Justice and Money: Baker and Rosner

DLBaker.jpgSocial justice folks need to read this; those nervous about social justice folks also need to read this book: Tight Fists or Open Hands?: Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Law
. Why? This is a careful, descriptive, and fair-minded examination of what the Old Testament says about all the things that concern anyone concerned about social justice concerns. That is, David L. Baker (the Australian David Baker), examines each of these themes over against their Ancient Near Eastern contexts:

Property rights and responsibilities, ancestral land, slaves, resident aliens, widows and orphans, just lawsuits, shared harvests, generous loans, and fair trade. It’s all here, and the conclusions take up issues about how Christians can learn from this legislation. Can we take that vision and make it a living reality today?

Alongside David L. Baker’s book, I now have Brian Rosner, Greed As Idolatry: The Origin and Meaning of a Pauline Metaphor
. Greed has become a more common topic, and it is being connected more and more with idolatry in a world where the economy — stimulated and propped up too much by greed — is in shambles and teetering. So, a book like Rosner’s is much needed.

A highlight of this book for me was its examination of the various meanings or dimensions of greed. Then Rosner plumbs the Jewish Scriptures, early Jewish moral teaching, and the rest of the New Testament. Finally he turns to his principal theme: greed as idolatry, where he examines love and devotion, trust and confidence, and service and obedience. Greed, he concludes, is idolatry. Here’s his conclusion: “to have a strong desire to acquire and keep for yourself more and more money and material things is an attack on God’s exclusive rights to human love and devotion, trust and confidence, and service and obedience” (173).
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  • joanne

    i think that greed is not always about actual things or possessions but the status that comes from having such things or the honor we think we will receive when we climb the ladder of success. It’s what wealth does for us that is also a factor in the idolatry– friends, status, the good life, the people everyone wants to be like. instead of being formed by Christ and into his image, we seek to have an image grounded in what this world considers valuable. a possession is only good if it can bring one status and honor.