At Work & Economics 101

Gifts, Talents, & the Path to Flourishing

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It is astonishing that we enjoy any of the luxuries we take for granted every day. God, in his perfect plan, created us each with unique gifts to contribute to the world.

However, to make those contributions, we need others. Since our knowledge is limited, we must focus on our gifts and trade with others. The environment which this can best take place in is the free markets.

In the last article of this blog series, we explored the role of free markets and how they generate hope and flourishing in the world today. In this final article, we will learn how our individual gifts and talents contribute to the free market process and the significance this has on the world.

Market Cooperation & Our God-Given Creativity

Markets harness this limited and dispersed knowledge for the betterment of all mankind. The Western world has accumulated wealth because it has embraced institutions that foster market cooperation and harness human ingenuity. Conversely, the developed world suffers when people cannot use their gifts to serve others.

We bring our inherent dignity to our work in the world. We are called to embrace different vocations. The beauty of our interdependency is that the neurosurgeon needs the hospital janitor just as much as the hospital janitor needs the neurosurgeon. Neither could flourish without the other, nor without countless other jobs that make both of their professions possible.

Using this knowledge about the power of markets which harness our God-given creativity, we can turn from pessimism and fear to hope.

Market Perspective & Future Flourishing

The Enron scandal aroused our culture of fear when it broke at the end of 2001. Journalists, pundits, and academics decried the greed of corporate America and effectively used it to engage in knee-jerk policies intended to shield us from future corporate villains.

Millions were asking how Enron happened and how the disaster could have been prevented. Let’s turn this question on its head, and ask instead: Why doesn’t Enron happen all the time and everywhere? What is it about our institutional setting that makes Enron the exception and not the rule?

Hayek understood this best when he said in a presidential address, “Before we can even ask how things might go wrong, we must first explain how they could ever go right.”

If no single person controls society or possesses the required knowledge to facilitate economic activity, how do we produce anything valuable? How is it possible that I not only have a sophisticated computer-powered car to get me safely to and from work, but that I had dozens of choices in my price range? Shouldn’t we just be struggling to survive in an anarchistic jungle?

Markets have brought about a level of flourishing unknown throughout most of human history. Our participation in the market process allows for further flourishing. Christians must understand our gifts and comparative advantages—those things we can produce at lower cost relative to others—and pursue them in the marketplace with integrity.


Life in our fallen world is difficult. Even amidst affluence, it is far from ideal. Many live under daily oppression and struggle to find the basic food, shelter, and water they need to survive. Many live under constant political oppression and corruption.

However, the Christian message offers hope as we continue to work towards global flourishing. We must be positive in our minds and spirits as we share our hope through our work and our service to others. Markets provide the setting in which we can use our work and skills to serve others and bring about higher levels of flourishing.

In stark contrast to most of human history, our society is thriving and that is no accident. We live in an era that promises greater levels of flourishing for all income levels. Christians who use their skills through their work and through trading with others can serve the common good and offer the world hope.

Markets facilitate our ability to counter today’s culture of fear and pessimism, allowing us to bring the promise of flourishing to a dark world.

Editor’s Note: This series is adapted from the IFWE research paper, “The Market Process and the Path to Flourishing,” by Dr. Anne Bradley. Read the full paper here.

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