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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

You Ask Amiss!

Written by: on March 8, 2018

Isaiah 65:17-23 (NKJV)
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. 20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them.

I chose to start this week’s post with the above scripture because I believe it brings light to the topic discussed in Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” In the reading, we see that Weber seems to be seeking the connection between faith and influence by confronting the issue of capitalism as its message seemed to spread through the same processes as Christianity in the Western world. Though I am not sure that Wager ever makes the direct accusation that Christianity is the ultimate cause of the capitalistic…or as we have been discussing in our other readings, consumerism world, however, I believe it is safe to say that the implications are definitely there. So why Isaiah 65:17:23? I have always believed (though understand if others do not) that his passage was an inference to the New World…aka…America. We rose up as a superpower in less than two hundred years, and now seem to set the standards for the entire world. When we pit this scripture against our history, it is more than evident that “One Nation Under God” has paid off in a very lucrative manner. The real question however is this; did God really do ALL of this, or is capitalism just a byproduct of good old greed at work?

In his work, Nahom Eyasu points out what he believes were the three primary influences on Weber, which led to his perspectives concerning Western World influences on capitalism; they were his industrialized world as a young man, the teachings of his very pious protestant mother and industrialized father, and his following of Karl Marx that was steeply based in capitalism, religion and social stratification.[1] The factor I kept hanging on was also part of the question I am trying to ask in my dissertation work: What molds our identity, thus forming how we see the world? Is it really so profound of an idea to see that Christians are molded not only by how we read scripture, but also how we interpret God’s fulfilling of blessing in our lives?

Weber wrote, “In the title of this study is used the somewhat pretentious phrase, the spirit of capitalism. What is to be understood by it? The attempt to give anything like a definition of it brings out certain difficulties which are in the very nature of this type of investigation.”[2] This struck me a little profoundly because of how liberally the Christian world refers to the “spirit/Spirit” of things; after all, we seldom hesitate to give the Spirit credit for anything that we decide is godly or fitting, including those regarding the monetary. In fact, I curiously pondered how many Christians have no difficulty in rewriting Weber’s work to include the “Spirit of Capitalism,” someone empowering God completely in the financial blessings that this western world and the church may be able to boast over.

I have always been fascinated by God’s challenge in Malachi 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be enough to receive it.” With a scripture like this…though usually abused in the using…taken and combined with an patriotic them like “One Nation Under God,” how inevitable is it that people would connect capitalism to Christianity as a justification for greed? Ashley Crossman made this declaration regarding Weber; “Weber’s conclusion is a unique one. Weber found that under the influence of Protestant religions, especially Puritanism, individuals were religiously compelled to follow a secular vocation with as much enthusiasm as possible. A person living according to this worldview was therefore more likely to accumulate money.[3]” The problem comes when the “worldview” is also the “Christian-view”; what happens to perspective then? If the church is convinced that the world we in is a product of God’s blessings, and thus, we must diligently work to keep obtaining those physical, financial blessings…at what point does our faith become corrupted by greed? However, we cannot admit that we have made that exchange from faith to capitalism, so instead we must justify our capitalism through our faith.

Though I believe Weber takes a fascinating journey as he views the various power churches that worked to influence the Western world expansion of Christianity and its influences regarding the growth of capitalism, I fear the real issue is not the churches themselves, but rather how the church seems to demonstrate and explain blessing from God. “All creation, including of course the fact, as it undoubtedly was for Calvin, that only a small proportion of men are chosen for eternal grace, can have any meaning only as means to the glory and majesty of God. To apply earthly standards of justice to His sovereign decrees is meaningless and an insult to His Majesty, since He and He alone is free, i.e. is subject to no law.[4]” How true this statement is; for too long has the church tried to imprint their own view of blessing upon the true blessings of God. As I see it, there are only three true physical guarantees from God…food, water, clothing. Though I do believe God gives to us abundantly more than those three, it is more the fact that God’s promises are more tied up in the Heavenly promises rather than the earthly one. We are not here to obtain houses, cars, or giant banking accounts; we are here to teach the world that there is a Savior. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.[5]” His promises of blessing were not for here, but rather for the home that is being prepared for His faithful.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself and enemy to God.”[6]

 

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (p. 63). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.

Bibliography

Crossman, A. (2017, July 12). A Book Overview: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Retrieved March 8, 2018, from ThoughtCo: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-protestant-ethic-and-the-spirit-of-capitalism-3026763

Eyasu, N. (2016). A Review of Max Weber’s Thesis: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Global Journal of Human-Social Science – Sociology & Culture, 32-42.

Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

 

 

[1] Eyasu, N. (2016). A Review of Max Weber’s Thesis: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Global Journal of Human-Social Science – Sociology & Culture, 34.

[2] Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. P 33.

[3] Crossman, A. (2017, July 12). A Book Overview: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Retrieved March 8, 2018, from ThoughtCo: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-protestant-ethic-and-the-spirit-of-capitalism-3026763.

[4] Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[5] John 14:2-3.

[6] James 4:3-4.

 

About the Author

Shawn Hart

9 responses to “You Ask Amiss!”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    I was very glad you talked much about greed. Thanks for doing that. I was of the same mind as you.

    And forgive us Lord Jesus, for our greed, of tearing our barns down to build bigger ones, so that we can eat, drink and be merry…

    Agreed?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Absolutely!! We are not just consumers any more…we are consumer abusers. We need support groups for coveting, lusting, and hording; and yes, I am referring to churches. I went to a small catholic church in a poverty village in Mexico once that had homeless people literally living outside its doors on the streets. We went in to view this quaint looking chapel from the outside, only to find the entire inside equipped high-tech security systems and cameras to protect the gold covered chapel. Gold statues, gold picture frames, gold Jesus’ everywhere, and even a gold and glass coffin with a body of Jesus resting in it. They do realize that Jesus was NEVER placed in a coffin right? And yet, they felt that this ridiculous idol was more important than the hungry people living outside. I am so disgruntled when I see that kind of garbage today.

  2. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,

    What molds our identity is a good question. I think my parents help mold my identity with love, discipline, Sunday school, church, more love, and lots more discipline.

    What do parents do now? While Christians might adjust their worldviews after reading scripture, I think their predispositions on how they see the world is already set from their childhood experiences. There is plenty of Scripture references giving parents their roles and responsibilities. Yet, “we reap what we sow” into our children seems to be the trend for what we see in our society today.

    Is your dissertation going to examine the parents role in molding our kids identity?

    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Shawn Hart says:

      My dissertation is actually taking a look at the necessity for diversity in the Lord’s church, not conformity. However, in the pursuit of that goal, part of my sub-goal is to help point out how we come to form our own identities and thus form our own ideologies. In order to do this, I am taking a look at the role that parenting, religion, culture, gender, race, education and experience play toward identity. I have never been a firm believer in the “God just made me this way,” mentality. I believe God has been molding and shaping me over the past 46 years to be the man of God that I am today; however, he has been molding and shaping you to be a different man of God than I am. It is our differences that make us special to His purpose, so we must understand ourselves to see our potential.

      If all that makes sense.

  3. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Shawn,
    You state, “we cannot admit that we have made that exchange from faith to capitalism, so instead we must justify our capitalism through our faith.” Do you see ways this is happening today? I wrote something similar in my post and I am curious as to how you see this play out.

    Also, how does this connect with our other consumerism texts for you as it relates to the shaping of our identity?

  4. Interesting post Shawn. I enjoyed how you started with the Isaiah passage in relation to our country and questioning how we got to the powerful place. Is it because we started out as hardworking Protestants, or is it because we have become corrupt with greed and selfishness? It seems to be hard to decipher sometimes, which is why we always need to be asking ourselves if we are honoring God with our tithes and talents. I have to also agree with you that people using the “Spirit” when referring to things kind of bugs me as well, even though I know it can mean something else.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Absolutely Jake. I fear we do not give enough consideration to the fact that God is going to hold us accountable for all that He has given to us; 1 talent or 5…He expects His people to be not just fruitful, but also just and righteous.

  5. Shawn,

    I love that you began your post with the Isaiah 65 passage. And I agree that one of the main issues is how do we interpret what is or is not God’s blessing on us.

    I disagree that America is the fulfillment of the Isaiah passage. With its imperfections, how could this be? I prefer to interpret it as the kingdom of God that is still in the process of coming to Earth.

    My work takes me in contact with many wealthy people who see their wealth as an indication of “God’s blessing” on their lives. I don’t see it as a blessing alone, for it can also be a curse. When this wealth divides families, isolates individuals, and creates inequity in the world we begin to see the dark side of wealth.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Fear not Mark, I allow people to disagree me with me, I just don’t allow the to be right at the same time. LOL. Just kidding. Interpretation…the true struggle of bible study.

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