Opinion

If You Want to Fix the Economy, Start Here

Politics has become toxic. It’s been this way for a long time. It’s not just about Brett Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court. Every facet of the political landscape has been poisoned so that little grows except the debt, the deficit, and government programs to fix what politicians have broken.

Little has been done to stop the spreading of the poison. Instead, new policies are implemented that add additional poison, so much so that we have a moral and economic red tide. The stench is unbearable.

Few people want to talk about basic principles. But that’s where we need to begin. For me, it’s back to the Bible.

The Bible begins with a discussion of economics. The Garden of Eden makes mention of gold and precious stones: “The gold of that land is good” (Gen. 2:11-12). The prophet Isaiah condemns debasing silver and wine (Isa. 1:22). Jesus used money as a teaching device in many of His parables. While He criticized the rich young ruler (most likely a civil official), Jesus said nothing against Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57).

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Jerry Bowyer’s comments are helpful:

Judea was more dominated by state power and by its own ruling political and religious elites. And the pattern of Jesus’ economic commentary is that his toughest anti-wealth rhetoric correlates with his sojourns into Judea, especially into its chief city, Jerusalem.

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An ‘archon’ [ruler] is a member of a government council, in this case that most likely means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a center of political, religious and financial power. Sanhedrin seats were occupied by wealthy and influential families, priestly and pharisaical. Seats were often inherited.

It’s most likely that the Rich Young Ruler (archon) accumulated his great wealth by political maleficence – by defrauding people (Mark 10:19).

John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church, Panorama City, California, said that

16 out of 38 of Christ’s parables deal with money; more is said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined; five times more is said about money than prayer; and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions.1

One of the criteria for leadership in the church is based on how a man uses money (1 Tim. 3:3). This includes the management of his household (v. 4). As Christians, we have no biblical warrant to avoid the topic of money, investments, savings, and inheritance. A case could be made that an elder who does not have money to manage is not a good candidate for the office. And what applies to church government should apply as well to civil government. One of the reasons our economy is in a mess is that most of the men and women holding office have never owned a business.

The word “economics” is a word rich with meaning. When we analyze its parts, we soon learn that there are economic “rules” and “laws” that must be followed regarding the use of money.

The word economy comes from oeconomia, a combination of two Greek words, oikos (house) plus nomos (law, rule). The root meaning of the word is the frugal or economic management or government of a family or the concerns of a household. The study of economics (household management) now includes larger units than the household: the business firm and its complex relationships with suppliers, customers, and other firms with which it competes; and even the conglomerate mass of such relationships within entire nations, and even between nations.2

The word oikonomia is translated “stewardship” in the New Testament. Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) translates it as “One who manages domestic or other concerns with frugality; one who expends money, time or labor judiciously, and without waste.” What is the extent of the Christian’s stewardship? It’s the world! “Our global house is the world, which is owned by God. Man is placed in the world as a steward of God’s house.”3

Rarely do we find ministers preaching on biblical economics unless it’s to address the topic of the tithe. There are a growing number of Christians who believe the Bible teaches wealth confiscation to eliminate economic inequities.

The starting-point of Christian economics is not what “works,” — pragmatism — but the commands and prohibitions of God’s law. All human action stands under the judgment of God. Lawful activity is blessed by God, in this life and the next; unlawful activity is cursed by God, in this life and the next. Unbiblical economics does not work because it is morally wrong and therefore is cursed. Biblical economics acknowledges scarcity (Genesis 3:15-17), the dominion covenant (Genesis 1:28), and personal responsibility (Philippians 2:12).4

Humans are never prescient or omniscient. They can’t see in the future and they don’t know everything. For someone to claim that a never-before-tried program will work is the height of arrogance and borders on blasphemy.

The Bible specifically outlines spheres of jurisdiction for the family, church, and State. Limited and delegated power and authority are granted to each sphere. For example, the State is given specific power and authority to operate within its jurisdictional boundaries that are not given to the family or to the church (e.g., collect taxes, punish criminals, maintain just weights and measures, etc.). When the State enlarges its jurisdictional boundaries without any regard to limits, it gradually assumes what God alone possesses: unlimited power and authority. The State is a provider of justice, not a dispenser of sustenance. To make the State our provider, our parent, is to deny God (Deut. 8; 1 Sam. 8; Dan. 4).

The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business.”5

But our nation has rejected God’s way of provision. Many Americans (Christians included) are turning to the State for sustenance. The people no longer cry out, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” but rather, “The State is my shepherd, I want more, and tax those rich bastards while you’re at it!” The mindset that Uncle Sam will pay for it is a trap and the acknowledgment of a new religion. There is little incentive to save or make sound economic decisions (e.g., sub-prime mortgages) if you know the State is always there to bail you out. If we are constantly turning to the State for assistance (and as a nation we usually are), then be assured that the State has become our god.

  1. Quoted in Ron Blue, Master Your Money: A Step-By-Step Plan for Financial Freedom (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 19. []
  2. Tom Rose, Economics: Principles and Policy from a Christian Perspective (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1977), 19–20. []
  3. Linda Rowley, “Tapetalk: The Christian and Economics from the series, Christian World View by R.C. Sproul,” Tabletalk (February 1985), 10. []
  4. David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), 260. []
  5. Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 183–184. []
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