by The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global
Wealth Creation is Rooted in God
The Bible makes a bold claim, namely, that wealth creation is rooted in God the creator. He is the ultimate source of all wealth. Genesis 1:1 declares, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ And Genesis 2:1 notes that the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed on the sixth day. ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’ (Gen 1:31a). The word in Hebrew that is translated ‘very good’ is closely related to shalom which is normally translated as ‘peace’, but also means completeness or wholeness, wholeness of the individual person, wholeness of human interactions with one another and wholeness of relationship between humankind and all creation.
The goodness of his creation is celebrated in Psalm 104, which provides a kind of mind map of creation starting with God (vv. 1-4), then moving to the earth (vv. 5-9), provision of productive resources (vv. 10-13), relationship between man and creation (vv. 14-26), relationship between created beings and God (vv. 27-30), and acknowledgment of God the Creator (vv. 31-34).
God created humanity ‘in our image, according to our likeness’ (Gen 1:26a) and delegated to humanity a co-creation role. In Genesis 1:28 this role is specified as to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the earth’ (see also Ps 8:6-8). In doing so, God did not transfer ownership (see Ps 50: 10-12).
That wealth creation is ultimately rooted in God the creator is emphasised in Leviticus 25:23 and Proverbs 8:18-21 and echoed in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12.
In Deuteronomy 8:11-18 God reminded Israel that he was bringing them into a land where ‘you will lack nothing’ and ‘can dig copper out of the hills’. He warned his people, ‘You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth’ (cf also Eccl 5:19).
The celebration of creation in Ps 104:14-15, 23 includes a poetic picture of God as the ultimate source:
He (God) makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—, bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart . . . Then man goes out to his work, to his labour until evening.
This idea is also found in Deuteronomy with the blessing of God’s ultimate provision contingent upon Israel obeying God’s commands:
The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands (Deut 28:11-12a).
Creation Mandate is Focused on Working and Taking Care of the Garden
It is noteworthy that Genesis 2:1-6 implies that the six days of creation did not fully exhaust God’s vision for the earth for ‘there was no man to work the ground’ (Gen 2:5b). ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and take care of it’ (Gen 2:15). It is noteworthy also that God made a ‘helper’ for Adam (Gen 2:18, 20), his wife. The Hebrew translated ‘helper’, ‘ezer, means to aid or succor. The Lord expected her to participate and partner with Adam in the work of Eve’s role was equally significant procreation and creation care.
There are a number of aspects of work that are evident in the Bible:
● God ordains it—Gen 2:15; Exod 20:9; Deut 5:13; Col 3:23-24. Adam was commanded to work before the Fall, and we are to work the six days between Sabbaths. Colossians reminds us that we are ‘working for the Lord, not men’. Properly ordered work is characteristic of God’s people.
● God sustains it—Deut 28:8-12; Ps 104:14; Eccles 3:13, 5:9; Ps 128:1-2. God promised Israel that if they obeyed him, he would bless the work of their hands. God ‘makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate.’ God makes it possible for us to find satisfaction in our ‘toil’. Even ‘the king himself profits from the fields.’ Those of us who fear the Lord will ‘eat the fruit of [our] labour’.
● God instructs it—Isa 28:23-29. God instructs ‘the farmer’ and ‘teaches him the right way’.
● God requires it—2 Thess 3:10-12; 1 Tim 5:8. We are warned to stay away from idle people (they are busybodies rather than busy) and instructed that work is the way in which God provides for our sustenance.
● God rewards it—Prov 12:11, 14b, 24; 14:23; Isa 65:22b. In Proverbs a causal relationship between work and blessing is established. In Isaiah God promises that in his eternal kingdom, ‘My chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain.’ It would seem that God intended people to work for the purpose of satisfying human needs and wants and to create wealth. Paul Stevens aptly says, ‘Wealth creation is the process by which needs and wants are satisfied. It is not a zero-sum game that makes one person’s gain another’s loss, although that might have been the case before the Industrial Revolution, when supply was limited and one person’s meal was at another’s expense.’ Wealth creation is part of bringing shalom to people and the world. In this context Proverbs 11:26 is relevant—‘People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell.’For the Christian, work is redemptive. It is kingdom-focused, for wealth creation embodies the principle of shalom. According to Wolters: So, in the person of Jesus the kingdom of God is already present. When the Pharisees asked him when the kingdom would come, Jesus answered, ‘In fact the kingdom of God is among you’ (Luke 17:21, NEB). And yet he also instructed his disciples to pray ‘Thy kingdom come,’ and taught that its coming is not yet an accomplished reality. Both the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ aspects characterize the interlude between Christ’s first and second coming. . . Since his ascension Jesus has continued to make his kingdom come, but now by means of the ministry of his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is the point of the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27). . .
Concretely, this parable means that in the name of Christ and his kingdom Christians must now employ all their God-given means in opposing the sickness and demonization of creation—and thus in restoring creation—in anticipation of its final ‘regeneration’ at the second coming (Matt 19:28). This directive holds for our private lives (e.g., in such things as keeping promises, helping friends, practicing hospitality) but also for such public endeavours as work in advertising, labor-management relations, education and international affairs.
This is an excerpt from The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global Paper on Wealth Creation: Biblical Views and Perspectives.
The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – For the greater glory of God
For a short introduction to three other global consultations that also have dealt with issues related to wealth creation, read also Mats Tunehag’s introductory blog: Wealth Creation Manifesto