The benefits that capitalism has provided to mankind has been well documented. Yet its shortcomings have been acknowledged as well, especially since it is increasingly recognized that good-paying jobs can no longer be expected. Fewer and fewer people are reaping ever higher rewards, and the vast majority of the people are suffering loss of rewards. For the vast number of Americans, at least, that grand factor, the American Dream is not a real expectation for those who are now starting their life’s work. In fact, increasingly there are no “good” jobs for humans. Robots and other forms of automation have rendered mankind obsolete in a growing sphere of economic activity, except as consumer.
The traditional responses to such a situation usually involve, to a greater or lesser degree, more education and training, revising the structure and understanding of the various economic models, capitalism, socialism, Marxism, etc. and of course an increasing number of government programs, through direct subsidy or through a system of incentives designed to synchronize the elements of the economic system to their desired end.
However noble or well-designed and well-executed such efforts may be, the results fall far short. Well-paying jobs are a thing of he past. Subsistence rather than the American Dream is a far greater expectation than ever before.
We can and do lament this reality as tragic. It should not be, or rather it should not have been. Indeed there was a time when it wasn’t: before the Woman’s encounter with that crafty serpent of old. When Adam and the Woman exercised their freedom of choice contrary to God’s revealed will they and the creation over which God had given Adam dominion were made subject to death in all its expressions and iterations. Indeed, the longer mankind and the cosmos are in the grip of death, death will increase both in intensity and extensiveness. That there are any jobs at all should elicit surprise and inspire gratitude to God.
However that may be, how should one plan for his or her economic of financial future? What comes to mind is not unusual for a Christian, yet it is radical, especially considering the decrepit state of American Christianity. The relevant question that arises in one form or another is this: Will I have enough food, drink and clothing that I need to survive in this world?
Immediately the Lord Jesus Christ provides us with the answer:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mat 6.25-34, ESV)
That the Lord’s concern about our economic well-being is a priority for Him is that He makes it the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Mat 6.11, ESV)
The Biblical message is that everyone can be secure economically, provided they seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Instead of trying to loosen the grip that death has on the economic affairs of mankind by devising various schemes they hope will produce economic prosperity, people should devote themselves to become full time disciples of Jesus Christ.
The premise of our discussion to this point is that jobs that will provide a lifetime of financial prosperity and a generous retirement are all but gone. But right there we encounter the real issue: the accumulation of wealth, treasure, if you will. Contrary to God’s judgment on Adam and the entire creation, man still attempts to secure for himself a life that is not impacted by the death sentence that God rendered.
It’s both interesting and instructive to consider what the Bible says about treasure:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat 6.19-21, ESV)
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mat 19.16-21, ESV)
There is much more that can and should be said about this topic, but for now may the following suffice:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6.6-10, ESV)