Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

By Tomas Sedlacek | Go to book overview

4
Christianity
Spirituality in the Material World

It is written, “Man does not live on bread alone.”
The Bible, New Testament

Jesus’s “Man does not live on bread alone” 1 is certainly true, just as it is true that people cannot live without bread. We were endowed with both body and soul, and we are both spiritual and material beings. In an extreme approach, both of these positions are inhuman; both are lethal in a certain sense. Without the material, we will die; without the spiritual, we stop being people. We must care for both, but at the same time it definitely does not have to be true that one comes at the expense of the other, as is frequently said. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to think that these two areas are independent of one another and do not influence each other. The very fact that we need external, material factors so that we can stay alive through the sweat of our face2 is given as a reason to ease up on this rushing and think about economics.

In this chapter we will take a look at how Christianity searches for harmony between these two poles. How does Christianity view the hurrying we do on Earth? What does it think about consumption, materialphysical requests, and asceticism? I will try to point out the economic ideas in Christianity, predecessors to the concept of the invisible hand of the market, the question of good and evil, and organizing people in society. Here we will also pause to consider how Christianity looks at the question of whether good or evil pays.

As the most widespread religion in Western civilization, Christianity has had a huge influence on the formation of the modern economy. This faith frequently had the decisive word, especially in normative questions (that which should be done). It would be hard to imagine our contemporary Western market democracy without it.

1 Matthew 4:4.

2 Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”

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