Previous | Next

July 1979 · Vol. 8 No. 3 · pp. 18–19 

We Need More Dialogue

Response to “The Church’s Responsibility in the Marketplace” by Calvin Redekop 8/3 (1979): 3–13.

Norman J. Ewert

I enthusiastically affirm the thrust of Calvin Redekop’s article. It raises some pertinent questions and eloquently states the need for Christians to develop both an ethic for the marketplace and a response to larger socio-economic issues.

We need more dialogue between theologians, economists, businessmen, and workers on what it means to apply our primary allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom in the marketplace and not only in evangelism and discipleship. We must move beyond platitudes to “be fair,” and to avoid “exploitation” even if our actions to help the poor and to achieve justice put us in conflict with much of society. I would like to offer the following comments and questions for this needed dialogue.

1. We need to evaluate the impact of competitiveness on justice and equity as well as on personal relationships. Are the rules of competition just? Are they fair? How can we avoid exploitation? How shall we define and identify it? Redekop’s contention that the New Testament doesn’t really speak to the problem of competition misses such principles as loving our neighbor as ourselves, and his rather vague conclusion that we must “work this out” reflects this omission. Beyond being “fair,” there is the more difficult and important responsibility of loving employees beyond what fairness would require, even at the cost of reduced profits.

2. His contention that people work only for pay is simplistic. Many people who have “gloried in their work” have become workaholics and have neglected family and other obligations.

3. Though we Mennonites have opposed violence and have responded to the needy, we have tended to neglect the issue of economic justice. It may well be that violence done by the socio economic system itself is as harmful as that done through military actions. Our excessive consumption creates hardship for the less fortunate at home and abroad. The growing shortages of basic resources creates interdependence, and economic interdependence in turn creates mutual obligations. Because we have more wants than resources can satisfy, priorities will have to be established. We must {19} critically evaluate these priorities and the operation of our economic system in light of a Christian world and life view.

4. The traditional Christian concept of stewardship as tithing is incomplete. What we do with the 90% is as important, or more important, than what we do with the 10% (or whatever). Not only is the quantity of what we buy important, but the character of our purchases has ethical overtones, effectively ratifying the decisions of suppliers to produce specific products. Do our choices benefit from and contribute to exploitation?

We need Christian principles to guide us in our economic relationships. Redekop’s effort in raising perceptive questions sets the stage for further dialogue that will move us further in developing them.

Norman J. Ewert is Assistant Professor of Economics at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

Previous | Next