Theology 101

Using Economics to Understand the Biblical Concept of Work

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Hugh Whelchel has written in previous posts about “The Work of Our Hands.” His goal is to articulate what it means to fully live a life for Christ and how it is that we do that. He began the week by laying out three principles related to how we do this in a Biblical Doctrine of Work:

  1. We must rediscover that our primary call is to follow Jesus.
  2. We must understand the mission that we have been called to do in this world.
  3. We must realize that the purpose of our work is to have a positive impact on culture.

As I have been contributing to the discussion, my goal is to help us better understand the principles of economics. That knowledge empowers us to fully integrate our lives in the way God has called us. Economic thinking helps us understand cause and effect and the costs associated with our actions. I have made the claim that being better economists helps us to be better stewards, in the fullest, most life-altering version of Stewardship.

When I reflect on “The Work of Our Hands” series and the three principles Hugh has presented us with, I come to some radical conclusions. God has created us as individuals who make personal choices. Those choices have vast implications for the rest of the world. A few weeks ago we talked about the concept called methodological individualism. It’s the concept that only individuals can choose. Companies don’t choose, governments don’t choose and churches don’t choose: individuals choose. So each choice we make must be executed with purpose and efficiency rather than whimsy. By embracing the mission that Hugh speaks about, we must take seriously our vocational calling.

I am more convinced as a Christian and economist than ever before that embracing your comparative advantage and serving others through your work is not only a call from Christ, but the best way to “re-weave shalom.” It’s the way we love others, serve others, and help others. It’s about how you get up each day and what choices you will make that day. You may not be able to understand how your current role, say, as a computer analyst, is helping build the kingdom of God, but if you are listening and believe you are obeying what He is calling you to do, you are.

In other words, it’s personal. We are responsible each day for changing the culture and executing the mission of Christ. The most influential and powerful opportunity to do this is through your work. Dr. Sunshine recently explained the concepts of moral proximity and subsidiarity. Subsidiarity implies that we are responsible first and foremost on the most local level possible for helping others. How do we do this? We do this through our work.

And you don’t have to be a nurse to have a job that helps others. I get questions like this all the time. Teachers, nurses and firefighters help save lives in a direct way, but what about computer programmers and economics teachers? By focusing on our gifts and being obedient, not only will God use us in ways that we would never anticipate, but by competing with others to provide our services, we lower prices. When we lower prices through competition, we give people access and choices. This is a powerful way to serve others.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have revolutionized the computer industry. So much so that even those in the lowest quintiles of income in the United States have some computer access. Computer access gives you choices, it gives you job opportunities; it gives you the ability to learn and enhance your skills. When the first computers arrived, only the richest could afford them. But by competing to serve customers, the prices have lowered and lives have been transformed. Think of how many people can read scripture online and have access to Biblical teaching tools at no nominal cost all because of entrepreneurial thinking which was focused on serving others.

As Christians, we must take our calling seriously; we must use work to live out our calling for Christ so we can impact the world. We must not first look to even the church to do this, but to ourselves. God has given us great power in the work of our hands to change the world. We just have to do it.

Question: Does discussing the importance of your personal choices help you understand how the work of your vocation helps further the Kingdom of God? 

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Further readings on Theology 101

  • At Work
  • Theology 101
Taking Our Faith to Work

By: Russell Gehrlein

7 minute read

Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein reappeared on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on Tuesday, March…

  • At Work
  • Theology 101

Editor’s note: Hugh Whelchel, IFWE founder and long-time executive director, passed away on Good Friday after a four-year battle with…

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