My current book project on the book of Job
A few years back a well-known politician set out to address the problem of poverty in America. The attempt was largely fueled by a sentiment embraced in his political party that too many people were too reliant on government assistance. Read Full Article
In my last book, I stated that the term “wicked” in the Bible is nearly synonymous with “rich.” Since then, I have received adverse reactions to such a statement. They remind me of two things: first, there are many wealthy people who are not only good people, but who also work a lot of good in the world; second, there are many poor people who are bad and that posture appears to directly bear on their plight.
In both cases, they are right about certain situations that they know about or have experienced. The trouble arises in packing in all kinds of contemporary connotations to the term “wicked” which is generally not in the biblical purview.
The book of Job portrays the intense debate among Jewish aristocrats in a cutthroat business environment where the stakes are extreme. Job's plunge from being the perfectly crafted model of the good life to a virtual dead man truly reflects harsh realities. Assuredly the tension has as long a history as Israel itself, and it is fraught with the same attempts to starkly separate politics, theology, and economics as is current today...
From its very inception, Israel has been suspicious of private wealth accumulation. To be clear, it is not opposed to blessing, the ability to survive and thrive. It desired what all people desire: a good, decent and thriving life. In its account of its origins, however, the Bible consistently and repeatedly questions the accumulation of wealth, its social good, and its effect on those who obtain it. Read Full Article
The financial collapse of 2008 altered my understanding of how to get along in American society. The change did not immediately happen. For a while, I still balanced two part-time jobs and proactively worked toward finding one job with a decent salary and benefits. Within two years, I was completely out of work and struggling to find anything. Working a temporary minimum wage job, I worked with a wide variety of folks all saying the same thing: “I never imagined that I would be in this situation.” Whether the situation was temporary or a sign of a more permanent shift, we were reluctant by-products of a systemic breakdown. Read Full Article
Since the Great Recession of 2008, economic theories, economists, and financial institutions play increasingly crucial roles in today’s society. Many question whether economics has now superseded both politics and religion as the dominant paradigm in which nearly all public policy and personal decisions are made. Questions as to whether an action is good or bad are reduced to the accountant’s ledge sheet: how much will it cost, and who will pay for it?
Even while it was said that the large financial institutions and corporations have recovered, most people have not. In fact, apart from a small percentage of the well-off, most people know they are losing ground. With the increased tension over making ends meet, the human propensity seeks out the causes for one’s lack of prosperity, and thus the blame engine gets revved up.
Who, if any, is to blame? Is it the super, greedy, and unscrupulous rich or the lazy, entitled poor? Is it laissez faire capitalism or socialism? Large corporations or big government? Or is there a massive breakdown in social order and morals?
As a biblical theologian, Ruckhaus is exploring a different and baffling line of inquiry. How has the influence of economic systems so escaped the hermeneutic and theology of the Church for so long? Why, in a time of tectonic social shifts, is the Christian dialogue so focused on sexuality, which the Bible minimally addresses, while being strangely silent or blatantly antithetical about economics, which the Bible critiques on nearly every page? Why is the bedroom so much more important to us than the boardroom? And finally, how is it that the people who claim biblical inspiration focus on the sins of the poor all the while missing the serious and persistent biblical critiques about wealth. The Bible, Ruckhaus insists, not only talks about how to use wealth (giving to the poor), but also questions how one gets wealth and what wealth does to those who acquire it.
Ruckhaus begins this theological inquiry with his book, Wicked Rich, Wicked Poor. In it, he not only explicates how the ancient Israelites struggled with these issues as reflected in the book of Job, but also relates the contemporary implications for Christians today. It is past time, Ruckhaus advocates, for economics to come under the scrutiny of the gospel.