The Business of The Spiritual Formation of Business (Part II)

Yesterday, I asked the question: how can we participate in the market without allowing our souls to be co-opted by it? For those of you who make the morning commute, punch the clock, and give your nine-to-five to any career, this is the priceless question. We live in a world driven by economics, and let's call the driver of economics The Market. The Market sends message after message, tells the people what to buy, how much to buy, and when to buy. It facilitates (and at times manipulates) choice through advertisement, product placement, and distribution channels. The Market has a gravitational pull akin to a collapsed star, and it sucks, and it sucks, and it sucks everything into its sphere. This is neither good nor bad as a matter of course. It simply is. And though you may be inclined to idealistic disagreement, ask yourself, can you really exist apart from The Market? Don't you need to buy milk and meat? And to buy that milk and meat, don't you need to make money? And isn't a paying career that allows you to buy milk and meat a gift?

Lawyers, teachers, toothpaste chemists, doctors, janitors, social workers, baristas, widget engineers, line workers--we're all selling something. We're all participating. We're all in The Market's sphere.

If this is the case--we're all participants in The Market, which is amoral--this begs the following questions: why does it sometimes seem corrupt, and why does that corruption seem to shape me more than I shape it? The simple answer, I think, is that The Market is a human invention, powered by humans, for the ends of humans. Simply put, The Market is full of our own muck and mire, our own scarcity complexes (call it sin; call it corruption; call it whatever). And so long as hungry humans are involved in The Market, it will always be this way. As the French philosopher, Jacques Ellul, wrote, "In the world, everyone wants to be a wolf, and no one is called to play the part of sheep."

Wolf, wolf, wolf-hear all the little boys crying.

This begs another question: if The Market is full of our own human corruption, how does the faith-bearer function in it without having her soul co-opted? Let's start with this recognition: [tweetherder text="If your function is to be the member of The Market, then The Market will surely shape the soul in wonky ways."]if your function is to be the best member of The Market, if it's to outsell, out-produce, and out-distribute your peers and adversaries, then The Market will surely co-opt the Christian life and shape the soul in wonky ways.[/tweetherder] (Remember that whole "in the world but not of it" bit?)  And what is the end of allowing your career and the ideals of The Market to shape your soul? (Hint: it ain't eternal pots of gold and heavenly Gulfstreams.)

So how do we guard against this kind of corruption? Ellul expounds upon his wolf argument and makes plain the mission of the Christian in any system of men. He writes, "the World cannot live without [the] living witness of Sacrifice." (Ah, sacrifice, that uncomfortable, sheepish ideal of the Christian.) In other words, we stave off corruption by embodying the sacrificial testimony of Christ--the first life perfectly lived for the sake of others. 

How then should we live? Do we sacrifice accounts, turn down bonuses, or fail to meet sales goals for the sake of God? Do we exit The Market altogether, cloister in "intentional Christian community" (I don't even know what that means anymore), and live off the fruits of our collective labor? I hardly see how any of these actions shape the soul or the worldBut engaging our careers with minds set on proper sacrifice--sacrifice for the sake of others--might be the most soul-formative work we can do.

How can we practice this kind of soul-forming sacrifice in The Market? How can we make it part of our own careers? Feel free to share your own answers in the comments below, and tune in tomorrow for more.


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