The Prosperity System


Since the McLaren discussion hasn’t been that active, I’m not going to push the discussion very much. Still, I need to process the remaining sections out loud, so here goes the next one…

In Part 6, The Prosperity System, of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change, the author presents Jesus’s teachings as a counter to “the acutely suicidal machinery of theocapitalism.” He presents his case in four parts:

#1: Jesus replaces the law of progress through rapid economic growth with the vision of good deeds for the common good.

McLaren focuses in on the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12: 13-21) as the ultimate example of an unsustainable economic system (where self-centered pursuit of wealth eventually gets you). He summarizes his argument this way: “In case after case, Jesus calls people to repent and defect from the goal of growing their personal wealth portfolios, and instead he calls them to grow their good deeds portfolios for the common good, especially the good of the poor and marginalized. The result will be a qualitative improvement in the lives of everyone.”

#2: Jesus replaces the law of serenity through possession and consumption with satisfaction through gratitude and sharing.

In this section, McLaren argues against the idea of happiness through consuming more and more, and compares the concept to the result of the story of Adam and Eve. Happiness (or serenity), he argues, is found instead in appreciating what one already has in possession and sharing with others.

#3: Jesus replaces salvation by win-lose competition with salvation through seeking justice.

McLaren uses the story of James and John’s mother’s request for prominent positions for her sons in Jesus’s kingdom as an example of the “prosperity law” that claims we succeed by rising above the competition. Instead, the author argues that Jesus teaches we prosper when our hunger and thirst for justice – not competition – is satisfied.

#4: Jesus replaces the law of freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations with freedom to prosper by building better communities.

In this final section, McLaren argues that both the rich and the poor need saving: the rich from their addictive wealth, and the poor from oppressive poverty. McLaren focuses on the Zacchaeus story to demonstrate how both rich and poor are liberated simultaneously – “salvation” according to Jesus.

NEXT WEEK: “The Equity System”


4 Responses to “The Prosperity System”

  1. urbino Says:

    Aside from a few quibbles, that seems sound enough to me.

    Sorry I don’t have more to say. Once we got through the first couple of sections, I had a pretty good idea what the architecture of his argument was, and had said most everything I had to say about it. Last week’s long quotation — that just struck me as really quite bad writing (his, not yours).

    Of course, that’s no reason for everybody else to be so hushy hushy. I’m surprised some of the other hippos haven’t had something to say on McLaren’s use of scripture, or of particular scriptures, or failure to take account of countervailing scriptures. Or, heck, just his overall point.

  2. alsturgeon Says:

    Oh, it’s fine. There are times I just don’t have anything to say, too. (I don’t think it’s a virtue that I often speak anyway!)

    It sort of helps me to type up my summary of each section and post it, so long as no one objects, I have no problem with a post left in silence.

  3. shanebertou Says:

    Several of us from around the blogsphere are reading “Everything Must Change” together and discussing our thoughts. We’ve just begun, but we’ve set it up in a way where it’s never to late to participate.

    If you have any interest, you can visit us at:

  4. alsturgeon Says:

    Thanks! I promise I’ll drop by…

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