Economics 101

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Economics & Serving Others

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Tina Turner coined the phrase “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” in 1984 when the song was originally released. The question is particularly relevant for why Christians 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 Christ 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.

Starting with Faith & 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 re-integrating 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 to them the same question. My son likes to play with trucks. He is only two so he can’t really understand the question right now, but it wouldn’t surprise 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 plays a powerful role in loving others. We use our time and our talent on the behalf of others. Thinking economically about our work keeps us from pursuing our 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, in the service of others. How can you use your gifts to serve others? That’s were markets come in.

Economics Helps Direct Our Work

When thinking about how people use their gifts and talents 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 things 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 others.

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.

Living out a life where faith and work are integrated involves sacrifice. Such sacrifices enables us to give to others our skills, our creativity, and our time.

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 areas where we can love others.

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