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), of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). Other scriptures deal with economic problems most twenty-first century individuals are still confronting—creditor/debtor difficulties (Proverbs 22:7; Psalm 37:21), unemployment (Matthew 20:3), and even big government with its high taxes and spending (1 Samuel 8:11-18).

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). Its common core and foundation consists of seven positive, biblical premises:

1. There is a Creator God (Psalm 14:1; Exodus 3:13-15).

2. There is a divine revelation from God to man (2 Timothy 3:16).

3. There is God’s Holy Spirit that imparts spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:9-11; 2 Timothy 1:6-7).

4. There are laws, standards, and absolutes established by God for man’s success (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

5. There is a divine purpose for humanity (John 3:16-17; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

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; Revelation 12:9; Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7; Hebrews 1:14).

7. There is a spirit in man that separates man’s mind from animal brain (1 Corinthians 2:11).

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; Proverbs 8:13; Matthew 4:4) 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).

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). With the Holy Spirit, man has the capacity to build godly character in choosing right and resisting wrong (2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Man acts—he values, prefers, and chooses (Proverbs 15:22; 2 Corinthians 9:7). 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; Isaiah 33:22)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” and prosperity” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Exodus 20:2-17). 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). 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” (Psalm 1:3); ”Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalms 33:12); ”If they (the righteous) obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures” (Job 36:11) 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, 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 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).

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), 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.