Economics 101

‘Be Fruitful & Multiply’: A Powerful Case for How Economics Complements God’s Design

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Every day we make hundreds of decisions, from what to eat for breakfast to whom we should marry. Big and small, monumental and minute, all of our choices matter to God. These everyday decisions are all part of how we steward our time, talents, and resources to the glory of God.

The question is, how do we make God-pleasing decisions? Anne Bradley, IFWE’s vice president of economic initiatives and a Christian economist, answers this question in IFWE’s latest booklet, Be Fruitful and Multiply: Why Economics Is Necessary for Making God-Pleasing Decisions. In it she makes a powerful case for how economics complements the way God designed us. Today she talks a little bit more about that and other important aspects of Be Fruitful.

For a booklet about economics, actual economics doesn’t show up until later in the book. Chapter 5 at least.

AB: I worked hard to not overlay my economics onto Scripture. I think there’s a natural human tendency to say, “I feel this way about the world or that way, so I’m going to impose that on Scripture.” This book was about looking at Scripture from the beginning. The first chapter goes right to Genesis and asks, “What does it say for how we should live, and what principles in Genesis inform our call, our command to be good stewards?” “What are the principles that help us to maximize stewardship?” That’s a good working definition of economics for the everyday person. It’s not technical, GDP, trade deficits – those are part of economics, but we are all economists and we don’t even know it, because we try to maximize our benefits and minimize our costs.

You’ve been hitting on this in a lot of your writing and speaking lately, this idea of making God-pleasing decisions on an individual level everyday.

AB: For Christians to sit down and say, “I need to understand the economic way of thinking,” we have to be compelled to believe that economics is important for our call in Christ. That’s why I try to relate economics right back down to us and how we wake up and say, “How is God going to use me today? How do I think about that? What are the choices I make that are good choices?” That’s part of the framework of the book, the theme that runs through it. How do I make God-pleasing decisions? If I can do that well, then I am, by definition, employing the economic way of thinking.

One of the thinkers you cite in the book to help Christians understand the economic way of thinking is Ludwig von Mises. Most people who read this have probably never heard of von Mises, and, if they have, they’ll know he wasn’t a Christian. Why should Christians care about what von Mises had to say?

AB: In other words, how can a non-believer have insight into the way the world really works in a way that touches on biblical truth? Mises is part of what we call the Austrian School of economists. He wrote Human Action, a really big treatise on what he believed economics was.

It’s a real door-stopper. 

AB: It’s a really big book. I wouldn’t say you have to read the whole thing tomorrow. But his insights were really powerful. He observed the way humans behaved. He saw that there were a couple things that were needed to drive humans to act. One is that they need to feel uneasy with their current situation. They see there can be a better state, so they need to be looking into the future. And they need to see a way to get to that better situation. He understood that humans were purposeful, but fallible. So for him, it was “how do you think about that in the bigger picture of constructing a society that lets people seek their ends and try to maximize their own benefits?”

In thinking about that bigger societal picture, how do we take what you’ve presented here about economics and decision-making on a personal level and apply that to society? What steps do you take from being an everyday economist to thinking about those things in a larger social context?

AB: First, understanding who we are in Christ. It doesn’t sound like economics, but it really is, because if we understand the four-chapter gospel and where we started and where we’re headed and what we were created to do…that’s step one, knowing your place in God’s plan.

The economic realities, which are really biblical realities, are that we’re all created uniquely and differently. We like different things. We have different skills. We have different talents. When you really start to think about that and the implications of it, we need each other. That is one of the core lessons of economic thinking. I can’t do everything I need to survive. I need to be able to rely on other people. That’s how you go from, “I have very limited gifts. There’s a lot of things I don’t do well, there’s very a few things that I do,” to “My job as a Christ-follower is to improve my skills, to do my best with what I’ve been given. That’s my ministry.” We all have a ministry.

What we need on a societal level is think about what kind of institutions, government, and economic systems we need to allow everyone to do that. Figure out who they are, what their gifts are. And then allow them the luxury of being able to trade for things they’re not good at. Market economies really do that well.

We’re really very much connected to this very big economy. We don’t always see it. This book is an effort to try and get people to feel connected to that bigger process.

For a limited time, we’re offering IFWE blog readers a special price of $3.99 on Be Fruitful and Multiply: Why Economics is Necessary for Making God-Pleasing Decisions. That’s more than 30% off the current offer price. Use code: BFAMBLOG (Offer expires 5/31/16). For those who prefer a digital version, a free download is available, also for a limited time.

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