Posts tagged with: Hebrew Bible

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

consumption-foodConsumption is arguably the first (or maybe second) economic concept mentioned in the Bible. After creating Adam and Eve and giving them the cultural mandate (“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”), God says to them,

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” (Gen. 1:29)

Although we are all descended from these first consumers, we often take a dim view of the idea of consumption. Even the term itself has taken on ugly connotations. (Since the Middle Ages, the word “consumption” has referred to wasting diseases, such as tuberculosis, which “consume” the body.)

But consumption plays a vital role in our lives—a role that was largely unappreciated until the 19th century. In The Atlantic, Frank Trentmann has a superb short history of consumption and how the moral assessment changed, due largely to the influence of Christians:

genesis-bible“In our search for economic principles in the Bible, we need to begin with the story of Creation found in the first two chapters of Genesis,” says Hugh Whelchel. “Here we see God’s normative intentions for life. We see life as ‘the way it ought to be.’ Man is free from sin, living out his high calling as God’s vice regent in a creation that is ‘very good.’”

Whelchel lists three major economic principles laid out in Creation, the first being creativity and freedom:


Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A couple weeks ago I engaged CPJ senior fellow Gideon Strauss in a debate at the Christian Legal Society, “Justice, Poverty, Politics & the State: Is There a Christian Perspective?”

One of the questioners afterward proposed that the large scale of the poverty problem required an institution equally as large, i.e. the government. There are lots of problems with that kind of analysis, not least of which is that the “poor” are not some homogeneous blob of humanity, but individual persons created in the image of God facing unique situations with their own unique gifts and talents. So the scale of the problem, perhaps counter-intuitively, calls not for some behemoth- or leviathan-size institution, but a variety of smaller individuals and institutions that can work with people individually and in communal settings. Think here of a variation on Burke’s concept of “little platoons” in the war on poverty.

Because of the nature of big society/government solutions, what we often end up with, unfortunately, when we seek a large institutional answer to the problem of poverty are safety nets that function not so much as trampolines as foam pits.

Perhaps not so funny when you think about it.