Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary, it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good. There is no self-confidence with this.
– Reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)
We’re in the midst of a series exploring the ties between markets and morality. Answering these questions from a Christian perspective requires returning to the Bible, taking its economic principles that we know by definition are moral, and comparing them to the underlying principles of free enterprise.
We do not believe that the Bible explicitly endorses capitalism or any other economic system. Yet the Bible has much to say about economic principles, and as Christians, we should embrace its wisdom as we make economic choices in our everyday lives.
In our search for economic principles in the Bible, we need to begin with the story of creation found in the first two chapters of Genesis. Here we see God’s normative intentions for life. We see life as “the way it ought to be.” Man is free from sin, living out his high calling as God’s vice-regent.
There are three major economic principles laid out in creation:
Creativity and Freedom
Genesis 1:26 tells us humanity is made in God’s image. God’s creativity is one of his central attributes revealed in the creation story. Being created in God’s image means that men and women are free to imaginatively use their unique talents, abilities, and the raw materials of creation to make things that glorify God, serve our needs, and provide for the needs of our neighbors.
Stewardship and Ownership
As God’s stewards, we do not own anything outright – everything belongs to God. Yet as his image-bearers, we possess subordinate ownership. These property rights are subject to the requirements of stewardship.
God gives us real responsibilities and real decision-making capabilities. We are therefore accountable to God for how we use everything entrusted to our care.
It is also important to recognize that it is not society that has “ownership” of goods, but rather individuals.
Genesis 2:15 reads,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Man was created to work. Work is a pre-fall ordinance, a part of God’s good creation. It was intended to be the gracious expression of creative energy in the service of others. From a biblical perspective, work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do.
The late John Stott described work as,
The expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God.
Creation and Economics
Economic decisions are a response to God’s call to stewardship. They should be made in the light of the moral principles lad out in Scripture. The free market, more than any other system today, not only embraces these three biblical principles, but requires them if the system is to work at all. A free market encourages men and women to create to their fullest potential, giving them the opportunity to glorify God in the process.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested in a previous article that,
Christians should look at the economy as a test of their values.
The character traits that are valued in the Bible – honest labor, creativity, investment, and thrift – are those valued and rewarded under a free market system. The Bible approves of wealth gained through industriousness and self-control, traits that are important for success under free enterprise.
While creation explains the way things ought to be, the fall explains the way things are now. We will examine the economic implications of that chapter of the Four-Chapter Gospel in an upcoming post.
What do you think are the economic implications of creation?