Is There a Biblical Economics? Part Two

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Is There a Biblical Economics? Part Two

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The prism of God’s perspective

Many students of the Bible have observed that God often refers to economic topics and concepts. For example: money, interest rates (usury), profit and loss, wages, entrepreneurship, and contractual obligations are used by Christ to establish spiritual points in the parables of the pounds (Luke 19:12-26 Luke 19:12-26 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said to them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called to him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, your pound has gained ten pounds. 17 And he said to him, Well, you good servant: because you have been faithful in a very little, have you authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, your pound has gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be you also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared you, because you are an austere man: you take up that you layed not down, and reap that you did not sow. 22 And he said to him, Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Why then gave not you my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required my own with usury? 24 And he said to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that has ten pounds. 25 (And they said to him, Lord, he has ten pounds.) 26 For I say to you, That to every one which has shall be given; and from him that has not, even that he has shall be taken away from him.
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), of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours. 26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. 29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. 30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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), and of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 Matthew 20:1-16 1 For the kingdom of heaven is like to a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said to them; Go you also into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and said to them, Why stand you here all the day idle? 7 They say to him, Because no man has hired us. He said to them, Go you also into the vineyard; and whatever is right, that shall you receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last to the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the manager of the house, 12 Saying, These last have worked but one hour, and you have made them equal to us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do you no wrong: did not you agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that your is, and go your way: I will give to this last, even as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
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). Other scriptures deal with economic problems most twenty-first century individuals are still confronting—creditor/debtor difficulties (Proverbs 22:7 Proverbs 22:7The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
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; Psalms 37:21 Psalms 37:21The wicked borrows, and pays not again: but the righteous shows mercy, and gives.
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), unemployment (Matthew 20:3 Matthew 20:3And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
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), and even big government with its high taxes and spending (1 Samuel 8:11-18 1 Samuel 8:11-18 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive groves, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your best young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and you shall be his servants. 18 And you shall cry out in that day because of your king which you shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
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).

Nevertheless, it’s clear that the Bible is not an economics textbook per se. God has not systematically expounded economic principles as one might expect to find in a modern-day college textbook. 

That leaves Christians with an intriguing dilemma. If they do not have their own unique understanding of economic principles derived from the Bible, that means they must rely on secular sources for economic knowledge and their corresponding “economic principles.” Right? Wrong!

While biblical economics is an untouched field of study for academic economists today, research has begun by a few economists to develop it. It is not a patchwork of Christian ethics combined with a preferred secular economic theory or school of thought, as some have perceived it. Rather, the Maker’s economics is a comprehensive, unified body of moral and economic principles that are inexorably interrelated. In many ways, the bible reveals the missing economic dimension of current-day economic schools of thought.

Biblical paradigm: seven positive premises

Much about economic science can be built and developed on the inspired God-breathed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
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). Its common core and foundation consists of seven positive, biblical premises:

1. There is a Creator God (Psalms 14:1 Psalms 14:1The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.
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; Exodus 3:13-15 Exodus 3:13-15 13 And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them? 14 And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. 15 And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations.
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).

2. There is a divine revelation from God to man (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
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).

3. There is God’s Holy Spirit that imparts spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:9-11 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 9 But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.
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; 2 Timothy 1:6-7 2 Timothy 1:6-7 6 Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
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).

4. There are laws, standards, and absolutes established by God for man’s success (Exodus 20:2-17 Exodus 20:2-17 2 I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12 Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you. 13 You shall not kill. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s.
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; Deuteronomy 5:6-21 Deuteronomy 5:6-21 6 I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 7 You shall have none other gods before me. 8 You shall not make you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. 11 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your ass, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out there through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. 16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 17 You shall not kill. 18 Neither shall you commit adultery. 19 Neither shall you steal. 20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor. 21 Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife, neither shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is your neighbor’s.
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).

5. There is a divine purpose for humanity (John 3:16-17 John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
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; Ecclesiastes 12:13 Ecclesiastes 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
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).

6. There is a spirit world of Satan the devil and demons who deceive humanity and also a spirit world of ministering angels serving God and man (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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; Isaiah 14:12 Isaiah 14:12How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
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; Revelation 12:7 Revelation 12:7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
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; Hebrews 1:14 Hebrews 1:14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
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).

7. There is a spirit in man that separates man’s mind from animal brain (1 Corinthians 2:11 1 Corinthians 2:11For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.
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).

All seven of these premises come into play as our economic analysis deepens. But it is necessary to begin with three particular foundational building blocks.

The first building block is that God’s Word is the foundation for all knowledge . Christian knowledge, understanding, and wisdom originate from fearing (respecting) God by striving to keep His commandments, hating evil, and living by His every word (Ecclesiastes 12:13 Ecclesiastes 12:13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
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; Proverbs 8:13 Proverbs 8:13The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the fraudulent mouth, do I hate.
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; Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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) in comparison to the importance of God’s knowledge for mankind. All other knowledge and wisdom is prophesied to come to nothing (1 Corinthians 1:19-20 1 Corinthians 1:19-20 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
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).

The second premise, central to the discovery of economic principles, is that man is a purposeful being endowed with a spiritual essence, the spirit in man that gives him human mind and free will . Man alone of God’s creatures possesses the inner self of will, self-awareness, and the ability to choose goals and the means to fulfill them (1 Corinthians 2:11 1 Corinthians 2:11For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.
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). With the Holy Spirit, man has the capacity to build godly character in choosing right and resisting wrong (2 Corinthians 4:16 2 Corinthians 4:16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
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; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
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). Man acts—he values, prefers, and chooses (Proverbs 15:22 Proverbs 15:22Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
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; 2 Corinthians 9:7 2 Corinthians 9:7Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.
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). God has allowed that economic activity always involves human action or choices.

The third premise is that God as Creator and Lawgiver (James 4:12 James 4:12There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judge another?
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; Isaiah 33:22 Isaiah 33:22For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
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) has set in motion inexorable laws governing human behavior in whatever realm humans may interact—social, political, or economic . These spiritual laws, when followed, generate and produce”…life and prosperity” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Deuteronomy 30:15-20 15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. 17 But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live: 20 That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may hold to him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
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; Exodus 20:2-17 Exodus 20:2-17 2 I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12 Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you. 13 You shall not kill. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s.
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). For individuals and societies to internalize these eternal principles, specifically the Ten Commandments, is to cause a way of life that leads to harmony, peace, economic prosperity, and liberty (James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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). Virtue bears spiritual and economic fruit!Secular economics, by contrast, can know nothing of this principle.

Many verses attest to the relationship between moral behavior and economic well-being: “…And whatever he [the righteous] does shall prosper” (Psalms 1:3 Psalms 1:3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
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); ”Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalms 33:12 Psalms 33:12Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.
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); ”If they (the righteous) obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures” (Job 36:11 Job 36:11If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
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) and ”This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success ” (Joshua 1:8 Joshua 1:8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
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, emphasis added).

Conclusion about modern economics

From these three foundational building blocks, a vital insight is gained: morality and the economic realm of production, consumption, and exchange are interconnected. They are not separate from one another as assumed by humanistic science. Thus, any economic action or policy that violates moral law is inherently flawed. Any human action or policy in defiance of moral law is inherently bound to fail. Any human action or policy that is based on God’s moral law is inherently bound to succeed.

To put it succinctly: humanity’s economic problems are spiritual in nature and the solutions can only be found in the Maker’s economics!The seemingly intractable economic problems of living in an age of inflation, chronic unemployment, out-of-control government spending and debt, and reoccurring business cycles of crises are clear indicators that not only are inexorable economic laws being ignored, but also the moral precepts of the Ten Commandments. Our leaders and our people need to learn this vital proposition: It is our relationship with God that is the key for a healthy, productive, and prosperous economy.

”What a science does, or should do, is simply to allow the average man…to command the heights of genius,” said James Buchanan, the 1986 Nobel laureate in economics. That’s precisely what biblical economics does! Through the prism of moral and economic principles, along with any additional scriptures God’s Word provides on economic issues, Christians, by many considered the ”foolish” of the world, can understand the causes and the solutions to mankind’s economic problems. That genius can never be found in the “wisdom of this world,” based on its seven negative premises, which is prophesied to come to nothing (1 Corinthians 1:20 1 Corinthians 1:20Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
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).

There is a biblical perspective and vision on the economy. There is a legitimate science of biblical economics, though secular economists will vehemently deny it. Its fundamental insight, the missing dimension , is that our Creator God, through Jesus Christ (all things having been created by Him, Ephesians 3:9 Ephesians 3:9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
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), has established an inseparable link between morality and economic well-being. And that’s why our “secular friends” will never fully discover the way to economic prosperity.

To learn more about fundamental financial principles God has put in place since the beginning of time, request our free study aid Managing Your Finances .

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