Economics 101

What’s Love Got to Do with Economics?

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Tina Turner coined the phrase “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” in her 1984 song. This question is particularly relevant to Christians and why they should care about economics.

Time after time, the scriptures remind us that God is love. Jesus tells us in John 15: 9-17:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love…My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

“Love” appears nine times in these verses. Jesus tells us what it means to love. He tells us how transformative that love is, both in our relationship with God and with others. We are called to love one another, just as Christ has loved us. This is a tall order. After all, Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice in the love relationship that he has with us.

Love in Economics Starts with Faith and Work

You may be thinking, “Okay, I’ve got it, I’m with you, but what does this have to do with economics?!” Love has everything to do with why we as Christians should seek to understand economics.

Love requires sacrifice. Love leads us to serve others—those we know and those we don’t know. Love calls us to give.

How do we accomplish what love requires? How do we serve others?  How do we give sacrificially? How do we transform the world for the coming kingdom of Christ? We start by reintegrating our faith and our vocation.

I’m sure you were asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you have children, you have likely posed the same question to them. When my son was two years old, he liked to play with trucks. Even though he couldn’t really understand the question, it wouldn’t have surprised me to hear him say: “A truck-driver!” or “a fireman!” Whether a child is two or five, there is a certain whimsy in their answers.

Embracing economic thinking helps us think differently about our work. Our vocation provides us a powerful avenue for us to love others as Christ commanded. We use our time and talent on behalf of others. Thinking economically about our work keeps us from pursuing a vocation in the same whimsical way a five-year-old does.

God cares about what you do because he created you with a unique set of gifts. He expects you to use those gifts intentionally, to serve others. How do you do that? That’s where markets come in.

Economics Helps Direct Our Work toward Loving Outcomes

When thinking about how people use their gifts and talents to serve others, it’s helpful to understand:

  • How markets function
  • How markets bring people together to be productive
  • How we can use markets to prudently steward our scarce and limited resources

When we specialize in work that God has created us to do, we are free from the shackles of trying to do everything ourselves.

God may be calling you to be an electrical engineer because he has gifted you with those skills. What a blessing, both for me and for you! Here’s why:

  • You will be productive in electrical engineering at a far lower cost than I could ever do it
  • I can purchase your services, instead of having to try and master electrical engineering on my own. This frees me to focus on my vocation as an economist. Likewise, my specialization means you are free to focus on electrical engineering.

In economics, this is called comparative advantage. We each specialize in producing the things that we can produce at a lower cost, relative to others. Then, we trade with each other.

This is one of the best ways we can serve our neighbors. Pursuing our calling with integrity and purpose allows us to unleash our God-given creativity. We are fulfilled in our work, but we are also serving others, generously contributing our skills, creativity, and time for their benefit.

John 15:16 says,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit.

Work is not the only way we “might go and bear fruit,” but it’s certainly one of the ways in which we can love others.

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. Today’s post was previously published on Sept. 25, 2012.

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