Our logic is simple and reductionistic.
It goes like this: money corrupts. Therefore let us not transfer money and, so, not foment corruption.
Things become, upon close inspection, even more banal. We begin by taking the modern nation-state as a given, as an indisputable fact on the ground. Since this is our self-evident starting point, we work our way forward. To transfer funds from one nation-state to another or from one region of nation-states and/or economic regions to another will necessarily distort matters.
Poverty is the only solution.
Because money corrupts, we mindlessly forgo the hard work of mutuality and relationship, short-cutting the entire process with truisms about how we will not be party to such distortion because we will not move money. One thinks of the falsely pious King Ahaz in the prophet Isaiah’s time. Confronted with the challenge to name a sign to which the Lord himself would respond, Ahaz takes himself out of the game with a pious and even Scriptural evasion: I will not test the Lord.
YHWH, via the voice of the prophet, finds no piety in Ahaz’ response, only self-protection and enmity.
If in the context of, say, Microsoft or HSBC or 3M, one were to terminate strategic discussion with the platitude that ‘money corrupts’, one would soon be seeking money via a government check in the queue at the Unemployment Benefits office.
Microsoft or HSBC or 3M have developed other disciplines intended to assure quality performance. We, by contrast, in a stunning display of mistrust in our majority world brethren, prefer to manage the character of performance by assuring poverty as its moral backstop. It speaks of laziness and the absence of vision.
May it be that we lack the fiber and perseverance to employ the normal process and disciplines that are prevalent in the business world in order to heighten our chances of success, falling back instead upon the easy mantra that money corrupts?
I believe such a diagnosis is plausible.
When the Lausanne Movement seeks a ‘new global equilibrium’, its spokespersons rightly attempt to avoid the connotation that they are seeking the redistribution of resources for its own sake.
Yet I believe that the global evangelical community has in hand a shared task that calls for large-scale transfer of resources of all kinds—financial resources included—in order to accomplish our common cause. An ideology based upon the absolute status of the nation-state and the derivative logic of self-sufficiency cannot possibly embrace such a logic.
So let me suggest another way of thinking about the matter: Suppose we are a global evangelical family. In this extended family, some households have fallen upon particularly good fortune. Others, to speak only of the material framework, are hard pressed to pay the rent and the light bill, though they would long to make the investments in their children’s future that would secure a secular change in the family’s capacity to contribute to society. If it were to emerge that the economically prosperous head of a household—he may not be the most spiritually poised, indeed he may be distressed by the angst that commonly pursues wealth—had for some years been quietly paying the university tuition for two or three daughters and sons of his working-class cousin’s children, we would celebrate his capacity for solidarity, to say nothing of his generosity.
Yet if by analogy it were to emerge that a California-based real-estate tycoon of deep Christian conviction had entered into a twenty-year commitment with a north Indian theological college in order to secure the supply of well-trained Christian pastors in a region dominated by Islam, we might consider him dangerously naive for his thoughtless support of dependency.
Shame on us.
A new global equilibrium will need to dispense with all the psycho-social and pseudo-theological complexes that make us fear dependency as the ultimate—or at least the most awkward—sin. Where mutuality, vision, and discipline exert their salutary effects, money will retain its potent capacity to distort and corrupt. Yet we will not see that outcome as determined. We will discover processes, based upon deep and mutual friendship, to contain that ever-present danger while we celebrate what can be accomplished in this complicated world when all manner of blessing—not excluding the economical—flows, in words now common to the global evangelical movement, from everywhere to everywhere.