Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Art: The Ultimate in Feedback Loops

Written by: on October 18, 2023

Pictured above is a copy of the original painting, The Moneychanger and His Wife[1]by Quentin Matsys who was inspired by the two types of moneychangers in the sixteenth century Low Countries.  The city’s money changers made payments on the city’s behalf. Commercial money changers exchange foreign coins for local currency keeping benches at the market fairs. The artist van Reymerswaele, painted a slightly different version of this painting as moneychangers settled in Antwerp, Belgium.  In Reymerswaele’s rendition, he reflects the tension between God and money (Matthew 6:4) While the man is weighing gold and jewels, his wife sits next to him reading her devotional book about the Virgin and her Child. The woman is distracted from her prayers as her husband weighs the coins, a task that requires a great deal of concentration. Based on the couple’s clothes, they are middle class but not necessarily nobility. Some say the painting acts as a moral lesson for the spiritual need to resist worldly temptation.

Was Capitalism a Wordly Temptation?

In this week’s reading, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber and Jason Clark’s Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Ch.3 ‘Assurance, Anxiety and The Protestant Work Ethic’ I found myself as observer of a different kind of art in an academic written dialogue about the Protestant ethic. With a sense of honor and respect, our mentor, Dr. Jason Clark provided a critique of Max Weber’s argument.  Specifically, he challenged the well-known philosopher professor (who desired to be a politician)[2] that, “Protestant, and then later Evangelical Christians, sought to resist these deforming forces of capitalism, creating new modes of ‘islands of social care.’”[3] Clark argues with far more finesse and detail that I can write that, “We see how Evangelicalism was able to transmit itself through the media of new markets and re-narrate its stories and experiences.”[4] 

Was there a moral lesson for the spiritual needs in resisting worldly temptations that Clark wanted others to see?

Since I read The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber before I read Clark, I discovered that the title implied a cause/effect relationship involving three terms that I define below: The Protestant Ethic, The Spirit of Capitalism and Modern Western Capitalism all impacting the Industrial Revolution.

The Protestant Ethic:  According to Weber the Protestant Ethic generated a profit, “The providential interpretation of profit making.[5] In essence, business success plus divine grace was part of the Protestant Ethic culminating in the idea that the pursuit of gain is a divine command.[6]

The Spirit of Capitalism: Also a profit ethic is an end and a number of means to that end: industry, frugality, punctuality, and honesty are only valued because they are instrumental in earning more and more money.

Modern Western CapitalismInvolves the unremitting devotion by business people to the pursuit of  maximum money profit through non-violence, legal and honest means.

If Clark repainted Weber’s “picture” of  the Protestant faith during this time in history, what I observe from his insights is that, “according to Weber, ‘ascetic Protestantism’ produced a much more activist salvation ethic,”[7] and Clark paints signposts that lead us to his meaning: “Evangelicalism can therefore be seen as an ecclesial countermovement to rapidly changing market conditions, a countermovement that becomes simultaneously captive to the socio-logic of those conditions.”[8]

Might Matsys’s painting of the Money Changer and His Wife be expressing the same message Clark is writing as he argues parts of Weber’s thesis? Is he saying Evangelicalism morphing over time was condemning avarice and exalting honesty to the best of its ability?


The ultimate of Feedback Loops

Last year as part of our doctoral learning experience, we met in smaller groups outside of our peer groups to create a syntopical video.  Throughout our one hour virtual discussion, our group shared with a sense of honor and respect how learning with a critical thinking lens was eye opening.  Our conversation around the LCP findings[9] and asking what we will implement helped us see why this program was so detrimental to our future as leaders.  One student commented on how she sees more clearly what motivates her even in this season of her life. Most of us have taken multiple assessments but one difference here was how all of our past assessments were brought together under one banner/heading so we could reflect on what we’ve learned about ourselves. A student said he doesn’t see himself as a superhero and through the assessment found he needed to open his mind. The way he was thinking was a barrier and he didn’t realize it. We all laughed as we said how this process rings true to this saying: “We don’t know what we don’t know!”   Specifically citing the difficulties of liminal spaces in the leadership realm, we all agreed that in spite of the myriad leadership challenges we each face, one truth rose to the surface: the intersection of the LCP, the critical thinking readings, and the cohort relationships are incredibly difficult except for the feedback loops–that’s our saving grace.  We need feedback loops[10]. Our readings, chats, postings, conversations and assignments offer us an academic space to articulate well while “coaching” one another to communicate clearly.  Might what we all read this week in Dr. Clark’s work with Max Weber thesis, be the ultimate in feedback loops–And we were just observers of his art?

[1] By Quinten Metsys – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain,

[2] Robin, “The Professor and the Politician.” The New Yorker, November 12, 2020.

[3] Clark, Jason, Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Ch.3 ‘Assurance, Anxiety and The Protestant Work Ethic p. 120.

[4] Clark, Jason. Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Ch.3 ‘Assurance, Anxiety and The Protestant Work Ethic’ p.117.

[5] Weber, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”p.163

[6] Weber, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.P. 164.

[7] Waterman, “Michael H. Lessnoff, The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic.” p.16

[8] Clark, Jason. Evangelicalism and Capitalism (Ch.3 ‘Assurance, Anxiety and The Protestant Work Ethic    p. 120

[9] The Leadership Accelerator Profile

[10] Laudlpg717Interviews.doc

About the Author


Pam Lau

Pamela Havey Lau brings more than 25 years of experience in speaking, teaching, writing and mediating. She has led a variety of groups, both small and large, in seminars, trainings, conferences and teachings. Pam’s passion is to see each person communicate with their most authentic voice with a transparent faith in Jesus Christ. With more than 10, 000 hours of writing, researching, and teaching the heart and soul of Pam’s calling comes from decades of walking alongside those who have experienced healing through pain and peace through conflict. As a professor and author, Pam deeply understands the role of mentoring and building bridges from one generation to another. She has developed a wisdom in how to connect leaders with their teams. Her skill in facilitating conversations extends across differences in families, businesses, schools, universities, and nonprofits. Pam specializes in simplifying complex issues and as a business owner, has helped numerous CEOs and leaders communicate effectively. She is the author of Soul Strength (Random House) and A Friend in Me (David C. Cook) and is a frequent contributor to online and print publications. You can hear Pam’s podcast on Real Life with Pamela Lau on itunes. Currently, Pam is a mediator for families, churches, and nonprofits. You can contact Pam through her website: PamelaLau.com. Brad and Pam live in Newberg, Oregon; they have three adult daughters and one son-in-law. One small, vocal dog, Cali lives in the family home where she tries to be the boss! As a family they enjoy worshiping God, tennis, good food and spending time with family and friends.

10 responses to “Art: The Ultimate in Feedback Loops”

  1. Travis Vaughn says:

    Pam, I think you are on to something here. I had not made the kind of connection you made to Dr. Clark’s work… his work as an art being formed by incredible feedback loops… but what you’ve written resonates. In fact, I think it is Dr. Clark’s careful, methodical, and fair treatment of other literature (in this case, Max Weber’s book) that truly makes it the kind of art form you are suggesting. This is accentuated by the way he will bring into the picture ways in which Christians react and counter to the forces they experience. I particularly found his reference to “islands of social care” to be a great case study for ways Christians have helped displaced people to navigate some of the forces at work in the waters they are swimming in (to use a reference several students have been using).

  2. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Pam, thanks for your thoughtful post. I really enjoyed the reflection on this piece of art I had not seen before. Your thoughts about Dr Clark’s treatment of Weber brought to mind how much our attitude can impair or advance the effectiveness of feedback loops. Dr Clark’s respectful approach set a tone that is important. So often today, we hear cheeky rebuttals that get more attention but at the same time they inhibit authentic discussion. Something to tie into my NPO; thanks!

  3. Esther Edwards says:

    Hi, Pam,
    Thank you for such a thought-provoking post!
    The feedback loop is a great connection to make. In making the correlation with Weber, it is interesting that though he has been negatively critiqued, his work continues to cause much thought and debate. A feedback loop is crucial for growth. How can this apply to young leaders?
    By the way, loved that you brought our syntopical video in to the post. Learning in community is such a gift.

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      Our syntopical group discussion was one of my favorite exercises. Learning in community and listening to how others process has always been life-giving to me. Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to writing, speaking, teaching and any form of communication. You pose a question I hadn’t considered: How can crucial feedback loops be applied to young leaders? When I think about the conference I just returned from this morning where I worked with a young pastor’s wife and her team, I was aware of how much they wanted feedback from me on how they were leading. Rather than just telling them, “You are doing a great job!” I listened for what they genuinely wanted from me (especially now that I am the older woman!) A 33 year old leader asked me what my ministry life looked like when I was her age. I offered to sit with a small group of the younger leaders in between sessions and share with them. As they asked questions, I gave them feedback about themselves – not just about my life (ultimately they don’t care about my life; what they care about it is what they can apply to theirs). I asked direct questions about how they structured their days and said, “Would you consider this or that?” On another level, I find young leaders crave feedback but not criticism. What thoughts do you have about that?

  4. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Pam,
    Thank you for introducing me to this thought-provoking painting, The Moneychanger and His Wife, by Quentin Matsys. I have been sitting here doing a Lectio Visio of sorts noticing different things. I expanded the picture which loses some detail but noticed the self-portrait of the artist in the round frame. Not being an artist it makes me wonder what his thoughts and convictions were as he painted it? Was it his reflection of the changing times of his era? A social statement of sorts? Is it a glimpse and reminder of the distractions of money or possibly and invitation to attend to complexities of managing wealth with our Bible in hand ready to discern the times and our faithful response. The later is my personal invitation. I’m going to sit here enjoying this for awhile. Thank you!

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      Now you’re speaking my language! I love how you applied Lectio Visio to the painting; after I read your comment, I spent a bit of time, too, just praying through the art. I hadn’t realized it was a self-portait in the frame because his outfit is different! I wonder what that’s about? Thank you for drawing your insights to my attention!

  5. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Pam, thanks for summing up the work into those 3 categories. I knew I was only skimming the surface in my go around with this book and take on the readings of my fellow students are always so helpful. Thank you for putting art in a way of understanding to add a little right brain process when my left brain was overwhelmed!

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      My guess is that most of us feel that way about these two pieces of writings! It was a lot to concentrate on this week. I may have shared this with you before but I don’t think linearly, I think in images. It wasn’t until I was a junior in college when my literature professor discovered it and helped me to lean into how my brain was wired. Once I accepted it, I could approach topics with more ease and accessibility. What part of the painting speaks most to you?

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