Have you ever thought of free market global capitalism as an institution in need of redemption? Have you ever thought of the way it oppresses and extorts some people as much as it might benefit others? Have you ever thought of how it robs people of their freedom and imagination? Have you ever wondered if God’s Word might have something to say about it?
Christians have a responsibility to educate themselves and make choices in the marketplace that have positive consequences for our global neighbours. If the 80/20 rule is a reality—that is, if 20 percent of the earth’s population controls 80 percent of the wealth—then we in Canada are certainly part of that 20 percent. If Jesus really meant that we should care for “the least of these,” giving the poor and marginalized food, water and clothing when they are in need, then he is talking about our duty to the other 80 percent of the world’s population.
These days it’s hard to deny that our economic system is broken and in need of redemption. In 2008, the Western penchant for things we can’t afford caught up with the market, amounting to more debt than could be repaid and loans that could no longer be insured against default. The American economy reeled. Banks closed. Around the world, governments scrambled to pick up the pieces.
It’s not hard to look at this economic crisis and see a spiritual crisis as well. Greed, pride, the desire to be better, more powerful or wealthier than someone else … these are the things that power our economy. They motivate us to buy more stuff at a cheaper price. In a word, to consume.
The word “consume” has a decidedly negative connotation. It means to eat up, use up, destroy or ruin. If you and I are “consumers,” what is it that we are destroying? Do we consume only inanimate objects with our spending, or do we also destroy God’s living earth? God’s creatures? And even our fellow human beings? Are you comfortable being called a consumer by companies competing to get your business?
In many ways, free market capitalism has fueled this destructive force called consumption, has made slaves of our brothers and sisters. These brothers and sisters live both here in North America—in the halls of commerce, on streetscapes lined with advertisements—and in places we can’t so easily see, such as sweatshops in South East Asia or on cash-crop farms in Central and South America.
Does God intend to redeem this human institution? To make it new, whole or good again? Can Christians be God’s agents of change in the marketplace? It’s time to put our money where our heart is.
For more information on Fair Trade, visit SalvationArmyEthics.org/issues/fair-trade.
Fair Trade FAQs
What is Fair Trade?
One way that Christians can make an impact is by choosing fair trade products, such as coffee, tea and chocolate. Fair trade creates opportunities for producers in economically disadvantaged countries who have been marginalized by the conventional trading system. For items to be fair trade they must meet certain standards that help alleviate poverty, ensure safe working conditions and foster sustainable development.
How do I know if a product is Fair Trade Certified?
The Fair Trade Certified Mark is a registered trademark of Fairtrade International. Various marks have been used worldwide, but the two logos above are the most commonly used in Canada.