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The Protestant Grace Ethic

I’ve been listening to some thought-provoking lectures by Vishal Mangalwadi on how the bible has shaped the West.  This one entitled, “Why Are Some Rich While Others Are So Poor” speaks of how traditional cultures have handled wealth.  Those without the influence of the bible have only known two responses.  Either you horde it or you display it.  You either stock-pile it for a rainy day or you show-case it for prestige.  In neither case will your economy grow.

But, in the west, Christians did this new thing – they re-invested it.  Mangalwadi points to things like “the parable of the talents” or the injunction to “love thy neighbour” as giving Christians this new idea – to put wealth to work.  He also points to the impact of the priesthood of all believers, releasing believers to work at all things “as unto the Lord.”  This gives rise to the protestant work ethic and incredible wealth-creation.

I’m sure all those ideas should go into the mix.  But I wonder whether the Protestant Grace Ethic needs to have a hearing here.  The bible is always linking grace and money (see these examples in Ephesians for instance).  It is the peculiar “idea” of the gospel that heavenly wealth comes down upon us not so that we may boast, nor that we might keep it to ourselves.  (And not even that we should repay the Benefactor (some kind of spiritual feudalism?)).  We are given an overabundance of undeserved grace in order that we might overflow.  Isn't this the most fundamentally liberating "idea" to grace the West?


0 thoughts on “The Protestant Grace Ethic

  1. The Simple Guy

    I have been thinking lately how we are blessed so that we can be a blessing.
    Jesus talked about whom to invite to our feasts. Not those who could repay us, but the poor, the needy.
    He who lends to the poor gives to the Lord.

    I agree with you.

    I used to drive to work every day pondering where I would spend the next extra money I earned; this improvent on the house, that toy or gadget. Usually to wind up not having enough and just paying off debt.

    For the last 6 months or so, I have discovered the joy of giving, and I drive to work praying for those around me and thinking of how to be generous. The economy is tough, and yet my job is still stable for now. Many are hurting and my family is not. So I am thinking of ways to help others.

    The unexpected bonus is that I am content. Those trinkets don't appeal anymore!

    (not trying to say that the secret to wealth is giving, just that God has helped me be a cheerful giver)

    I'll have to remember that phrase, "grace ethic"

    Thanks Glen!!


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