If we are all made in God’s image, why are we all so different?
God intentionally made human beings diverse because he designed us to work together in relationship.
This way we can achieve more by working together than we can individually.
This core biblical principle is woven into the very fabric of creation.
Economists have observed this diversity; they call it comparative advantage.
Comparative advantage is using the gifts and talents God has given you to do the things you are relativity better at doing in a given situation. The word “comparative” is key.
Comparative advantage is not just another way of talking about a person’s strengths.
Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses is critical for making good decisions about a variety of things, but knowing your comparative advantage in a given situation constitutes more than just knowing what you’re good at doing.
Suppose you and your roommate have a dinner party tonight.
The house needs cleaning and the dinner needs preparing. You are a magnificent chef but your roommate, not so much.
It makes perfect sense for you to cook while your roommate cleans, if your roommate is a whiz at cleaning. It’s easy to see that you each have a comparative advantage in one activity.
What if your roommate is a veritable Martha Stewart, able to cook and clean faster and better than you?
Let’s say you are a terrible cook and just so-so at cleaning the house. You will both be better off if your roommate cooks and you clean.
Even though your roommate is better at everything, you still each have different comparative advantages in this situation.
Everyone always has a comparative advantage, regardless of the situation. It’s not static, either. It changes with the makeup of any given team.
Say the number one quarterback on an NFL team is injured and cannot play. The number two quarterback on the team now has the comparative advantage at that position.
He is not the best quarterback in the league or on the roster, but at that moment he has the comparative advantage over all the other players who are able to play.
Comparative advantage is the glue that holds communities together. As we each do what we are better at doing, we all add to the common good. We fulfill our call to be good stewards in community with one another.
Again, this is what God intended. God desires for us to use our gifts and talents to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom in all we do at our churches, in our families, within our communities, and at our jobs.
Even in the Garden of Eden we see comparative advantage between Adam and Eve.
They are commanded by God to “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28). Neither Adam nor Eve can do this by themselves. God’s design was for them to do it together in what we now call the family.
Will Rogers once quipped,
You couldn’t live a day without depending on everyone.
Will was neither an economist nor a theologian, but he hit the nail squarely on the head.
In a modern world, we could not live a day without depending on millions of strangers for everything we do throughout our waking hours.
When we realize this, we realize just how true it is that biblical flourishing only occurs in the context of community.
Why is community so important to comparative advantage?
It is through Christ’s redemption that we are restored to a right relationship with God. That in turn allows Christians to seek the fullness and wholeness of living in community.
As a result, we are able to bring a level of flourishing to our families and our communities, reflecting the glory of God to a world that is in desperate need of finding something greater than itself.