In the twelfth Chapter of Genesis  God instructs Abram to leave his country and his family to go to a new land that God was going to show him and in that land God was going to bless him and make him a great nation, so that he could be a blessing, not just a blessing to some, but that all the families/nations of the earth were to be blessed in him.

There is an important principle shown in this passage, that I first heard expounded upon many years ago from Lincoln Murdoch in the context of American Christians with our great blessings taking or using those blessing to bless others. I was reminded of this again recently when Terry Schenzel was speaking about the unique characteristics and abilities that each of us have been given by God and developed through education and experience. Our abilities, blessings, gifts, talents, etc. are not really ultimately for us, they are for those around us.

While it is true that our gifts are ultimately for others, it is also true that each of us have desires and dreams that we want to pursue. We want to be successful, we want to provide for ourselves and our families, we want to create. We are made in the image and likeness of God and He is creator God and we want to emulate Him. We want to accomplish something and we want to be significant. Those are good drives and desires and they should be nurtured and encouraged, but they only remain pure when they are balanced with the realization that our gifts are ultimately for others and we will never truly find fulfillment in pursuing our dreams until we see them blessing others.

That brings me to the purpose of this article. I think that the capitalist model is somewhat under attack in the United States and in the church in particular. It is almost as if we are ashamed of the blessings that have accrued to us and I would like to push back against that tide a bit.

In this country, our society is set up so that individuals can pursue their own dreams, whether they be writing, farming, building or any number of varied pursuits, limited only by our imaginations. That is to say that we are capitalists in thought and in occupation and in recreation. Capitalism is typically restricted to defining an economic system and is “characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” I would like a more inclusive and less obscure way of defining capitalism such as, individuals (or collections of freely associated individuals) using their skills, abilities and talents to pursue their dreams so as to provide for themselves and their families free from the control or confiscation of others.

Capitalism often has a negative connotation because our understanding is that if people are free to pursue their ambitions, they will do anything to succeed, they will let their ambition turn to greed which is certainly a temptation. We are humans and unless we understand the way we were created, we will think that any blessing that comes our way in any form, is ultimately for us. We will not understand that our highest achievement is to use our blessings to bless others. Without that understanding our blessings become a stagnant and smelly pool instead of a fresh rushing stream. 

I do not want to get into a long discussion of the pros and cons of government intervention in private activities since the point of this blog is to have a discussion of how we should use our skills, talents, blessings, etc to bless others. I will however say that there is no real good way for governments (that does not mean there is no way to increase the likelihood that people will do right) to check the downside of people being free to do what they want with their own possessions. Governments do have to be instituted among men in order to bring order and stability to societies but governments are composed of individuals with just as much propensity to do wrong as anyone else. It is therefore a bit naive to think those individuals in government will be any less likely to go bad than individuals pursuing their dreams could. Optimally when a government is formed it will truly represent the people who establish it and the power used to restrict or constrain individual action would be minimal.

Leaving that discussion for another time and place, my purpose in this piece is not to argue that American capitalism is God’s means of blessing the world or to somehow argue that America is in any way the equal in God’s eyes to Abram (Abraham), but to argue for a society that allows the free pursuit of our hopes, dreams, ideas and creative juices. We have an appetite for success, for achievement and we want a society that facilitates and encourages that, not for those who will selfishly accumulate for themselves, but for those who understand the promise to Abram, that we are blessed to be a blessing.

I think these are ideas that the church can and really should embrace. We do not need, indeed, we should not be embarrassed by the blessings that we have received individually and as a country. That would be false humility. Our task is to recognize blessing from God and then use that blessing to bless others. In other words, since we have learned to fish, let’s teach others. The best blessing is teaching people to do for themselves, not creating a class of people who are dependent on others.

Now it is true that the church can grow under any circumstances, see China or North Korea. God is not handcuffed waiting for free market capitalist republics to emerge, He can use any system to accomplish His purposes. That does not give us the excuse however to be passive or fatalistic. We can and should work for systems that best provide blessings to all. We are charged to bring the Kingdom of God into every area of life, so God can and will use people who understand the promise to Abram. God will use those who do not eschew the blessings of freedom and capitalism. God will use them to bring the Kingdom of God to a poor and needy world in unusual and unexpected ways.