It’s the day after Election Day and pundits are striving to figure out what really mattered to voters this year. From Day 1 at IFWE, we have been focused on educating Christians about what the Bible says about God’s calling for us to work and love our neighbors. To that end, we seek to make the case for what is called “economic freedom,” which is a measure of the ability of people from any race, gender, or faith to trade and use their gifts and skills to serve others. It is the best-known path to unleash the creativity of each individual and to bring about flourishing in nations around the world.
In a previous blog, I began to explain why Christians should support economic freedom because of our call to work and to serve the poor. Today, I will offer two more reasons:
Reason #3: We Are Called to Flourish
The book of Genesis is full of language indicating abundance. For instance, Genesis 1:20 tells us that the water was “teeming” with living creatures. When God was finished with creation, Genesis 2:1 describes it as a “vast” array.
God does not desire that we live in conditions of despair, scarcity, poverty or minimalistic conditions, although some may be called to a life of few material goods, like Mother Theresa. Just as all riches and abundance come from God, so does the power to enjoy them (Ecc. 5:19).
The Psalms and Proverbs are filled with references for God’s abundant desires for us. While this does not mean that God calls all of us to be rich, he desires for us to delight in the abundance of his creation and the work of our hands.
This does not mean that we never experience scarcity or poverty, but the metanarrative of scripture clearly states that God did not create poverty as the ideal, nor will we be delivered into those conditions in the coming kingdom. The Bible relates that full shalom awaits God’s people at the end of this age, in the last chapter of redemptive history when Christ returns to consummate his kingdom.
While Christians await the return of Christ, they are called to work toward shalom. The effects of striving for shalom can be described as flourishing. Clearly, God not only desires that his followers enjoy his creation and the fruits of our labor; he, in fact, has commanded them to do that.
The Garden of Eden was perfect but unfinished. God gave us raw materials, and we use them to bring his work to completion. It is incumbent upon the redeemed to help bring about the most flourishing here and now as possible. Redemption reflects the way things could be and will be upon Jesus’ return. Christians must radiate that hope, giving others a picture of the way life could be.
No individual can accomplish this alone. Each person must focus on his gifts and trade his skills with others to bring about a level of flourishing otherwise unobtainable. Economic freedom provides each person with the liberty and incentive to capitalize on his individual strengths, bringing about greater flourishing and higher levels of thriving.
Reason #4: Private Property Rights Are Biblical
Property rights are upheld and defended in scripture. Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser notes that because God made men and women in his image, he has granted them dominion over the earth. In this dominion mandate, we are given property rights that help us to steward our scarce resources. The eighth commandment, “You shall not steal,” reinforces man’s dominion, and scripture defends the notion of private property in many other passages (Ex. 20:15, 22:1-15; Deut. 22:1-4, 23:24-25; Prov. 22:28, 23:1,10-11).
The absence of private property rights takes away the incentives and results in a loss of the environment that promotes thriving and human productivity. For example, the massive explosion of wealth in the West since the Industrial Revolution would not have been possible without well-defined property rights upheld by the rule of law.
Economic freedom is dependent on the property rights of individuals, starting with your talents and labor. When you use your property to innovate, you create wealth not just for yourself but for others, too.
The bright spots in the developing world exist where people can access, trade, and transfer their property as they see fit.
The more you learn about economic freedom, the more compelling it is, not only for Christians to support but for anyone who cares about lifting people out of poverty. Understanding the case for economic freedom won’t tell you exactly how to vote in future elections, but it will help you better understand and advocate for the best path to flourishing.
Editor’s note: Why does economic freedom matter? Learn more in For the Least of These: A Biblical Response to Poverty.
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