In our slow march to the midterm elections, we began with a recognition of certain biblical and traditional principles that govern our interaction with the world around us. But this sort of conservatism is more than a contemporary political philosophy, with roots that run much deeper and spread broader than our current place in time and space. Instead, it is a fundamentally ethical view of man shared by Lewis, Austen and Aristotle, and deplored by Nietzsche. We turn now, then, to the world of economics, beginning once again with the centrality of the Word and the primacy of the teachings of Christ.
While we often envision ourselves living in an unimaginably vast and incredible universe, we can’t help but recognize the finiteness of our own existence. As our desire for satisfaction and pleasure presses on, we find ourselves at every turn limited by time, space and a sundry of other seeming “inconveniences” in our material world. It seems that no matter what is done, each of these resources remains limited and in fact, scarce. While the language of economics enables us to discuss how this “world of scarcity” (Welch & Welch 2) operates, only our Creator can explain why it operates in this way, why we desire the timeless and infinite and how we reconcile what is with what should be.
Recognizing this point, many economists over the years have attempted to produce a uniquely Christian economic outlook by overlaying the teachings of Christ with whatever economic theory is respectable at the time. Christian economics, however, is not merely a discussion of the alleged morality of socialism or the superior reality of capitalism, it is a study that is itself rooted in another morality and another reality that is wholly different from anything that man could have invented for himself.
First, then, Christians base their economics on the fact that God is the Creator and Owner of all things. Property is one of the most important subjects within the field of economics. A person’s view toward property often serves as the cornerstone of their entire economic outlook. Two quite different views of property exist among economists. The first, viewed as sacrosanct by capitalists, is the theory of private property, in which businesses and other nongovernmental organizations maintain “the right to own resources, goods, and services [the so-called factors of production], and to use them as they choose” (Welch & Welch 38). Socialism on the other hand maintains that “the factors of production are collectively owned” by “governments and [other] groups of citizens” in order to “equalize the distribution of income” (Welch & Welch 45).
Faith demands, however, that Christians view the world as having been “created by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible” (Heb 11:3 ESV). God’s creation forever declares his perpetual supremacy over the material world. Speaking to this very point the Psalmist records that, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof, the world, and those who dwell therein” (Psa 24:1). For this reason, no man or men are in the position to do “as they choose” with what they have been given from above; instead it is God’s providence that works as the “invisible hand” (to borrow a term from Adam Smith) that regulates all things to the end which he intends. After all, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Pro 16:9).
Secondly, Christian economics views labor as a matter of stewardship. While capitalists and socialists are often either strict individualists or collectivists, respectively, Christians should recognize that it is individuals, various groups and God working together that fully accomplishes his will. From the very beginning man has been granted a trust for which he alone was responsible (Gen 2:15). Though this trust has adapted over time, we continue to serve one another individually as “good stewards of God’s varied grace” with “the strength that God supplies” (1Pe 4:7-11). This responsibility is carried over to the church as well, in which an overseer is called “God’s steward” (Tit 1:7) and minsters speak as “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1Co 4:1-2). The biblical home is regarded as a place of industry, honor and charity (Pro 31).
Government, too, is charged with maintaining an economic system that praises “good conduct” and strikes fear in those who do evil (the true biblical meaning of justice), a principle that should be considered when developing a tax system (Rom 13:1-7). The same is true in business. Owners and managers should treat their employees “justly and fairly,” knowing that they too are in the employment of Another (Col 4:1; see too Eph 6:9). And customers should expect and enjoy a fair deal in market, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight” (Pro 11:1; see 16:11; 20:10, 23).