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Markets, money and morality

Markets, money and morality
John Rankin has been blessed with an incredible gift of reasoning and the ability to articulate key Christian views. He travels the country and university campuses hosting Mars Hill Forums, where he engages leading skeptics on political hot topics such as abortion, feminism, and homosexuality. Throughout his work, demonstrates the love of Jesus, while offering solid reasoning for biblical views.

John Rankin holds an M.Div from Gordon-Conwell Theological Education Institute, and a Th.M from Harvard Divinity School. His work on feminism is included in the book "Finding God at Harvard," by Kelly Monroe. I am blessed to share parts of a recent conversation we shared on the Christian perspective of markets, money, and morality.

What are your opinions on the free market economy, as opposed to any other possible economic systems?

I point out that private property is a gift from God, as demonstrated by the Jubilee Ethic in Leviticus 25. You will see that private property is the foundation of a healthy society. In the same language, God calls it our property but then He says it's not our property, but His property and we're stewards of it.

What types of companies should we invest our property with?

In my estimation, this decision should be guided by what glorifies the Lord the best and on that basis, what serves the healthy free market economy.

What is the basis of the free market economy?

You can't really have economic freedom without political freedom. And you cannot have political freedom without spiritual freedom. Therefore, the first amendment is freedom of religion. Religious liberty goes back to Adam, who was given an unlimited menu of choices, starting with the worship of God.

Is it valid to exclude certain offensive companies?

As we invest in that which contributes to the image of God, we should avoid anything that is dishonest and unproductive. I wouldn't invest in racing or other forms of gambling operations. I would not invest in most of Hollywood, but there might be some director or film producer that I would invest in, because I liked what they were doing.

What would you say is one of the greatest issues facing Christians in their investment decisions?

If money is the symbol in exchange for work, and you ask yourself, "What work do I want to be a part of?" -- Our number one work is the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So investment can refer to both our money and our priorities in life?

I have a friend who very much believes in wind power as a marvelous alternative to burning hydrocarbons. He has started a company, and if he succeeds he could make a phenomenal impact on electricity costs in large segments of the market, through methods that don't pollute. He's a dynamic committed Christian and to me, his work is an excellent thing to invest in because it contributes to the image of God.

He's been at it for seven or eight years now and he's had to eat noodles for many dinners to survive. But history proves that people willing to sacrifice are those who ultimately make a difference. He's moving towards the end of the startup process, which could prove very fruitful. He would then invest the money in more of his inventions, and employ all sorts of people in a productive capacity.

In a past columns, we have discussed the dignity that results when one has the opportunity to work and create. Creating employment, particularly for the panhandlers on the street, might be one of our greater missions.

This approach is based on the Old Testament view of gleaning, where the land owners left the edges of the field unreaped so that the truly needy could get food. Of course, they'd have to work for it. We must also seek to employ people, giving them the opportunity of the dignity of work.

We should begin with the needy within the churches because they are the first to admit to need. If you successfully help them, then other people would come to the church because they know by reputation that Christians are loving, giving people who seek to make a difference.

What about the individuals on the street who continually ask for pocket change?

You reach out to do what you can. Even if they're alcoholics, full of sin in a thousand directions, they still have to eat . . . Mercy triumphs over judgment. God's kindness is meant to lead us into repentance.

You may reach John Rankin at the Theological Education Institute (TEI) 750 Main Street Suite 1300, Hartford, CN 06103