Market's Hand, God's Embrace

While Americans struggle financially, American corporations are thriving. Corporate executives will soon receive their Christmas bonuses. This disconnection between people and profits is the latest round of the "Miracle on Wall Street".

For workers, the economic recovery promises to be slow and painful. Unemployment sits idle at 9.6 percent. Underemployment is 17 percent and rising, as people begin to pick up part-time work or stop actively looking for full-time jobs.

Meanwhile, corporate profits have risen for seven consecutive quarters, partially due to increased exports and productivity -- doing more with less, one might say. In the third quarter of 2010, American businesses earned profits at the highest annual rate ever recorded over the last 60 years.

It's been thought that as profits are restored, jobs will return, and that tax cuts will spur business. "But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on," investor Warren Buffet recently said.

As profits and people are increasingly disconnected, does our hope lie in the market or with God? Or have the two become one, turning the market into the Market?

In 1999, Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School wrote an Atlantic Monthly article, "The Market as God." He said the market was becoming all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present.

Cox said traditional religions and the religion of the market hold radically different views. In Market religion, humans are in control. In Christianity, "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Psalm 24:1).

As Christians, we wait for our family and friends to experience security, but we ultimately believe God, not the market, is in control -- an increasingly countercultural concept.

Economic forces will wax and wane, "but God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved" (Eph. 2:4-5).

This Advent, our spiritual imagination replaces earthliness with holiness. Businesses and the market will remain nervous, unsure of whether to hire, but God's promise of restoration comforts us. While the invisible hand of the market continues to let go, God's love embraces us.

Though the Miracle on Wall Street will come and go, we eagerly anticipate the coming of our Prince of Peace, the true Miracle, whose justice and righteousness will never end.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness. -- Isaiah 9:7