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

Capital Assurance Vs Spiritual Anxiety?

Written by: on October 20, 2023

“Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly.

It is a mistake that many people who have credit fall into.”

-Benjamin Franklin-


Assurance and anxiety stand as polar opposites. Throughout history, individuals have striven for assurance through a multitude of guarantees that offer a sense of confidence. Anxiety is widely unwelcome among humans, as it disrupts their peace of mind. In their quest for solace, people seek reassurance through various avenues. Some regard wealth and prosperity as cornerstones of life’s predictability. Conversely, others place significant importance on nurturing positive social bonds. Moreover, there are those who find solace in their social standing and positions, fostering a feeling of safety and well-being. For people of faith, a robust spiritual life serves as the cornerstone of their comfort. Nevertheless, some argue that true comfort encompasses a blend of the various factors mentioned earlier.


Reading Weber’s book, “The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism,” enlightened me to the idea that during the post-Reformation period, comfort for Protestants revolved around their ability to address their religious anxiety. In the reformed church, especially among the Calvinists during that time, a good faith must be seen in a matter. Weber writes, “The Calvinist also wanted to be saved sola fide. But since Calvin viewed all pure feelings and emotions, no matter how exalted they might seem to be, with suspicion, faith had to be proved by its objective results in order to provide a firm foundation for the certitudo salutis. It must be a fides efficax, the call to salvation an effectual calling.”[1] What is the real form of realizing God’s work of salvation in the life vocation of the people? In the Protestant’s predestination doctrine it is said, “only one of the elect really has the fides efficax, only he is able by virtue of his rebirth and the resulting sanctification of his whole life, to augment the glory of God by real, and not merely apparent, good works.”[2]

The doctrines of predestination and worldly asceticism played an increasing role in underscoring this divine calling. Individuals earnestly sought certainty and assurance regarding their status as one of the chosen, predestined by God for salvation. This is when we can observe the manifestation of the Protestant work ethic during that era, characterized by an exceptional commitment to hard work and diligence. Weber describes it as follows: “Waste of time is thus the first and in principle the deadliest of sins. The span of human life is infinitely short and precious to make sure of one’s own election. Loss of time through sociability, idle talk, luxury, even more sleep than is necessary for health, six to at most eight hours, is worthy of absolute moral condemnation.”[3]

Protestantism, especially the Calvinist denomination, is allegedly one of the important factors in the emergence of capitalism. Weber writes, “That of Calvinism, even in Germany, was among the strongest, it seems, and the reformed faith more than the others seems to have promoted the development of the spirit of capitalism, in the Wupperthal as well as elsewhere.”[4] On the other hand, Protestant asceticism teaches people to restrain themselves from the desire to enjoy the wealth and luxury goods they obtain from the results of their hard work. Weber then says, “This worldly Protestant asceticism, as we may recapitulate up to this point, acted powerfully against the spontaneous enjoyment of possessions; it restricted consumption, especially of luxuries, and looked upon it as directly willed by God.”[5]


Weber has demonstrated how the Protestant work ethic, interpreting God’s call and election through predestination, materializes in a strong emphasis on hard work and the accumulation of substantial capital as evidence of one’s divine salvation. However, a significant peril arises when Christians begin to equate salvation solely with wealth or possessions. In doing so, Christianity does not truly alleviate religious anxiety but rather shifts the assurance of safety onto wealth alone. Does this not, in turn, create new anxieties? After all, regardless of the magnitude of one’s wealth, it does not serve as an indicator or guarantee of a person’s salvation status in Christ. Dr. Clark has uncovered the potential dangers associated with capitalism. Clark writes, “Life in the new Protestant world generated anxiety about assurance of faith. That anxiety was attended to with a relocation of assurance into providence. But the terms and limits of providence became increasingly set by market imaginations, rather than the original Evangelical horizons of faithful Christian living in the material world.”[6] These two books serve as a poignant reminder not to succumb to the temptation of equating “capital assurance” with the alleviation of religious anxiety. It is crucial to maintain unwavering faith in our salvation through Christ our Savior, knowing that nothing can sever our connection with His love. With this profound assurance, we are less likely to become entangled in the allure of worldly riches, nor will we erroneously attribute our safety solely to them. Capital and possessions should not be misconstrued as indicators of salvation. Rather, they are instruments to be utilized for the glorification of His name and the betterment of others.


[1] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, (London: Routledge, 2005), 68.

[2] Max Weber, 69.

[3] Max Weber, 104.

[4] Max Weber, 9.

[5] Max Weber, 115.

[6] Jason Paul Clark, Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogenes in the Relationship (2018), Faculty Publications – Portland Seminary, 120-121. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/132 Accessed October 18 , 2023.



About the Author


Dinka Utomo

Dinka Nehemia Utomo is an ordained pastor of the Protestant Church in the Western part of Indonesia (Gereja Protestan di Indonesia bagian Barat or GPIB). He has served for more than 15 years. The first five years of his ministry were in the remote area of East Kalimantan, including people from the indigenous Dayak tribe in the small villages in the middle of the forest, frequently reached using small boats down the river. For more than 15 years, Dinka has served several GPIB congregations in several cities in Indonesia. He has always had a passion for equipping Christian families, teaching and guiding them to build equal relations between husband and wife, maintaining commitment, love, and loyalty, creating a healthy and constructive Christian family atmosphere, and rejecting all forms of violence and sexual violence. Dinka's beloved wife, Verra, is also a GPIB pastor. They have two blessed children. Dinka and his wife and children love to spend quality family time, such as lunch or dinner, and vacation to exotic places.

8 responses to “Capital Assurance Vs Spiritual Anxiety?”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Dinka,
    I find it odd that Calvinist were convinced of predestination and yet went to extreme lengths to alleviate their own “anxieties” about salvation.

    I suppose they are joined in the anxiety of salvation by the Arminist who must always exercise their free will or LOSE it according to their own actions

    I come back to GRACE, I have to trust that NOTHING I can do can get me into Heaven, only my leap of Faith into His Arms.

    I cannot help but see aspects of the “prosperity gospel” as a true danger in the Calvinist line of thinking. https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/9/1/15951874/prosperity-gospel-explained-why-joel-osteen-believes-prayer-can-make-you-rich-trump

    When reading these two articles, I came to a place where capitalism is just another culture aspect that can taint Christianity.

    On a side note, work ethic wasn’t invented by the protestants. Most people groups advocate working hard to get ahead. All the immigrants who came to Hawaii worked very hard without the Christianity imperative.


    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Russel!

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.

      I resonate with you regarding the GRACE that God has given all believers.

      And I concur with your viewpoint when you mention the prosperity gospel connected to capitalism. That’s why in the last paragraph I write this: “These two books serve as a poignant reminder not to succumb to the temptation of equating “capital assurance” with the alleviation of religious anxiety.”


  2. Esther Edwards says:

    “Capital and possessions should not be misconstrued as indicators of salvation. Rather, they are instruments to be utilized for the glorification of His name and the betterment of others.”
    Your ending statement is so appropriately stated. Capital and possessions can be used for God’s glory but need to be kept their true place. However, in our consumeristic society it can so easily become what drives us, even in our churches. Do you have the same struggles in Indonesia?

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Esther! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.

      In general, this tendency also affects churches in Indonesia, which can be seen from the pattern of churches managing their finances. Not a few churches are worried that they are short of money, which causes them to be more likely to save it rather than use it to help groups in need.

      However, it is interesting that regarding capitalism and the tendency towards prosperity theology – as Russell mentioned in his comment above – it seems more prevalent among charismatics than reformed churches. This can be seen in the themes of their sermons which emphasize tithing more than the reformed churches.

  3. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Dinka,

    I shared this thought with Esther…

    It is nice to visit Weber’s protestant work ethic, but from a non Anglo perspective I wondered about the work ethic my immigrant grandparents (China and Philippines) exhibited when they came to Hawaii. They were not influenced by Weber, the catholic church or the protestant church.

    They worked hard, reinvested in their various small businesses (one does get tired of pineapples and sugar can fields), emphasized education as a way towards success in America, abandoned their native languages, and encouraged martial arts.

    They sought a better way of life.

    Senator Hiram Fong, called my generation “bananas” yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I have always thought that he was funny, also very right.

    But then we come back to Evangelism. Almost ALL of my high school friends, from various backgrounds and religions have come to accept Jesus as their savior. We even did it unbeknownst to each other over decades. Why because, the message of the gospel pierced through all the cross cultural stuff with the truth.

    Yes, I see the interactions of capitalism and Christianity – however, like yourself I don’t believe the Holy Spirit is limited by either.

    I just thought I would mention it to you.


    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi (again) Russel!

      It is true that work ethic and spirit are shared by many nations in the world, not only in Christianity in the West. In my humble opinion, Weber made constructive efforts toward the emergence of the strong capitalist movement in the West at that time. Weber found that the relationship between Protestantism and Capitalism occurred not only in one direction, religion influenced society, but he found the relationship between the two was like the image of two arrows pointing in two directions, Religion and Capital, meaning that they mutually influence each other. Weber’s work on the one hand helps us to get that picture. On the other hand, Weber’s work can also be used to help Christianity be aware of or criticize its own teachings when they move away from what the Bible teaches.


  4. Cathy Glei says:

    I resonate with the statement you made about possessions. . . “Capital and possessions should not be misconstrued as indicators of salvation. Rather, they are instruments to be utilized for the glorification of His name and the betterment of others.” The amount of “stuff” a person owns is not an indicator of their degree of salvation but rather an opportunity for them to live in love and generosity with one another. When I was in Brazil, the idea of ownership (having material things) was often equated with God’s blessing from the perspective of the Brazilian people whom I was serving. It was a challenging perspective to “correct”. How is the idea of simplicity and contentment taught in the Indonesian church where you serve?

  5. mm Tim Clark says:

    Dinka I’m going to join the others in response to your last sentences:

    “Capital and possessions should not be misconstrued as indicators of salvation. Rather, they are instruments to be utilized for the glorification of His name and the betterment of others.”

    I’d add, we can’t even reliably see those as indicators of blessing as if those are the only way God blesses. I love the idea of seeing them as tools and instruments to be used when and if available. That’s a really healthy way to look at capital and possessions.


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