At Work & Economics 101 & Theology 101

Two Lessons From Taking Faith & Work On the Road

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“Approaching Lake City” – Courtesy of Fotopedia

Ed. Note: Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Also, in yesterday’s post, the story of David and his mighty men was presented as taking place “during battle.” 2 Samuel indicates that the specific conversation referenced between David and his men took place while they were in hiding. We regret the error. 

Over the past few weeks I have been traveling to universities to give talks on the importance of understanding economics. I’ve been sharing how economics is applicable and relevant to our lives, our work, and our stewardship.

There are two lessons in particular that resonate with my audiences.

1. We are created uniquely, each with our own unique comparative advantage. 

Economics is a big, nuanced topic, and giving a complex lecture in forty-five minutes is difficult if your goal is to get people to understand all the implications of economics.

To make the topic more approachable, I start the lecture by talking about how we are created. I open with two pictures: one of a snowstorm, and the other of snowflakes under a microscope. The word “uniqueness” appears under these two pictures.

The pictures of the snowstorm and the snowflakes drive home the point that although from afar all snowflakes look alike, up close each one is different. That is how God has created us.

We bear many similar characteristics. From afar we all look alike, so it might make sense to think that we should all make the same income or have the same job. But this can’t be true, because just like the snowflakes, we are distinct. Each of us has a unique contribution to make.

This uniqueness comes from God’s special care in the creation of each and every one of us. Uniqueness parlays itself into an important economic concept: comparative advantage.

There are things that are less costly for us to produce or carry out than they would be for others. The reason for this is because we have different skills, talents and callings.

If we were totally self-reliant, we would waste precious time and energy trying desperately to make things that we really aren’t capable of creating. I can’t imagine if I had to build or maintain my own car. There is just no way that I could do that; I don’t have the skills.

Thanks to the grace of God, he has created us differently and given us the market, a space where we each bring our skills and talents together so that we can trade with each other. This gives us more opportunities to meet our basic needs and to care for the needs of others.

2. Our work has a purpose, and economics helps us pursue that purpose to the best of our abilities.

While comparative advantage implies that we are unequally and distinctively created, it has no bearing on God’s love for us.  Romans 5:8 tells us:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loves us indiscriminately. His love cannot be measured by how much money we make or what position we hold.

Because of God’s love, there is honor and dignity in our work. When I say this to the crowd, I get a lot of head-nodding.

Each of us wants to believe in our heart that we are created for a purpose and have a special role to fill. This applies whether you are volunteering at church, working as an airline attendant, or inventing the next big tech gadget.

Without integrating our faith and work, our work loses meaning and that is where so many of us have found ourselves in life at one point or another. Why do I hate my job? This can’t be all there is…

Once we break the silos between our faith and work and we fuse them back together, the importance of our vocation comes to life.

When this happens to you, you may very well realize you need to change jobs or industries, or you may realize that you are in the correct role and you need to rededicate your work to Christ.

Either way, you will find a fulfillment that makes work and your special role in this world come alive and have deep meaning for your heart.

Understanding economics helps us be the best stewards possible of our limited resources – including our time and talents. If God has called you to be a janitor, you can take pride in that role, stewarding those skills to the best of your abilities. This brings glory and honor to our Father.

My travels have encouraged me. I have met great people who are hungry for meaning and looking for a way to understand their purpose. I struggled for so long until I found mine. I pray that God is working in your hearts, too.

What do you think? What lessons are you learning about your own comparative advantage and how it relates to your faith and work? Leave your comments here

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