Is wealth creation godly or greedy?
The Bible teaches that the creation of wealth is both a godly gift and a command. Unfortunately, the biblical role of wealth creation is misunderstood in many churches today.
The good news is that there’s a global movement of Christians that are seeking to resurrect this topic in the church around the world.
We interviewed Mats Tunehag, a writer and consultant based in Sweden, who has served for many years as a senior leader in developing the concepts of Business as Mission in both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance.
Most recently, Tunehag served as the convener of the “Global Consultation on the Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation” in 2017. Out of this gathering of 30 business, missions, and academic leaders from 20 nations around the world came the “The Wealth Creation Manifesto.” Below is our discussion with Tunehag about the purpose of the Manifesto and what kind of response it is receiving:
IFWE: What is the Wealth Creation Manifesto and why was it developed?
Mats Tunehag (MT): The issue of wealth creation is often overlooked. The idea of wealth sharing sounds more “Christian” and generous—and we talk about that more in the church.
But there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. Thus, we wanted to explore and discuss wealth creation from biblical, historical, global, and practical perspectives.
The Wealth Creation Manifesto is a summary of the Global Consultation on the Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation of People and Societies. Out of the gathering, seven papers were peer-produced and peer-reviewed, looking at various aspects of wealth creation. We also produced an educational video with study guides.
A major focus for the Consultation was wealth creation and the poor. What really helps the poor, and what does history teach us? As we wrote in Christianity Today,
It is a fact that aid—wealth distribution—does not lift people and nations out of poverty. Wealth creation does. The biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has happened in our generation. This has been achieved not through aid but by trade; wealth creation through business. As is demonstrated by the escape of hundreds of millions from dire poverty in both India and China since the 1980s, one cannot tackle poverty without a determined pursuit of wealth creation.
We often ask what causes poverty. But the real question is, how do people create prosperity for themselves, their family, and their community? Instead of asking what causes poverty, we need to ask, what causes wealth?
IFWE: What kind of conversations have been started around the Manifesto?
MT: The Wealth Creation Manifesto was quickly translated and is now available in 14 languages. That is one indication of the keen interest in the issue around the globe.
It is also important to point out that this was not the first time that the biblical call to wealth creation, especially through business, has been addressed. The Consultation was built upon similar consultations and documents, like the BAM Manifesto 2004, the Wheaton Declaration 2009, and the Atabaia Statement 2014.
IFWE: What biblical principles have been the most effective in helping people understand God’s call to wealth creation?
MT: The first three statements of the Wealth Creation Manifesto assert the following:
- Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
- We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.
- Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
We also produced a Wealth Creation Manifesto with Bible References document. The Manifesto is based on, among other things, lessons learned from the Bible. So, we listed some initial scripture references regarding issues dealt with by the Consultation and expressed in the Manifesto.
IFWE: Where have some people had trouble understanding the Wealth Creation Manifesto? Has there been pushback?
MT: Some people mistakenly assume that wealth creation is about making some people rich or that the Manifesto teaches the prosperity gospel. However, the full title of the Consultation indicates a wider understanding of the purpose of wealth creation: “The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation of People and Societies.” The prosperity gospel is not only heretical, but it also cannot achieve the goal of personal and societal transformation.
Pope Francis has also spoken to the worthy goal of wealth creation:
Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.
Others who have struggled with the Manifesto wrongly embrace the Malthusian idea of fixed and limited resources which must be divided into smaller and smaller pieces because of a growing world population. Thus, some call for a universal renunciation of wealth or for all Christians to pursue “simplicity” as a response to wealth hoarding. The Wealth Creation Manifesto takes a more nuanced approach:
Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created. …There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
The Consultation and its papers and educational video show that we can increase valuable resources—like food—and actually feed more people now than ever before.
We also show that businesses do provide essential solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, including environmental challenges.
The conversation between Professor Ron Sider’s article and BAM Global in Christianity Today is a good example of this discussion on the biblical and economic principles espoused in the Manifesto.
IFWE: What are the next steps for the Wealth Creation Manifesto? What are you working on now?
MT: We are doing more research and writing on wealth creation and creation care, building upon the paper “Wealth Creation and the Stewardship of Creation.” The plan is to present an expanded paper at the BAM Global Congress in 2020.
The BAM Review will also run a series of articles on this topic this fall.
Editor’s Note: Read more about biblical stewardship of wealth in Wholehearted: A Biblical Look at the Greatest Commandment and Personal Wealth.
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