ECONOMIC THEORY AND THE BIBLICAL IDEALS OF THE ANCIENT JEWS IN THE BIBLE

ECONOMIC THEORY AND THE BIBLICAL IDEALS OF THE ANCIENT JEWS IN THE BIBLE

There is a fascinating new field of study in economics that is long overdue. It is seen in Jewish scholasticism and an attempt to examine the relationship between capitalism, socialism, and Judaism. The initial studies have concluded that there are five axioms that can be presented about Jewish economic theories that have emerged over the millennia from Abraham to the current Jewish people.  As in all opinions, the ideas are not comprehensive, but they do present a parsimonious compilation of standard values that create a harmonic philosophy of Jewish economics.

  1. PARTICIPATION IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS AS WORK AMONG AN INCOMPLETE CREATION

Work is not worship in Jewish thought. This assertion is contrary to many well-meaning Christians belief in our day and age, but it not a true statement. Jewish wisdom grants us a differing view, which is a perception that has its roots in the Garden’s Fall and humanity’s call to take dominion. The top priority of ancient Jewish thought on economic matters begins with a belief that humanity was designed by God to be participants in the divine process of creation. Judaism advances the idea that God created an incomplete world, giving people the responsibility to aid in the perfection of the world by taking dominion of the earth’s natural resources, laboring with God, and by becoming innovative as we look for solutions for the world’s problems and people. Judaic theology interprets humanity’s carrying the divine image to mean that God is the creator of the universe, while people are the creators of the world.

Jewish economics primary tenet is based on Genesis’ proclamation that man is created in the imagio dei, or divine image, which gives us the ability to continue the work of creation. The biblical passage found in Genesis 1:26-28 advances this thought. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over [g]all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Humanities ability to take dominion isn’t found in regaining lost authority or abrogated power. In the eyes of the Jewish perspective, dominion is seen in cooperating with YHWH in continuing creation until the creative process ends. Midrashic wisdom declares that “All that was created during the six days that God created the world still requires work” (Genesis Rabba 11:6). The assumption that we can derive from the Talmud is that humanity received the essence of the divine so that humans could partner with God in the creative act that is put on display through our participation in our labor or work (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 10a).

We need to embrace the concept that work is not worship in Jewish thought. Work is partnering with God to continue the creative process of creation that is yet to be completed. The Midrash borrows the inclusion of the Genesis injunction when it points out the story of Rabbi Akiva who presented a General with grain and bread and asked what his preference was to eat (Tanhuma Tazriah 19). The point was made that in Judaic faith, work and creative activity combine with innovation for the divine imaging to see. If the General chose the bread, he cheated himself of the joy that work produces as we can take pride in our labor. The correct answer to the riddle is to choose the grain and then turn it into bread, as the process of creating grain into bread works in the imagio dei.

Ed Silvoso has presented us with the idea that every Christian is a minister, and labor is worship. This error is seen in Silvoso’s assertion that every Christian is a minister and their labor is worship. I agree with Silvoso on the ministry front, but I do think it would be better to change the wording and emphasis. I think it is better to say that every Christian has the capability to minister. Everyone who names the name of Christ does not act ministerially, nor is everyone equipped in equal fashion. This is an essential consideration in the equation. I think that it is ironic that we are addressing these issues while conversely discussing the death of Billy Graham, the quintessential evangelist who rose above the amoral systems of this world to take the message of Jesus Christ to more people than anyone in the history of the church.

As I have stated, I do have an issue with the statement that labor is worship. Labor can include worship, but labor is not worship. Labor is a duty. This lines up with the Jewish idea that we participate with God in creation. We are admonished to work, or we will not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Jesus said that the laborer is worthy to be hired (Luke 10:7). Paul repeats this edict in 1 Timothy 5:18, which is based on the Law in Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15. We are all encouraged to do whatever it is that we do as if it is unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Paul’s exhortation includes labor, but it applies to multiple aspects of our lives. Using Occam’s Razor as a philosophical assertion doesn’t always work, which is what Silvoso tries to do with his thoughts. It creates problems of continuity and credibility.

I contend that humanity is still fulfilling the original mandate to take dominion and subjugate the earth and its biosphere. What changed in the Garden wasn’t the mandate, it was religious allegiance, as satan (sic) became the god of this world. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that satan (sic) is the deceiver in whom the god of this age did blind the minds of the unbelieving, that there doth not shine forth to them the enlightening of the good news of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent (2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3, Young & NLT). satan (sic) rules this present evil age as the god of the age. Technically he does have dominion through his minions, those who worship him outright or through allegiance in the systems of this world that he dominates, but this is a secondary application and is not a primary injunction or mandate.

  • PROTECTION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY

Jewish wisdom and religious literature acknowledge humanity’s ability to be creative, but the potential for domination of the world can only take place when people can enjoy the fruit of their labor. Dominion’s expansive reach is based on people’s enjoyment of labor’s reward. The motivation behind humanity’s ability to complete the Genesis mandate is the granting of uncompromised protection of private property and possession acquisition. The right to own cars and land, appliances and electronics, furniture and food all fall under the purview of private property ownership. Jewish economics is not compatible with communism’s maxim of faith and economics of communal ownership of property. Engles contribution to the Communist Manifesto was based on social conditions and was not reflective of his Jewish background. Jewish economics second tenet in Jewish economic theory relates to private property rights. Judaic thought views private property as a quality of life essential that must be protected at all cost. Two of the Mosaic Commandments found in the Decalogue deal with property and its safeguarding. “You shall not steal,” combines with “you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” These are the seventh and eight Commands.

Rabbinic teaching accepts the Noetic Flood as a direct consequence of violating the right of private property. Robbery includes thievery, but it is more expansive, as it also provides theft by unethical business practices and deception. The Mosaic law included prohibitions against using false weights when measuring products in a transaction. The second commandment addresses being restricted from coveting other people’s possessions, even when there is no illegal acquiring of actual property. Punishment for violating the right of private property was extreme in Jewish tradition.

It is certainly not unreasonable to exrapolate a church truth from Judaism’s tenet’s of economics, as we encourage Apostles and Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor/Teachers should present a case for the believer’s place among the metrons that exist during their lifetime and in their spheres of influence. Church leaders are blessed by the Jewish idea that we can possess our possessions. We need to teach others about this joy in participating in God’s creativity. History has demonstrated that when the church or ecclesia asserts itself as a gathering place for governance and militaristic advancement, nations change for the betterment of their people. When the church remains stationary or indifferent toward the cultural assumptions that are being advanced, the people that are found within the governmental structures of the nations that house the church suffer. In the modern era, there are not any better examples of this truth than the Jewish experience and that which enveloped Nazi Germany.

  • WEALTH ACCUMULATION

Talmudic wisdom teaches that refusing to profit from your effort by amassing treasure is perilous conduct that leads to insanity. Maimonides has an unusually harsh statement against laziness that can be found in his writings. He stated in Mishneh Torah Laws of Oaths and Vow 8:13that “whomsoever has in his heart that he shall indulge in the study of Torah and do no work but rather be sustained from charity, defames the Lord’s name, cheapens the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, causes himself ill, and removes himself from the world to come.”[1] The statement takes aim at people who choose religious learning over working and is an echo of the Pauline injunction that says, “he who doesn’t work doesn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).”

Jewish economics third tenet of Jewish economics says that accumulating wealth is virtuous and is not a vice or sinful. The succession of priorities is seen as humanity can engage in God’s creativity, man shall not be denied the right to possess property as a reward for labor and people are blessed with the accumulation of wealth as a result of honest work. Talmudic wisdom says in Berachot 8a, Avot 4:1 that “he who benefits from his labor is greater than one who fears Heaven.”[2] The Torah demonstrates that industrious and honorable labor continuously rewards people with increased wealth. Torah is very descriptive of the riches of the patriarchal wealth of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Honestly accumulated wealth shows the world that partnering with God is a good thing and signals how skill and effort combine and honor God. A wealthy person who has been successful in business lifts the physical world as it expresses the divine. Jesus does temper this Jewish concept of wealth, at least in the raw trust that can be placed in wealth when Jesus spoke the Parable of the barn and the farmer in Luke 12:16-21. Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jewish acceptance of the virtue of wealth accretion does not assert that Judaism is not concerned about the difficulty of the underprivileged. Everyone in Jewish society is required to help the deprived people in the community as we give benevolent assistance. Giving gifts as an obligation is called Tzedakah. It is preferred, focused on income redistribution, which works to enhance the idea that private property ownership can be used for more than individual accrual in some expressions. True redistributing wealth seeks to eliminate income disparities as income discrepancies are unfair or immoral in socialism, which isn’t the Jewish economic understanding, historically.

Churchmen should rightly assert influence in the building of wealth and innovation within the sphere of business to better the plight of humanity through proper distribution of materialistic acquisitions and for the financing of the churches many particular mandates that exist within itself as a corporate entity. It fits for the community of believers to assert their worldview in the arena of education, thereby toppling the heathen and atheistic influences that have ensconced themselves within the modern world of educational ideology.

If conservative methodologies are not embraced within the realm of religion, an insipid form of faith that is void of a proper relationship with God will be the inevitable result. Voiding relationship must not happen. The pillar of the family needs to find a proper mooring within the restrictions of Holy Writ. The biblical understanding of family includes the everyday definition of how families are to act, and what constitutes a family within the norms of society. The proper exercise of Judeo/Christian ideas and constraints upon the civil aspects of government lead to the proper use and restraint of the military components that should exist for the defense of the nation that the military serves. This thought process also applies to the realm of the arts, entertainment, and the media. When the voices of the believing ekklesia are muted, these realms will be used for the advancement of evil. When the church is unleashed, those who hold to Jesus as Savior can exercise their creativity properly.

Men who advocate the Seven Mountain Mandate like the late C Peter Wagner are to be applauded. Their candor and boldness in seeing the darkness that is attempting to curtail the Western way of living, and not vilified, regardless of a doctrinal acceptance or rejection of the offices of Prophets and Apostles within the current churches configuration. The argument for exerting influence needs to be embraced by the church in general and within the conservative branch of the church in particular.

  • CARING FOR THE NEEDY

Jewish economics fourth axiom of Jewish economics is seen in the posit that Judaism has an obligation to take care of the needy through charitable gifts. A compassionate provision for poverty-stricken people is a Jewish theme that did not exist with the pre-Christian Greco- Roman cultures. The lack of sympathy for the indigent among the Mediterranean World was alarming to the Jews. Torah makes mention of the commandment to give Tzedakah, or charity, which literally can be translated as justice in parashat Re’eh: “You should not harden your heart or shut your hand from your needy brother (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).” People are to do more than create, innovate, work, accumulate wealth and uplift the substantive world. We are to find satisfaction in emulating god’s nature of benevolence, as we care for the needy, extending grace and mercy.

To appreciate Judaic charity, we need to see that charitable behavior is regulated by two different types of commands in Judaism. We see the commandments that fall under the jurisdiction of man to God. Then there are the commands that exist under the caption of man to man. Dietary laws are commandments that are the man to God. They are ethical values. Business dealings are commands that are man to man. They are legal values. Charity goes to the man to God category of commands. It is a moral principle, not a legal one.

Brokenness over the blight of world poverty and contentedness in sharing from our excess should be the outcome of an effective approach to money. I love Sunday Adeleja’s desire to eliminate world hunger that he expresses in Money Won’t Make You Rich and on his blog, but I retreat into the reality of Jesus statement about the pervasiveness of poverty in this present evil age. At this stage in world history elimination of poverty by Christians is an extremely complicated idea, as a huge swath of the world’s population is under Islamic rule, and Islam allows poverty as a needed virtue. Hinduism has an even more embracing concept of poverty, as they see poverty as steps in your reincarnation process, so they tend to be appalled at attempts to end poverty. Both cultures are either sublimely or overtly hostile to Christianity.  If sin and demonic philosophies prevail, living conditions like poverty that lead to bondage and horror will continue. We live in a bubble in America that shields us from revenge killings, mutilations and serious oppression of people. I’m going to stop. I am depressing myself.

  • GOVERNMENTAL LIMITATIONS

Jewish economics fifth adage of Jewish economics is seen in the posit that all forms of political structures are ultimately ineffective and incomplete. Political structures can also be dangerous when they function without the fear of the Lord as an underlying assumption.  Jewish economics also asserts that governments carry an inherent risk as they grow and in concentrated power. Jewish economists point out that the Torah issues a warning about the potential for governments to succumb to the evil nature of those who control governments bureaucratic functions. The Bible shows us this danger in 1 Samuel as it records the biblical warning against the humanistic government. This was during the time that the Israelites called for the installation of a king, which they wanted so that they would be like the rest of the nations:

And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day (1 Samuel 8:11—18).

Modern Judaism and Israelism concede the importance of governmental structures. It is acknowledged that governments possess a critical role in modern society, as they render assistance in the organizational functions of all cultures. The dangerous nature of governments emerges when assuming a disproportionately large part in the apportionment of the capital resources that are in a society’s possession. Governments are assigned the task of creating comprehensive strategies for the implementation of the nation’s economy.

When the governmental structure becomes too elaborate and abusive, the public faces the hazard of increasing measures of oppressive behaviors that can be undertaken to accomplish the nation’s business and the cost of doing business. The abuse occurs typically from excessive taxation or heavy-handed intervention of the country by the government. Additional violations can include suppression of free thought, economic warfare, political oppression and excessive governmental regulations of businesses and public functions.[3]

THIS PRESENT EVIL AGE

Those who are not allied with Jesus continue to exist under the rulership of the evil one who is the de facto ruler until Jesus returns. Jesus acknowledged this aspect of the devil’s position in this present evil age when Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 16:11). Jesus description of the dispensation that humans are currently confined is defined as this present evil age. The name satan (sic) means ‘adversary’ As the god of this age he is the supreme ruler from the fall forward of unredeemed humanity. Jesus said this about him, He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). All sin in the world is modeled on the devil’s activities, as He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning (1 John 3:8). Scripture describes the devil as he who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9).[4]

Taking dominion is a right and proper thing to do. However, dominion only happens in the sphere of spiritual warfare as we depose the powers and principalities that we struggle against that influence humans in authority.  I don’t think Dominion is a realistic goal for the church to aspire too as the church is currently organized. When the church positions itself to respond and react by a mandate to dominate, we became the recipients of Roman Catholicism, and varying Orthodox camps, which tend to snuff out the flames of exuberant participation among the laity and settles for a middling existence of mediocrity in the matters of faith. The net result is marginalized believers who exist within a corrupted system. I will retreat into my futurist hope for a blessed forthcoming Kingdom hope when Jesus returns, lest we repeat histories lessons over and over again.

ALLEGIANCE SHIFT

What happened wasn’t a ceding of authority. The Fall was a change in allegiance, as the devil became the god of this world. The authority of worship is what was usurped or ceded at the Fall. Worship was the basis for the offer of dominion over the nations of the earth during the Wilderness temptation. Had Jesus acquiesced and worshipped the devil, the second Adam would have suffered the same fate as the first, at least that’s my opinion.One of my other thoughts that I have had about Dominionism is, what do we do with Jesus statements to Herod that the Kingdom He establishes is not of this world, meaning it isn’t a regular human government? I believe that when Jesus made the distinction between Pilate’s world and the Kingdom Jesus was establishing,

Jesus was warning the church about the dangers of a blended approach to church and governance. When the two Kingdoms blend, the church winds up becoming the influenced rather than existing as the influencer of society. That has always been the problem of Christians attempting to dominate society. The corruptive influences of the god of this world can subtly strip the church of its proper place in society.

INFLUENCE IS THE POINT

I’m not opposed to the idea of dominion, as long as it is properly framed in influencing the systems of the world. With that said, I think it would be wise to remember that when Jesus was questioned about His potential influence in the Kingdoms of this world by Pontius Pilate, Jesus response was that His Kingdom is not of this world. When the church develops an overt desire to rule the Kingdom of this world, we run the risk of falling into the trap that the enemy originally laid out before Jesus in the wilderness temptation where he offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of this world if He would only worship him. Power corrupts, and absolute power has the power to corrupt absolutely. Let’s look at the wilderness temptation and the subsequent events that led up to the power encounter between the enemy of our soul and Jesus. The focus will be on the third temptation, as it is germane to the conversation of dominion over governmental structures and the people of this world.

Let me also comment on the premise that the devil was ceded the authority to take dominion by Adam in the Garden. I do not accept that premise. The mandate or command to fill the earth, in my opinion, humanity has continued to follow the mandate to take dominion from the Garden forward. Dominion, as presented in Genesis One, included ruling over the fish of the sea, the aviary Kingdom, the Bovine species, and every creeping thing that creeps over the earth specifically. The call to walk in dominion over the created world was a generic command that was given to the race and was not confined to the language or structure of religion. As the creation story continues to unfold, humanity has indeed exerted dominion over the various species that have existed on the earth with humanity.

This includes mastery over the seedbearing trees and other means of produce bearing plant life. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. 29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31).”


[1] https://torah.org/text/maimonides-mishneh-torah/page/8/

[2] https://sites.google.com/site/toratchaya/daily-text/wisestrongrichhonoredavot41

[3] https://acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-17-number-1/jewish-theology-and-economic-theory, Corinne Sauer, Robert M. Sauer, July 20, 2010

[4] Hopping, Joshua, The Here and Not Yet, Vineyard International Publishing, 2017

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