Christian Economics 101

Economics often gets overlooked by Christians.

From one perspective, this makes sense. Economics is not the gospel. Understanding biblical economics won’t save our souls.

On the other hand, economics is at the very heart of the Christian life. God commanded Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion …” Even before the Fall, God had provided economic means built around private property to enable mankind to carry out the cultural mandate. Resources were scarce (meaning work was required to obtain them) and man’s knowledge was limited (even perfect man was not omniscient), so production utilizing natural resources through the division of labor and voluntary trade through markets with prices would have been required to increase the capital stock needed to feed, clothe, and house mankind.

After the Fall, production and trade through markets had the added benefit of allowing man to provide for himself without killing his neighbors and taking their property. Unfortunately, some in our fallen world have decided they benefit more from stealing and killing than from working and trading, so we still have to deal with violence.

Scripture provides a robust account of how God designed humans to own property and trade with each other. And how government was to rule over people. Unfortunately, too many Christians ignore or misread Scripture on economics and civil governance, i.e., government regulation of markets. The social gospel is the worst of this misreading of Scripture. But unfortunately even those who would deny the social gospel too often fall in line with its replacement of charity with compassion through government intervention.

The good news is that the Scripture’s teachings on these issues are clear for those ready to learn. One way to organize economic teaching in the Bible is through seven words explained by seven verses:

Work: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion …” Genesis 1:28

Image: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:26

Freedom: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” – Galatians 5:1

Property: “You shall not steal.” – Exodus 20:15

Labor: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9

Capital: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

Abundance: “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands.” – Psalm 128:1

From time to time I’ll provide some details about the economics concepts organized under each of these words.