The cost of doing business

Glen Guyton is the Chief Operations Officer for Mennonite Church USA and Director of Convention Planning Glen Guyton is the Chief Operating Officer for Mennonite Church USA

I recently attended the Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. If you keep up with my stewardship blog, you know that in some sense this was a great accomplishment (read The Cost of Leaving). While I was there promoting KC2015 and other Mennonite Church USA Executive Board programs, I had some time to do some theological reflection as I drank my Tim Horton’s coffee and enjoyed a nice helping of poutine (not really). Wealthy people and material possessions often get a bad rap in some of our Christian circles. Maybe this is based on the bad actions of Judas and narrow interpretation of Mark 10:25 (NRSV) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Mega-Church pastors like those featured on Preachers of L.A. don’t help either. Many Christians have this love-hate relationship with money and wealth. Basically, we love when we have money and we hate when other people have it.

MEDA’s tagline is “Creating business solutions to poverty.” What I love about this organization is that “for over 60 years, MEDA has been working with the poor around the world, bringing dignity and joy by helping them grow sustainable, locally owned small businesses that are not dependent on charity for survival.” MEDA also works hard to make sure these businesses have ethical business practices and offer fair compensation. I often say the church can learn a lot from business people. Business people know how to get things done. I should add that business people with the heart of Christ know how to get things done and get them done in a way that brings the love of God to life.”

Money is simply a tool, a medium of exchange for goods and services. I don’t believe it is inherently good or evil. The church has tried to make it both. In our Western version of Christianity we often equate blessings and prosperity with money and possessions. I remember a speech from a Kenyan theologian who asked, “If blessings are equal to wealth, does that mean that God does not love the poor?” She went on to say that people claim America’s strength and prosperity is due to the fact that America is a Christian nation. Her retort was, “America is prosperous because you work hard and long hours. You are bound to reap a harvest whether you are Christian of not.” An article by ABC news backs up her claim that Americans Work More Than Anyone. “Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese. And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too.” I am not sure that is the best thing for our families. But it is clear why we Americans have so much stuff. With the holidays and black Friday looming, even Christmas is increasingly about accumulating more stuff than it is about sharing hope with the world.

Glen's blog cartoon 11-26

I quickly came to understand that what MEDA does is not about wealth and money, but true Christian stewardship. As Christians our goal shouldn’t be how can we get more stuff to fill up our coffers. It is more than just praying for the poor, but we should really ask ourselves, “God, how can we be a blessing to others?” How can we as Godly people maximize the resources and tools we have and meet the needs of those in our communities and in our world?

I didn’t see any camels while at MEDA (a few folks did see polar bears), but I have a hard time believing these social justice minded Christians who are using their wealth and expertise to create practical solutions to global poverty and injustice won’t have a place in heaven. Now, let the theological debate begin….

 

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3 thoughts on “The cost of doing business

  1. Fine post and helpful nuanced perspective on money as a tool. While it is true we often demonize cash but then desire it. We end up living in a love/hate relationship to it. However, for those who struggle to make ends meet, to provide for their families, for those who seek to serve God and neighbor, for those under employed or poorly paid, and those in fear of loosing their homes to rapacious banks, money is less a tool and is a power in and of itself. Those who seek power aren’t seeking evil or a good, not even a tool. The powerless are seeking opportunity. Just a thought, not to detract form what you wrote, but an important detail to be added.

  2. Mennonites have an inordinate love-affair with
    power and possessions($)
    We could all do much more to help those in poverty. No
    argument there. It’s time to get out of the pews and into the streets. I am a Canadian
    author and launched a best
    seller in 2012, Mennonite is the Name, Evil and Deception are the Game. This was followed by a sequel, Aftermath of a Psychopath in
    2013. The research required
    directed me to the source of the problems within our Mennonite system as it is in present times. Shameful and
    pathetic. Greed, self-praise
    artificial forgiveness with no
    consequences for the sinners. The Mennonite Church worldwide needs to
    look at solutions within if we want to keep existing! Winnipeg, Cn.
    close to the Polar Bears. Where $ is power! And the poor, the hungry are merely
    a nuisance. Injustice is prevalent, everywhere. The
    churches need to adjust themselves to the reality of the times. ASAP God Bless!

  3. Not sure I could agree with Glen that money is “neither good nor evil” and “just a tool” in the way he describes. In light of Jesus’ instruction, I’d say it’s useful but dangerous. Like morphine, it can have a constructive use in the right hands, but easily becomes poison in the hands of many of us, such as mortgages did in the hands of Wall Street. It has its use, but with the least carelessness toward our neighbors and our souls, it becomes as demonic as heroin.

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