Saturday, January 12, 2008

Consumer Preferences and Holiness

What are the standards for Christians participating in business activity?

Some actions are sinful. Some are unlawful. The standard of holiness is higher than the standard of the law, so some actions that are legal may still be sinful. The standard of the law is intended for restraining the worst evil, so is not as demanding as the standard for a holy life.

Economists say that people make purchases based on their preferences. I do not like this expression much. I believe that we make purchase decisions based on our moral character. Some preferences may be sinful, even if the opportunity is legally available on the market. Gossip magazine may be available, but reading them might be sinful.

Christians should ensure that their moral character is holy and good.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil 4:8).
As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, our character should be transformed. That should translate into preferences that are holy and good. As the number of Christians increases and as they are transformed, the range and price of goods and services being purchased should change significantly.

Many economists say that businesses can produce whatever they can sell on a free market. That may be lawful, but this is not the appropriate standard for Christians.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life (Phil 2:15,16).
Paying miserly wages to very poor people not be unlawful, but it may be sinful. Producing fat-laden potato crisps may be not be unlawful, but it could be sinful if they will harm the people that eat them.

The law deals with evil people. Christians should be living by a higher standard. Whether acting as producers or consumers, we must not assume that an action is okay, because it is lawful. The fact that something is available from a market, does not make it right (markets cannot make moral decisions). Morality can only come into a market through people thinking about the morality of their decisions and actions.

Christian economic behaviour should not be driven by our preferences or the market, but by what is "holy and good".


Anonymous said...

I agree I have been meaning to ask you what is your view of insurance product, Should a follower of christ purchase this. I believe the answer is no. This is because I beleive that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away blessed be the Lord. to me it is motivated by fear, the fear of losing some material thing or ability. If we then consider the scripture 'whatsever does not proceed from faith cannot please God'. Faith then should be our only motivater to do anything faith that God is good and that he will provide all our needs.

If any loss is suffered then that is dibilating instead of insurance we should rely on God to provide though His people in the community around us.

Ron McK said...

This is a really good question.

In principle your answer is correct. We should trust in God rather than in insurance.

However, this will only work if Christians belong to a strong community that is committed to supporting each other. As you said, "God will provide though His people in the community around us." The problem is that most Christians in the modern world do not belong to that kind of community. Most Christians are quite isolated even from people in the same church, so if something really serous happens they cannot count on support from the community of believers around them. So insurance is really a substitute for lack of Christian community.

So in practice, you should probably not throw away your insurance. Rather you should focus on becoming part of a Christian community that is radically committed to supporting each each other. Once you have achieved that goal, your insurance will be redundant.

Steve Scott said...

Ron, I agree to a great extent with your answer on insurance. I used to oppose insurance, but I've examined my life and realized that I don't have a community that would make insurance a non-issue. But I'm also torn because of Paul's teachings about being self-sufficient and not a burden on the church. Life insurance, in case I die, can be a potential relief to a church faced with the burden of caring for a family whose head couldn't provide for it.

woodicus said...

Amen! Great post.
Also good answer to Anon's question. Personally I don't hold any insurance at all (although this is not necessarily out of spiritual conviction [also I don't own a house]); and am very fortunate to be among the few who have a strong community around me who I know would give their all to help out if necessary. However I understand that most Christians don't have this privilege so possibly insurance may be a good idea if there's a lot to lose.