Paul Golata, PhD
Today, American society finds itself in a condition similar to Humpty-Dumpty; it is cracked and broken. Upon observation, contemporary American society appears afflicted with a disease of greed, materialism, pride, and viciousness. Society recognizes that it is broken but has no proper understanding of how it got this way. I contend that it is the contents of the Bible, and the person and the work of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, that holds out hope for all of humanity, extending the key to putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again.
The Bible, the written record of God’s revelation to humanity, is the proper source and foundation of morality. Economic theory, politics, law, morality, and technology are all interrelated. These disciplines are united based upon the created order, Providence, and the biblical doctrine of man (anthropology).
In the realm of economics, the satisfaction of human needs is the basis (Eph 4:28). Individuals most directly understand their own true needs and how to satisfy them. Free and responsible individuals should be responsible for making economic decisions. Individuals who fail to fulfill these responsibilities and yield them to the government hamper their ability to satisfy their needs.
Additionally, a Christian view of economics finds a basis in the biblical understanding of work that results from the creation order. A biblical understanding of work requires that one does not confuse it with toil—labor that exhausts the body and mind (Gen 2:15; 3:17; Eccl 1:2–3, 14). Not only does the Bible use different Hebrew terms for “work” and “toil,” but the respective contexts indicate that labor apart from God’s plan is meaningless suffering (Gen 3:17; Eccl 1:2–3; 14), while productive activity in relation to his creation order is a satisfying gift (Gen 2:15; Eccl 3:9–14). Theologian Carl F. H. Henry (1913–2003) claims that the dignity of human work finds support in the divine work in creation, the example of Jesus Christ, and early Christians called to the social task (Henry, “The Dignity of Work,” in Vital Speeches of the Day, 1954). Before the Fall, purposeful work is gifted to man by God (Gen 2:15). After the Fall suffering and strain become a reality (Gen 3:17). Meaningful work is part of the creation order that God assigned for people to reflect God and bring Him glory (Gen 1:26–28; 1 Cor 10:31).
Finally, biblically consistent economics recognizes not only the value of work but also its purpose. Work is not done solely based upon what one expects to receive but is a demonstration of love and service performed toward God, creation, and other people (Eph 4:28). One biblical reason for work is for believers to demonstrate to unbelievers God’s intention for people to glorify God through the fruits of their efforts (Eccl 3:9–14; 1 Cor 10:31; 1 Thess 4:11–12). For believers, work is an opportunity to serve the Lord and make an impact throughout the kingdom of God. Unbelievers are not able to experience this aspect of work. As a spiritual being, humanity is to lift up holy hands in service and prayer (1 Tim 2:8) and perform all work as unto the Lord (Col 3:23).
In his Politics, Aristotle held that “by nature, indeed, man is a political animal,” where political gets interpreted by some as “social” (Aristotle, Politics 1278b.19). In this case, Aristotle was correct because in the Genesis account God did create people with a social purpose. In Genesis 2:18–25, the fact that God created the woman for companionship and established marriage because he saw that “it was not good for the man to be alone” demonstrates a social purpose. God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. Marriage is intended to be a lifelong covenantal relationship for the establishment and raising of solid and godly families. Within marriage, the man and woman perform unique and necessary complementary roles (Gen 1:27–28; 2:18; Eph 5:22–33).
With regard to the law, humanity is to work for the good of society (Jer 29:7). Dr. Greg Foster, Program Director at the Kern Family Foundation (1973–), suggests that redeemed humanity should work to save the spiritually lost, but simultaneously demonstrate our allegiance to Jesus Christ by making communities peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified (1 Tim 2:1–3) by being salt and light in a dark world. Humanity is to love God first and likewise love all people (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37–40; Luke 10:27). As co-image-bearers everyone has equal value before God in the creation order relative to other created beings (Ps 8:3–6).
The connection between morals, economics, and politics becomes apparent when one understands how biblical anthropology ties these together. As holy image-bearers, people are required to live life with proper attitudes and actions. A life of high character is a logical and natural expression of a well-formed Christian worldview; whereby, individuals, mediating institutions, and government are simultaneously able to achieve common and individual goods and flourish. Mediating institutions include families and churches, which are institutions ordained by special revelation from God. These are places where character and values should be properly taught and caught. In contemporary society, schools and the education system may be considered the government rather than mediating institutions. School and government are presently not focused on teaching a Christian worldview. Failure to teach a Christian worldview is problematic as “theism permits human values, naturalism forbids human values” (Balfour, Theism and Humanism, 2000, p. 53). Christian character has an enormous impact on the social realm of the creation order because it supports both free-market economics and good political action by affirming human dignity.
One recognizes the connection of morals, economics, and politics through the biblical doctrine of the creation order. God does work. One example of his work finds expression through creating people in his image (Gen 1:28), therefore when people work, they express the image of God. Economics may be defined by this expression of God’s image through work.
Humanity is to reflect God. Entrusted as caretakers or stewards of creation, humanity should govern it wisely (Gen 1:26–28; Ps 8; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 4:10). The Apostle Paul states that Christians are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20).
Technology is an aspect of economics, and these areas are related through the creation order. Man’s rational nature enables the development of technology as he goes about being a culture maker within the creation God has made. Technology is the collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements, and procedures used by humans to reach desired ends (Narayanan and O’Connor, Encyclopedia of Technology and Innovation Management; cf. Exod 31:6; 36:1). Humanity expresses the image of God as technology develops because it is a creative act that exhibits the various facets subsumed within the concept of the image of God. Technology and inventions are gifts to future generations. Properly used they contribute to the common good. What gets technically learned, produced, and used in one generation is passed forward; what is not may be left dormant or ignored. When humanity sees a need for something, the potential for a market (need fulfillment) exists. Markets themselves generate the technology; thus, technology enables better science. Entrepreneurs who are willing to accept risk, venture into the market. They gather feedback directly from the market and work to make technological changes that work to help them achieve success.
The individual, society, work, markets, and technology are all connected and work in relationship forming a political economy.
For Christians, the Gospel message is the good news of the individual’s opportunity for reconciliation to Jesus Christ the Redeemer (2 Cor 5:18). As pastors and laypeople, we must endeavor to call all people to accept Jesus Christ. In doing so, we also are calling them to live by God’s scriptural revelation in a way that ensures that political economies promote human well-being and flourishing.
- Greg Forster, “Theology That Works: Making Disciples Who Practice Fruitful Work and Economic Wisdom in Modern America,” (Waukesha, WI: The Oikonomia Network, 2013), accessed September 1, 2018, https://oikonomianetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/