‘Anyone, Anyone . . .’ Want to Learn Economics: Three Reasons Why Christians Should Study God’s Household Rules

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
— Luke 14:27–30 —

What comes to mind when you think of economics?

If it is only a stuffy college classroom, a contentious topic that resurfaces at election time, or anything like Ben Stein in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off (see above), then you are not getting your economics from the Bible. In Scripture, economics is a subject that informs the story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation. From the command to subdue and rule the world to the promise of Christ’s payment of our sin-debt, we find economic realities. And just as prominently, from the inability to build a tower in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11) to Jesus’s warning of the same (Luke 14), we find dangers associated with bad economics.

Put the other way, when economics is studied, it touches on issues that penetrate deep into the life of everyone made in God’s image. Personal finance, raising children, going to work, making decisions about the future, and paying (and evaluating) taxes are all economic in nature. To put it more broadly, economics is not only about supply and demand, monetary theories, or policies related to taxation. Rather, economics is a fundamental aspect of human activity and moral imagination. When Jesus said to “count the cost” of following him, he employed an economic way of thinking.

Thus, like every other area of life and knowledge, economics is something intrinsic to human nature. And in Scripture, God’s prophets and apostles speak about the world God has made and the resources that exist therein. Even more, Scripture tells us how God intends for us to use creation for his glory. And all of this is economics.

To borrow the language of Thomas Sowell, “Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses” (Basic Economics, passim). Now Sowell does not approach economics through the lens of Scripture, but his definition recalls the vast-but-limited nature of our world. God has created a finite world, where productivity is possible, but also fragile. Thus, the world God has made teaches us our need to learn economic principles for good stewardship. 

How we steward our limited resources (e.g., our time, our energy, our money, our vocations, etc.) is a moral endeavor. And economics, when rightly conceived, is a way of looking at God’s world that calls us to use those resources well. Indeed, the father of economics, Adam Smith, was not an economist, but a moral philosopher. And when we rightly consider the subject, economics is a way of thinking about God’s world and our place in it that calls us to invest our lives in things eternal.

I doubt many textbooks on economics speak like that, but they should. And starting this Sunday, our church will consider what Scripture says about economics in a new Sunday School series. In this post, I want to offer three reasons for studying economics. These reasons are explicitly biblical, but for that reason, Christians should not perceive economics as the “dismal science” (a pejorative label often assigned to economics). Instead, Christians who want to renew their minds with God’s Word should consider how God teaches us to think economically about the world, God’s salvation, and good works. Continue reading

Noonday Light: Christians and Poverty

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
– Colossians 3:2 –

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

Last week,   asked the question: Are Churches Are Making America Poor?  She reported in Newsweek that a group of atheists in Washington D. C. want to crack down on churches with ‘crooked’ books.  Troubling as this report may be, it is worth considering how churches might relate to the poor. Here a few articles on the matter.

What the Poor Need Most. Joe Carter gives a personal testimony to the riches of his poverty and Christians’ responsibility to care for the poor. (Acton Blog)

The Poverty of the Nations. Greg Forster reviews Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus’s new book economics and policy-making that brings about human flourishing. (The Gospel Coalition)

Economics 101: Productivity Starts at Home. Here’s a more constructive piece by Greg Forster. (The Gospel Coalition)

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

God and Money

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says this about God and money:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about you body what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  … But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:24-25, 33).

Addressing the subject of God and money in his blog today, Southern Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler reflects on “A Christian View of the Economic Crisis” .  His sweeping conversation about economic theory, materialism, and the Kingdom of Christ is a helpful reminder in a time of economic unrest that the God who clothes the field and feeds the sparrow will take care of his children.  I encourage you to read Dr. Mohler’s article for insight and to contemplate the field and watch the sparrow to remember the provision of our Lord.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss