Economics 101 & Theology 101

More Than Money – Economics As Stewardship

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Why is it important to focus on faith, work, AND economics?

Because understanding economics – beyond the financial sense of the word – helps you apply your creativity, purpose, and freedom to the best of your abilities. It will help you better steward the gifts and resources God has given you.

Yesterday, Hugh Whelchel talked about embracing a larger view of stewardship. This view goes beyond tithing. It goes further than thinking about volunteering your time for church and charitable activities.

All of these things are required of us as Christians. We do them because of our love for Jesus.

But stewardship doesn’t stop there.

We are called to view all decisions in our lives with the same thoughtfulness and diligence we put into our explicitly spiritual activities. At IFWE we believe that all activities are explicitly spiritual – every decision can have an impact for Christ.

Economics is  fundamentally about human choice. The famous economist Ludwig von Mises points out in his seminal work, Human Action, that economics is the science of human action, or the science of choice. All of our choices involve costs. We forgo something else with every choice we make.

In economics we call these choices trade-offs. God has given us abundant natural and human resources. These resources are scarce and limited – that is part of the human condition.

Scarcity means we must be diligent in our choices of how to use our resources. We must not squander them. Rather, it is our responsibility to figure out how to best use our limited resources, including our time, for the common good.

In other words, our limited resources have multiple and competing ends. God’s call to stewardship of these limited resources includes:

  • Thinking like an economist.
  • Using means-ends analysis to determine what to do with your time.
  • Wisely determining what to do with your money.
  • Making wise choices as to how you will develop and use your talents.

I’ve had to wrestle with living out Godly stewardship in my own life. One area in which I’m applying this call is my involvement with the hospitality team at my church. I find it fulfilling, though it involves a lot of work.

My church is relatively new and small, and we meet in the gym of an elementary school. Each week our team makes sure coffee and treats are set up, as well as setting out flowers and welcome packets at the entrance. The team also does events in the community, which can be very time-intensive.

One meeting we had a conversation about a Mother’s Day event we were holding in a neighborhood park. At one point we were all getting really excited about the planning, and we had many people assigned to take care of a few of the details.

A team member made a comment that our current planning system was not efficient. We had over-committed our human capital to some of the details. The rest of us agreed. We used our creativity in re-shuffling our manpower to get the most accomplished.

This is an example of how, even in our charitable activities, we need to be purposeful in our actions. Our time is one of our most limited resources, so using it is not only important, it’s what Scripture commands.

Proverbs 21:5 says,

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Economics, along with prayer, can help us assess how to be diligent. It’s not always obvious.

For example, our hospitality team could have gone with our original plan, using up team members’ time in an unproductive way. We might have felt good about being involved in the event, but if we weren’t using our time in the most productive way, we would have wasted time and resources that could have been committed to something else.

It is important to weigh the costs and benefits before we make decisions – even over things that may seem trivial. For God’s people who are building His kingdom, nothing is trivial.

I find that exciting, but it brings great responsibility. A Biblical understanding of economics can help us shoulder that responsibility.

In the coming weeks we’ll begin to address economic issues from a Biblical point of view, within the context of faith and work.

How can economics help you be a better steward of your creativity, purpose, and freedom? Leave your comments here.

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