If religion is to be more than psychological Percoset, doing more than deadening whatever pain we happen to feel, then of course relious faith should inform our thinking about how we make, spend, share, and invest whatever money we have. The challenge lies in reading all of what our traditions have to say about those issues, and not simply scanning texts for those passages which prove that which we already believe.
Judaism, for example, reflects a complex view of money, one which is neither typically liberal nor conservative. The Hebrew Bible is quite clear that the Holy Land belongs to nobody in any permanent way. The notion of a Juibilee in which land reverts to earlier “owners” every 50 years, is a fundamental teaching. On the other hand, notions of personal property, and the need to protect it, are equally fundamental to Biblical teaching.
Rather than boxing Jewish economic theory into one particular contemporary box, we should think of “God’s economics” as a dynamic tension between the importance of markets and the sacredness of human dignity. Over the centuries, Jewish teaching celebrates individual effort, protects private proerty and rejects any notion that all people are entitled to economic equality.
At the same time, Jewish teaching imagined that taxation was sacred, including the notion that the more one has, the more one should pay. It taught that charity was not simply an act of piety, but an act of justice which was obligatory.
All told, Jewish economic teaching is directed at maintaining the sacredness of both the individual and the community -- a novel concept in an America in which most people seem to think that good econimic theory is about choosing one over the other.
Brad Hirschfield | Sep 28, 2011 8:47 PM