness of the Early Church
- Reclaiming Ethical Economics
About the Moral Economy Series
The Moral Economy Series looks at the faith tradition of proclaiming economic justice, economics’s roots in moral philosophy, and how we might restore a sense of ethical economics toward building a moral economy that works for all. The Rev. Jay Lawlor draws on over twenty years of exploring the intersection of faith and economics in this new blog series on the Moral Economy. You can follow the Rev. Jay Lawlor’s blog – including the Moral Economy Series, by subscribing to updates via email, and/or following post updates on Facebook, and Twitter.
About the Author
The Rev. Jay Lawlor is an Episcopal priest and economist. He has worked on the intersection of faith and economics for over twenty years. Fr. Lawlor has served as a parish priest in several dioceses of the Episcopal Church, in leadership roles on diocesan committees, and was instrumental in advocating for the Episcopal Church’s adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He was ordained a Priest on May 31, 2003 in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to ordination, the Rev. Jay Lawlor worked as a research economist at the Center for International Development at Harvard University. He holds a M.Div. from Episcopal Divinity School; a M.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut; and a B.A. in Economics (with honors) from Stonehill College.