Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What Shall It Profit A Man…

chief rabbi

Thank you Bob for alerting me to this brilliant article by the Chief Rabbi. [here] ‘Has Europe lost its soul to the markets?’ It was published in The Times yesterday. I have so much respect for Dr Sacks, a godly man who is not afraid to to speak out God-given words of truth. Here are his closing words- but do go to his website and read the whole article.

“There is a wise American saying: never waste a crisis. And the current financial and economic crisis affords us a rare opportunity to pause and reflect on where we have been going and where it leads.

The financial instruments at the heart of the current crisis, subprime mortgages and the securitisation of risk, were so complex that governments, regulatory authorities and sometimes even bankers themselves failed to understand them and their extreme vulnerability. Those who encouraged people to take out mortgages they could not repay were guilty of what the Bible calls “putting a stumbling block before the blind”.

The build-up of personal and collective debt in America and Europe should have sent warning signals to anyone familiar with the biblical institutions of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, created specifically because of the danger of people being trapped by debt. Those who encouraged this recklessness protected themselves but not others from the consequences.Ultimately, financial failure is the result of moral failure: a failure of long-term responsibility to the societies of which we are a part, and to future generations who will bear the cost of our mistakes. It is a symptom of a wider failure: to see the market as a means not an end.

The Bible paints a graphic picture of what happens when people cease to see gold as a medium of exchange and start seeing it as an object of worship. It calls it the Golden Calf. Its antidote is the Sabbath: one day in seven in which we neither work nor employ, shop or spend. It is time dedicated to things that have a value, not a price: family, community, and thanksgiving to God for what we have, instead of worrying about what we lack. It is no coincidence that in Britain, Sunday and financial markets were deregulated at about the same time.

Markets need morals. We tend to forget that the keywords of a market economy are deeply religious. Credit comes from the Latin ‘credo’, meaning “I believe”. Confidence comes from the Latin for “shared faith”. Trust is a religious and moral concept.

Try running an economy without confidence or trust and you will soon see that it cannot be done. It was a breakdown of trust that led to the banking crisis. And trust cannot be created by systems. It depends on an ethic of honour and responsibility internalised by those who run the systems.

Stabilising the euro is one thing, healing the culture that surrounds it is another. A world in which material values are everything and spiritual values nothing is neither a stable state nor a good society. The time has come for us to recover the Judeo-Christian ethic of human dignity in the image of God. Humanity was not created to serve markets. Markets were created to serve humankind”


  1. I'd like to link back to this post. It may get people to think twice about who they vote for in the coming election.

  2. I've always thought that whatever he writes is very worthwhile reading, and taking notes from.


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