Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

Working Toward Flourishing Through Stewardship

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The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.

– Psalm 92:12-13

Do you care about raising life expectancy, lowering infant mortality rates, lowering levels of poverty and corruption, protecting civil liberties, and ensuring a safe, clean environment? Even if you don’t think about these things specifically every moment of your day, you probably care about making the world a better place.

Christians are called by God to work toward Christ’s restoration of this fallen world. This involves striving towards flourishing for ourselves and others.

What does flourishing look like? How do we know that we are approaching greater levels of flourishing here on our earthly journey? How do we know we are truly making the world a better place?

Defining Flourishing

In the Old Testament, the concept of flourishing is best described by the Jewish word shalom. Biblical scholars note that shalom signifies a number of things, including salvation, wholeness, integrity, soundness, community, righteousness, justice, and well-being. Shalom denotes a right relationship with God, with others, and with God’s good creation. It is the way God intended things to be when he created the universe.

Most English Bibles translate shalom as “peace,” but it means much more than just an absence of conflict. The idea of flourishing as shalom in the widest sense of the word is a significant theme in the Old Testament:

  • When the Lord brings shalom, there is prosperity (Psalm 72:1-7).
  • When the shalom of the Lord is present, there are good relationships between the nations and peoples. God’s shalom has a social as well as a personal dimension (I Chronicles 12:17-18).

Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. It is the way things ought to be. The Bible reveals that full shalom awaits God’s people when Christ returns to consummate his kingdom (Isaiah 9:11). In the meantime, Christians are called to work toward shalom while they await the return of Christ. This working toward shalom can be described as flourishing.

People flourish when their lives have meaning and purpose. They flourish when they routinely experience optimism, hope, and gratitude. They flourish when they make a positive impact on others through their work.

This meaning of flourishing stems from the awareness that the lives of individuals are part of the larger story told in the Bible. Finding their place in this narrative helps them to realize that they are connected to creation and humanity in fundamental ways that allow them to truly understand their purpose and calling. When we honor God, serve the common good, and further the kingdom of God through our work, we enable flourishing. God wants his people to flourish in this present age, so that they might offer those around us a picture of the way things could be.

Freedom and Flourishing

This notion of flourishing is one that Christians have a strong heritage of upholding, especially regarding the promotion of human freedom. God calls Christians to continue this work and promote the flourishing of all people through the protection of their freedom (Ecclesiastes 5:19, Acts 20:35). To do this, Christians must examine and understand the specific economic constraints that either foster or impede this flourishing.

This brings us back to the questions raised earlier: what does flourishing look like, and how do we know that we are approaching greater levels of flourishing?

One way to answer these questions is look at the world around us and understand how we are doing as stewards. Part of this is fulfilling our call in the cultural mandate to be good stewards of earth. Being a good steward goes beyond maintaining God’s good creation.

Stewardship means making the best use out of the scarce resources with which God has entrusted us. These include material resources and our talents, energy, gifts, and skills. Societies that foster good stewardship are ones that have higher degrees of flourishing among their people.

Using economics, Christians can gain a better understanding of the factors that allow them to be better stewards. They can do this in an objective manner using data on the characteristics associated with flourishing – characteristics like those listed at the beginning of this post: life expectancy, infant mortality, levels of poverty and corruption, civil liberties, and environmental performance.

These characteristics serve as benchmarks of current levels of flourishing, how societies compare with each other, and what people can do to help those who are suffering.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring these characteristics in depth. In addition, we’ll look at how freedom strongly influences these characteristics. These elements are just a sampling, but they represent some important aspects of flourishing today.

This series is adapted from IFWE’s white paper, “Economic Freedom and the Path to Flourishing.” Read the paper in full

Joseph Conners, Ph.D. co-wrote “Economic Freedom and the Path to Flourishing.” He is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Wake Forest University. 

How do you think we know we are flourishing? What is true flourishing? Leave your comments here.

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  • Kevin Thomson

    Tell me how I can encourage my people to flourish in Zimbabwe under a devastating economy, where jobs are being lost daily and the nation is virtually grinding to a halt with unemployment as 90% plus??
    Rev Kev

  • Moffat Thomas

    Rev Kevin,

    As a fellow Zimbabwean I also am burdened for nation. I have been encouraged and strengthened by the word of God in Jeremiah 26:

    “10 For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I
    will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to
    this place.

    11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.

    12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.

    13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

    14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.”

    God has a bigger plan and purpose for the nation and the people of Zimbabwe. Political, worldly wisdom and people will disappoint but God will come through for us. He is faithful and will not let us down. As we plug into His kingdom ways, operating in His love we will overcome the economic challenges we are going through. Zimbabweans are industrious – we need to be more entrepreneurial and do business God’s way. God has not run out of ideas on how our economy can be fixed. We ask Him in the name of Jesus Christ to reveal wisdom, divine strategies that will bring healing on our economy, for righteous people to tap into heaven’s wealth and be the answer to our high unemployment.

    God is looking for willing and able men and women He can download business visions, people He can trust with wealth. We are inspired by Strive Masiyiwa and the Testimony of Econet – what God can do with a man willing to pay the price.

    Priority number one would to encourage us to grow food for ourselves. With the onset of our rain season – whether in town, rural areas let us commit our seed, inputs, preparations to God for a bountiful harvest. Till and farm whatever piece of land one can get and expect a good harvest. We that God for a good rain season.
    Let us diversify more – tobacco is not the only crop we can grow for a good return.

    Rev Ken let us support, acknowledge, encourage, nurture and network the marketplace gifts we have in our churches. People can batter goods and services (even those without money can trade – they have some skill or good someone else wants and start doing business among each other). Let us encourage business to circulate amongst each other. The youth can come together around one business idea, be groomed in preparation of the business plan and apply for SME funding. I have been knocking on doors for funding for a business start-up and will not give up until it is established in Zimbabwe. People can start small saving clubs at church, accountability and transparency being of high importance. The saved money can be committed into projects that are income generating. Vegetable growing, poultry, buying and selling agricultural produce can generate income.

    Hosea 4:6 reads “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;…” and another version reads “Where there is no vision the people perish…..”

    As long as we are looking for jobs we will continue to grumble and moan. God’s resources are not limited. Zimbabwe is waiting for prepared people, abundance is waiting to be released to those who are prepared for it, able to handle it and know the purpose of wealth – to bless our families and be a blessing to others.

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