Back to 5.2.1
We now come to the Compendium’s chapter on Economic Life. This begins with the Bible, in which there really is a huge amount about how material goods should and shouldn’t be used, and about poverty and wealth. You are already familiar with some of this from Unit 1 (part 1.3), including:
- after the Exodus, God’s provision for the people of Israel in the desert of just sufficient for their needs: Exodus 16
- the jubilee provisions for periodic cancellation of debt: Exodus 22, Deuteronomy 15, Leviticus 25
- prophetic critique of abuse of the poor in the book of Amos
- Jesus’ ministry as to preach to the poor and liberate the oppressed (Luke 4:16f, reflected in much of Luke’s Gospel, which you read up to chapter 11)
- the sharing of possessions by the early Christians (Acts 2 and 4)
- St Paul’s raising of money for poor Christians in Jerusalem, “that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8-9, quoting 8:14, NAB).
The first section in the Compendium’s chapter on ‘Economic Life’ summarizes some of the biblical material, referring to some of those texts and others.
It is important to understand this whole subject in the context of Christianity’s very strong affirmation, based on Genesis 1, that material things are good. The Compendium doesn’t discuss Genesis 1 in this chapter, but it has done so earlier (for example in ##108-114 and #171). You will recall that Genesis 1 affirms, after each stage of God’s work of creation, that “God saw that it was good”. Sometimes people regard Christian faith as anti-material, but it is the opposite. Since very early in Christian history, material things have been seen as good, because God is their creator. Early Christian writers affirmed this against other religious views, those called ‘Gnostic’, which saw material reality as inherently bad and salvation as about escape from it. You read about this briefly also in Unit 1, when we looked at why Catholic Social Teaching exists at all. Look again at the first few paragraphs of screen 1.2.3.
The trouble is that, while material things are good and to be enjoyed, they are also open to great abuse. The reading you are about to do refers to “fraud, usury, exploitation and gross injustice” (#323). The prophetic strand in Scripture is extremely critical of these kinds of sin.
As you work through the next reading, do look up the biblical passages referred to if you have time. It is certainly worthwhile getting to know them directly, for example the powerful passage in Isaiah 58 in which the prophet voices God’s call for ‘true fasting’. Here is a flavour:
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly… (NRSV)
Compendium, ##323-327 (Chap 7, part I a, first four paras)–
When you come to #327, just skim-read this, as it focuses on a topic that can be studied in Module B, international development. But do notice the phrase in the first sentence, “integral and solidary humanism”, because we shall give attention to these words ‘integral’ and ‘solidary’ later in this unit.
In light of earlier units of this module and any other biblical study you have done, what is already familiar to you and what is new in this reading?
End of 5.2.2
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