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Economics: Summary Principles

Worldview areas intertwine. The following are arranged in no particular order except some definitions and basics in the first few sections. At some points, the reader is directed to other Worldview Areas. As you go through the various Areas, there is overlap and dependency of each area to every other area. A review of economics is not possible without particular attention to Social Justice and Civil Government because these three areas involve so many of the same issues. And, virtually every other area influences to one degree or another.

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1. The Bible is a textbook on economics. The Bible, especially with a systematic organization of the subject, is a textbook on economics. As we have seen with psychology, social justice, and civil government, any activity that involves relationships and interactions among people, the Bible is the governing textbook.

That the Bible has not been seen as such a textbook in these areas, perhaps, stems from two reasons. (1) The Bible is not written systematically. If a person takes any subject (especially any of those named here), and goes through the Bible citing every verse and noting the context, the result is amazingly detailed and compressive! Economics may have more applicable verses than any other worldview area. (2) Christians have not been taught the comprehensiveness of the Bible on the many subjects to which it speaks. This second is a derivative of (1), but it also results from some 200 years of pietism in which the Bible has become narrowly focused on personal salvation only with a smattering of personal morality considered.

2. Definition of wealth (prosperity). Wealth, as it will be used in these principles, is defined as having the money (resources) to provide for all of an individual’s or family’s “needs,” and some discretionary money for at least a few “wants.” Any definition of wealth is somewhat arbitrary because wealth is more subjective than objective. What is wealth for one person, may be far short of what another considers to be wealth.

3. The incredible lure (lust) of money. ““No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10). These and many other verses of the Bible indicate that money and what it can buy (things and power) is one of the major temptations to which man is subject. Two things may be commonly overlooked here.

The “love” of money and the “poor.” (1) It is the “love” of money, not money itself that is the problem. Neither a large amount of money, nor the accumulation of “things,” are intrinsically evil, even though they are a great temptation to sin. (2) Many “poor” or those without wealth are as prone as the “rich” to this temptation and sin. It is widely recognized that the “poor” are the primary buyers of lottery tickets and other means of gambling, evidence that they will sacrifice that of which they have little in order to get “rich.” And, they can envy and want material possessions as strongly as any “rich” person, even though they will likely never have the possibility of owing such items.

4. The cycle of prosperity and righteousness. There is a cycle that seems to be almost inevitable. The righteousness of a people brings prosperity (see all that follows here). Then, as soon as prosperity is achieved, degradation of morals (unrighteousness) follows until the sin of a people settles them back into poverty. The challenge of American Christians today is to become such good stewards of their wealth as to disrupt this cycle.

The United States today: good and evil, principalities and powers. The United States is a nation of great and powerful contrasts. It has the greatest resources, and it’s the most “giving” nation on earth. When disasters occur, the United States is there with the most and best equipment and resources. Her people give three percent of their income to “charitable” organizations. She sends more missionaries than any other nation. Yet, she continues to increase the powers of government and is becoming a nation of perverse and heinous immorality which has become “politically correct.” The conflict is great! However, “salt” is a preservative that may be greatly diluted and still be detectable by taste.

5. Scarcity. Scarcity is defined simply as needs and wants exceeding the resources available to meet them at the price that people want them. This term is another one that is relative. Mostly, it is time dependent, as increased production, discovery of more raw materials, changing wants and needs, and other factors may reduce or even eliminate the scarcity. Scarcity often leads to ingenuity and increased efforts to remedy scarcity. In today’s world, persistent scarcity usually occurs due to some statist intervention of tariffs, restriction on production, limitation of transport, condemnation of a faulty product, etc.

Population of the earth. In the account of creation, God said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). By reasonable measures, the earth can support far more people than now exist on the planet. New “resources” are discovered continually, and man has great ingenuity to make present resources last longer, create new technologies that require different resources, and use technology to discover and produce new resources. The greatest limitation on adequate food, shelter, and clothing is State controls, tariffs, redistribution, and other measures that interfere with the free market, individual ingenuity, available resources, and other means of production to provide these needs. See Overpopulation and the Creation Mandate.

Drought is not the primary cause of famine. When one thinks of famine, one envisions dry, dusty barren fields due to lack of rain. However, in the world’s history and in modern times, drought is not the primary cause of famine -- man is. Crops are destroyed by invading armies through physical destruction, disruption of farming, and theft of produce. The State sets regulations on what farmers can and cannot grow and when they can grow their crops. In many nations, storage of food for future consumption in times of hardship is called “hoarding” and punishable by law. Famine occurs through farmer’s failure to replenish the soil. In places like India, the predominant religion, Hinduism, proscribes the practice of eating cows that could provide meat for many children who desperately need protein. Modern agricultural methods could actually provide enough grain for India's entire population and one-third more could even be exported! (Link) Thus, famine should be thought of as a much greater problem of man’s devastation of his environment and whatever religion that he believes than a lack of rain. Without such devastation, the earth is capable of feeding many times the current population of the earth.

Natural disasters. The United States now has laws that punish those who charge “above market” prices for goods in the midst of a crisis, such as a hurricane. But, what this law does is stifle the incentive for entrepreneurs to respond quickly to the disaster. It actually prolongs recovery and rebuilding in the long run. Our natural tendency is to abhor those “pirates” who would take “advantage” of those harmed by a natural disaster. However, they have sacrificed themselves to get to the site quickly and with the goods needed. And, no one in the disaster is forced to buy!

6. The tithe. The tithe of one’s increase in wealth over a period of time is owed to God (Malachi 3:8-12), whether a person is a Christian or not. God has promised prosperity to those who tithe (same text). The tithe is directed to the church for its worship and work to advance the Kingdom of God.

7. Acquisition of wealth and the blessing of God. Generally, hard work and frugal living produces wealth (for example, Proverbs 8:21; 14:24 . But, finally, wealth is a blessing of God (Proverbs 10:22). There is a correlation between one’s being righteous and being wealthy (Proverbs 15:6, 22:4), and one‘s sins and waste of resources (Proverbs 21:10, 29:3). I once did a detailed study of the verses in Proverbs that have to do with the accumulation of wealth. The principle thus stated was obvious in that book of the Bible. See the second definition of the “poor” above.

8. Material value is an entirely subjective concept. “One man’s trash is another man‘s treasure,” says one proverb. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is another. Millions of dollars have been paid for “modern art” by some buyers while others would throw it in the trash. Within societies, however, there are consistencies of value. For example, gold and gem stones are almost always considered “valuable.” However, there are times of crisis in which these valuables would be traded for a minimal amount of goods for survival. God placed value on gold and silver for His temple design, but He is also a Person. Perhaps, food, shelter, and clothing are the most valuable items for any person, since they are necessary for the sustenance of life. But, even with these, there are subjective choices (for example, gambling) that one values above even these basics.

For more, see The Theory of Value.

9. Work established during Creation. “Fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

The curse of the Fall on work. Part of the curse of Adam’s sin is the difficulty of work. Prior to the Fall, work would have come naturally and more productively. While we cannot be sure what these differences might be, there is no doubt that man’s difficulty with production in a fallen world is greater than it would have been.

The blessing of the Fall on work: (A) The difficulty of producing anything under the curse also has the blessing that men must work together to provide for themselves and their families. Where there is any concentration of population, it is usually more beneficial for one man to concentrate on what is able to produce well and efficiently, selling those items to others, and using the money to buy food and other items that he needs. Thus, both he other benefit from each other.

(B) Division of labor. God has created, even under the Curse, such a diversity of interests and talents among men, that every need and many wants can be fulfilled through their productive and cooperative efforts. This division is one of the great blessings of his Common Grace.

(C) Scarcity. The fact that there is never enough of anything for all people at one time at the prices that they want to pay means provides incentives for this division of labor to work towards the provision of goods and services at prices that others will pay.

10. Vocation. (From Latin, vocationem, “spiritual calling.”) With the Reformation came the Biblical understanding that everything “under the sun” is under God’s Providence. While there is a sense in which “secular” is applicable to ideas that are not Biblical, strictly speaking no work in which man is engaged is “secular.” Every activity of man should be consciously brought under Biblical scrutiny and its direction. Within this purview, all activities of man, especially his primary occupation should be consciously recognized and pursued as being administered under God’s hand. The particular focus of this activity should be that this work is directed by the applicable Biblical principles.

Christian’s neglect of learning and applying Biblical principles in their work. One of the great tragedies of Christians today is their failure to understand Biblical principles that govern their profession or area of work. For example, I spent over 20 years working in medical ethics from a Biblical perspective, in spite of the fact that the word “physician” is only mentioned seven times in the Bible. While Christians achieve college level educations in the liberal arts and sciences, they function through life on a First Grade level of Bible and theological understanding. Thus, they have no clue how to reform their work under God’s mandate to do so.

11. The private ownership of property is a clear mandate of the Bible. Primary to this mandate is the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal.” For theft to occur, prior ownership must have been established. Many laws of the Old Testament protected property from seizure or damage from others. Property belonged to the family and was passed from one generation to the next. This property also was protected by various laws in how it was to be passed within families and who had specific claims on it. Blessings and cursings accompanied these laws. Many of Jesus’ parables were implicit or explicit on the ownership of property, for example, the one that ends with “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (Matthew 20:15).

Fact of history. While empirical evidence is not necessary to prove the truth of Scripture, such evidence does illustrate its truth. All community-owned experiments of history have failed miserably or have been local and temporary.

Acts 4:32-5:11 - The early Christian church, communism, and Ananias and Sapphira. This passage is not an example for all churches. (1) One principle of hermeneutics is that historical passages must be interpreted by the didactic. Or, what is recorded as history is not necessarily to be considered to be doctrine (principled teaching). (2) Giving of one’s goods was voluntary. Ananias and Sapphira were judged, not because they held back some of the proceeds of their sale, but that they “lied … to God” (5:4). (3) This period of time was unique in the history of the church. Nowhere else is communal property remotely suggested. Likely, the members of the Jerusalem church were anticipating the destruction of Jerusalem that Jesus had forecast and selling their possessions to prevent their assets being destroyed. (4) Communal property would negate the Eighth Commandment that ownership of property was not the norm. By necessity, some property might have to be communal, for example, roads, rivers, and seas. However, most communal properties are abused and not preserved or developed over time (for example, the Boston Commons of early Massachusetts).

12. The role of the State in economics. The primary role of the State in economics is to insure that the free actions of men may take place without fear for their lives or their property being stolen.

The State is to have no role that disrupts the free exchange of goods and services around the world except as may be required to disrupt or destroy the trade of declared enemies in a just war. Tariffs, property tax, subsidized costs of production or research, payment for non-production, minimum wage standards, price controls, etc. are not the Biblical duties of the government. All these favor one person or industry over another, interfering with market forces that determine prices that are acceptable to the buyer and seller.

Licensure. Licensure of services, for example of physicians and realtors, provides a state-sponsored monopoly of these professions, distorting the free trade of goods and services.

Shortages, inflated prices. Interference by the State in the above ways will eventually cause shortages and inflated prices of those goods and service thus regulated.

Communism, Nazism, communism, etc. That the State has no role in regulating an economy or the free exercise of trade, simply, but powerfully, eliminates these state-involved philosophies.

13. Employers, employees, and trade unions. Trade unions distort the relationship of the employer and employee. An employer hires a person for a specific job at a wage/salary that is agreeable to them both. Each evaluates their ongoing relationship over time. The employer evaluates the performance of the employee, whether it matches the wage/salary that he is paying the person. The employee evaluates the wage/salary that he receives and his working conditions. Weighing their respective interests, the relationship continues or is dissolved at some point. Each is free to evaluate and negotiate with the other.

A trade union interferes with this freedom on both sides. A trade union sometimes assumes that all workers produce the same output which is patently false by any measure. A trade union severely restricts the options of a person who is not in the union through “closed shops” and wage controls. A trade union severely handicaps all employers who must monitor the cost of production so that he makes a sufficient profit to stay in business. In essence, the trade union becomes a barrier for a business to be successful and against the creation of more jobs. The more that a business is successful, the more employees that it can hire and pay them their negotiated wage.

14. The family, child labor laws, and the State. The family is an institution ordained by God which is to be governed without any outside interference from the State except where there is good evidence that severe bodily harm or murder has occurred. This restriction seems harsh and antiquated in modern times, but the family must have that God-ordained freedom to perform its responsibilities under God’s commandments. For example, children have different talents and mature in different degrees. Who can best tell when they are ready to be employed, the family or the state? Obviously, the family is best able to make that discernment because they have observed the child from birth to the present. The State can only assume that all children are the same, a patently false notion.

Historical note. Without doubt, in the past and present, children have been severely abused in the work place. However, for the State to interfere is for the State to provide “foster care,” placement agencies, restrictions on businesses, police powers over the family, and violation of the integrity of the home, to name a few. Whenever the State steps outside of its God-prescribed roles, it creates a myriad of agencies and bureaucracies that try to emulate what the family unit is capable of doing with only a mother and a father. That families abuse their children is accepted. But, far greater abuses of children will occur with and by State interference. For example, the State now investigates spanking of children (a God-instructed responsibility) and will remove children from the homes of Christians on this basis alone.

15. Value. No goods or services have intrinsic value. For example, a man might pay an ounce of gold to buy one loaf of bread in a time of crisis. That same ounce of gold would buy dozens of loafs of bread in times of stability. Relative to services, a man may be willing to pay only an ounce of silver to be ferried over a quiet stream. Yet, if he is in danger of losing his life due to flooding, he may pay a bagful of silver or even his lifetime of savings.

Value is an entirely subjective concept. Value lies within the heart of a person or group of persons. For example, gold is valuable because of its beauty and certain natural properties. Even so, certain people will kill to get more of it while others do not care whether they ever have any.

It is this subjectivity of value that makes any sort of regulation of the market place impossible. No man can determine what another is willing to pay or sacrifice for a particular item. Any outside influence interferes with the negotiation of the value that the seller places on his item and that buyer is willing to pay. The buyer does not have to buy and the seller does not have to sell until they reach an agreement. Any outside interference gives an unjust advantage to one over the other.

“A person imputes value to an article or a good because he forms an opinion about the potential desirability or usefulness. This is true whether we speak about the food we eat, the wood that we burn, the paintings that we enjoy, or the women that we love.” (Rose, Economics: The American…, page 159)

While value does reside across groups to a large extent, for example, most people value gold, and the market place determines a fairly standard price for an ounce of gold. However, as stated above, individuals within those groups will value gold more or less than that determined price. So, not even the market place can determine the subjective value that a person places on gold or any other object.

For more, see The Theory of Value.

16. Money. Money is simply a designated and denominated medium of exchange, ideally tied to a bimetallic standard.

17. The gold standard. Since money is simply a medium of exchange, there must be come way to determined its value. And, since value is inherently subjective (see above), in a worldwide market the monetary base must be something that all people value and the supply of which does not change rapidly. If the supply of the medium of exchange were to change rapidly, then the value of families’ possessions in monetary price would change with the supply. Of all the possible items that fit this criteria, gold or silver are surely the best. To increase the supply of either of them, a considerable effort of mining and purification is necessary. There is not going to be a sudden increase in production of these items. And, there is a built in safeguard in the cost of production. If the supply did suddenly increase, the value of the gold or silver loses value. As it loses value, there is less incentive to continue mining and processing (expensive procedures), so production falls off and the market again begins to level out.

The American dollar. The Mint Act of 1792 established the dollar and tied it to designated weights of gold and silver. Except for the period that began with the Civil War until 1878 and with minor changes in the weights of precious metal, the bimetallic standard was continued. In 1900, the link to silver was abandoned. In 1933, gold coins were withdrawn from circulation and the unit weight of gold tied to the dollar was markedly reduced. In 1975, all linkage of the dollar to gold was abandoned, allowing the dollar to “float” on international markets. Click here for more a more detailed history.

Why have a gold standard? Part of the reason for a gold standard is reasoned above. The biggest reason for the gold standard is to prevent governments from just printing money for whatever reason that they conjure. When governments print money, they steal from those who hold that unit of currency because it will buy less than before the supply was increased (inflated). Another reason is to allow citizens to retain monetary power that the government cannot easily change. Artificially created money also entices people toward unwise investments by stimulating an unsustainable set of wants.

Inflation. The problem of inflation is the problem of a monetary standard divorced from the gold standard or a government policy that continually decrease the amount of gold that a unit of currency represents. Apart from a government being able to simply print money, all other methods that could cause inflation are slow and ponderous. We have seen how difficult is the production of gold and silver, and even that its cost of production is a natural safe-guard against inflation. If the demand of an item results in its inflation, that higher price attracts suppliers who want to profit on that item. This increased production, then, brings the price down. While market forces cannot always prevent supply or monetary crises, such forces will correct the situation in the shortest period of time that is required to produce the products and move them to the place of need.

18. Love and social justice. Principles of economics necessarily include principles of love and social justice. Christians as individuals, families, and churches are called of God to minister to the poor (defined below). First, there is evangelism to the “poor in spirit,” regardless of economic status. Second, we are to minister to the economically poor.” This administration is not automatic, as it requires discerning who are those who are the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor.” These actions fill in the gaps of those who temporarily or permanently are unable to provide for themselves economically. Social justice is more complex than just giving handouts. The Summary Principles of Social Justice and the discussion there are necessary to understand the concept of love and social justice within the parameters of economics.

Definition of poor (poverty). The Bible defines the “poor” in three ways. (1) Those who are “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) whether they have earthly needs or great prosperity. (2) Those who are destitute of earthly needs and possessions, yet who are willing to work and better themselves, “those who are bowed down… the righteous” (Psalm 146:5-9) Also, see Job 5:11-16; Psalm 10:17-8, Psalm 103:6, Psalm 109:30-31, 140:12. These could be called the “deserving poor.” They are to receive charity and help towards responsible provision of themselves and their families. (3) Those who are destitute of earthly needs and possessions who are not willing to work and better themselves. They “waste opportunities (Proverbs 6:9-10), bring poverty on themselves (Proverbs 10:4), are victims of self-inflicted bondage (Proverbs 12:24), and are unable to accomplish anything in life (Proverbs 15:19.” While these should be given every opportunity and assistance to change, “subsidizing sluggards is the same as subsidizing evil. It is subsidizing dependence… slavery.” (Quotes and ideas are from George Grant, In the Shadow of Plenty, [Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1986), pages 52-55.) For more on the “unwilling to work” poor, see Dalrymple under Endnotes. (Transferred from Summary Principles of Social Justice.)

19. The family is the primary unit of economics. In the Old Testament, property (land) belonged to the family and was passed from generation to generation. Fathers are to provide other forms of inheritance for their children (Proverbs 13:22). A father who fails to provide for his family is “worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). Thus, family economics is both present and future, intended to be intergenerational.

This centrality of the family is not to disparage the roles of single men and women in an economy, especially those who are called to singleness (I Corinthians 7:6-8). However, an individual is not a functioning unit, as the family in which there is a head, a wife and children. There are mutual roles within the family of education, training, and provision. Even as one generation lives their lives as God’s stewards on earth, they are making provision for the next. A major weakness of Christians and churches on their culture has been the loss of belief from one generation to the next. This loss is not part of God’s preceptive design.

20. The Eighth Commandment. The Eighth Commandment has a broad and general application towards both the duties and sins that it encompasses. This application is clearly seen in the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith which summaries a large number of other Biblical principles.

Q. 141. What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
A. The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to every one his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing landmarks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depredation; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

21. The Fifth Commandment: superiors, inferiors, and equals. The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith has some interesting discussion of the economic relations of what it calls “superiors, inferiors, and equals.” The answer to Question 124, “Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?,” is “By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” Then, the Q/A’s go on to elaborate. For example, “It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body …” (Answer to Question 129). The reader is invited to review these Q/A’s, as they give moral instruction to all that is beyond just the “letter of the law” in economic transactions and everyday interactions among all peoples of a culture. See the Larger Catechism, Q/A’s 123-133.

22. Capitalism. Capitalism is a natural tendency of mankind. In one of God’s most amazing providences, man’s self-interest and selfishness works for both his own good and that of society relative to economics. To increase his own possessions, he must produce goods or services that others want and for which they are willing to give up a portion of their own wealth to acquire what he produces. And, he must have a good product at a price that others are willing to pay or he will lose business to his competition. Capitalism is a win-win (producer-consumer) situation.

American enterprise. The American War of Independence was war over economics, “taxation without representation.” This war illustrates how closely free trade is linked to other freedoms. From that experience, limited government, especially concerning free trade, caused the United States to become the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth. Now, as we destroy virtually every God-ordained foundation of our country, we are losing not only our world power status, but our economic freedoms, as well. That we have continued to prosper until now testifies to the power of the free market, even with the restrictions now placed upon it. But, this power will not last forever, as these foundations are eroded.

Perhaps, the place where this self-interest and “common good” are most clearly seen is the “black market” of regimes in which a State has restricted trade through tariffs, fascism, favored industries, etc. At the risk of severe punishment, and even death, entrepreneurs will produce or acquire items or services that others want. Entrepreneurs strive to produce and provide what others want in the most difficult of circumstances.

23. Government intervention. In every culture or nation, government at every level has tried to restrict trade in various ways (as just mentioned). Such intervention has always harmed everyone over time by limiting the expansion of production and trade. Even those who benefit in the short term will lose in the long term because when the laws of God are violated before they will eventually cause the destruction of the violators. People will leave a country, establish “black markets,” revolt, assassinate, destroy, and in many other ways seek to correct violations of their freedom. Unfortunately, those coming to power rarely have better solutions than those that they overthrow. God’s laws are as certain to destroy, as they are to build up, when they are ignored or flagrantly violated. God’s laws only bring prosperity and the good fortune of all who abide by them.

A modern example in the United States. Through thousands of minute laws, the American government has tried to increase its revenue by taxation. For decades, studies have shown that the income to the federal government, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, has not significantly changed over the last several decades. The creativity and ingenuity of mankind (in this case, Americans) will always far exceed the legislative powers of a State.

24. Abuses of capitalism. Capitalism has been much maligned, even by conservative and Christians. What is often portrayed is the vision of the “robber baron,” charging exorbitant prices for the “common man” and the poor. However, this image is mostly a myth. As we have seen immediately above, entrepreneurs (even when restrained in many ways) have a creativity and ingenuity to get around these restrictions. The same is true for so-called monopolies. Industrious men will establish alternatives. Then, there is the price of the product. A “robber baron” or monopolist cannot just charge whatever he wants because the consumer will make his own evaluation of the price that he is willing to pay. Market forces with any degree of freedom just regresses to the needs and wants of buyers and the prices that they are willing to pay. See the Myth of the Robber Barons.

Many monopolies are created by the State today, for example, the Federal Reserve System and regulation of utilities and insurance. These are problematic and are proscribed by previous principles that do not allow the State to be involved in economic enterprises.

25. How much profit is too much? The answer is determined solely by the seller and buyer. The seller can make as much profit as the buyer is willing to pay for the product. The Bible is quite clear from cover to cover that God encourages, even demands, profit in man’s economic undertakings. The parable of the talents is a great example. Large profit is a lure of entrepreneurs to “get in on the action,” so market forces “even out” the situation over time. In a free economy, the buyer is never forced to pay for what he does not want to pay.

Risk of the entrepreneur. Those who are critical of capitalism value the risk that the entrepreneur takes. “The latest statistics from the Small Business Administration (SBA) show that ‘two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years, and 44 percent survive at least four years.’" The entrepreneur places his present and future (a loan) capital at risk, as well as the welfare of his family. And, there are considerable costs to any business. Thus, profit is necessary, if for no other reason than the bills (costs of business) have to be paid. Also, the prospect of “bettering” oneself and his family provides an incentive for entrepreneurs. Profit is the motive to take risk. Without it, there would be no economy!

Lessons of history. Price controls of the early 1970s in the United States during a period of “high” inflation led to shortages and a recession. Price controls anywhere and everywhere have always produced such scarcity. The great experiment of Communist Russia led only to bare shelves and failed crops. The sale of grain to Russia by shiploads from the United States is well known. God’s laws of economy cannot be thwarted in the long run!

26. Usury and interest. There has been and is much misunderstanding about the difference between charging interest and usury. “Usury in the Bible means any increase in the amount of repayment above the principle, but only in the case of charitable loans.” Old Testament lenders were not to charge interest to a Hebrew brother. (North, Inherit the Earth, page 88-89). But, in common use since the Middle Ages, “usury” has been defined as “exorbitant interest rates,” those above common or legally proscribed limits. However, the Hebrews were to “lend to many nations” (Deuteronomy 28:12). That they were not to charge interest would have been an unreasonable expectation. Their capital would be at risk of non-payment, so interest pays for that risk.

Someone in need and interest. Herein, we have discussed that Biblical Principles of Social Justice give balance to market forces. Here, too, “For an individual to be merciless to someone in need when he does have the extra assets available to help that person is, in effect, to deny that he too is a debtor to God and is also in desperate need for God to intervene and repay his own debt” (North, Inherit the Earth, page 89). Again, social justice includes careful judgment on the part of the helper, not just an automatic hand out. Social justice is not helping everyone who comes along, but helping in a careful, Biblical way.

27. Loans and borrowing. “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). The Bible permits loans at interest, but it adds cautions and conditions. Gentiles could be charged interest (Deuteronomy 22:20). A loan generally should not be taken out for more than seven years, as it was to be cancelled at that time (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Collateral should be used to guarantee loans,, but not without consideration of excessive harm to the borrower (Exodus 22:26). We saw above that the very poor and brothers should not be charged interest which would be “usury” (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-38). Perhaps, many of these laws are not to be taken literally, but certainly the principles that they represent should be implemented, even in modern times (the equity of the law).

Loans should always require collateral. Borrowing without collateral increases the money supply of a culture, thereby inflating the denominated cost of all items. Inflation is theft, as the same amount of money will no longer purchase what it would before inflation occurred. The result is the same as though that percentage of inflation had been stolen by a thief who broke into and stole from every household affected.

28. “Fiat” money is an even worse form of theft. When a bank loans money beyond its resources on deposit, “fiat” money has been created, that is, money that does not really exist. Such practice causes great potential disruption for economies, as has been seen in “bank runs” in recent history. Further, that increase in the money supply is inflationary, virtually stealing from anyone who holds assets of any kind.

29. The Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

There is far too much in this Commandment to unpack here. However, the person who would understand and apply Biblical economics must seriously consider its fullness. Sometimes overlooked is “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” Almost universally throughout the world today, a work day week is five days or less. The implications of a six day work week should be contemplated. Work” may be understood more broadly than one’s employment (see Vocation herein). For the Christian, “work” should be considered any activity that advances the Kingdom of God. In fact, the Christian’s primary work may be to that end, rather than his employment (as the Apostle Paul made tents).

Far and away, the intent of the Sabbath is “rest,” worship, and contemplation of God and His Word. For our purposes here, we will focus on “rest,:” which is the primary focus of the Commandment itself. Any activity which prevents “rest” on the Sabbath is a violation of this commandment.

Now, the Westminster Confession of Faith (XXI:8) and other teachings allow for “works of necessity and mercy.” Jesus briefly discusses this issue in Matthew 12:1-14. My argument in this regard is two-fold. (1) The emphasis is on “rest.” In today’s fast paced society, most individuals and families do not get enough rest. The Sabbath, now Sunday, is that opportunity. Many “works of necessity” are just excuses to “catch up” on both employment-related and personal tasks. Even physicians who care for patients often cover-up work that is not truly a “necessity” with this excuse.

(2) The idea of “rest” should be extended to an every day application. My impression is that Christians are governed as much by the “tyranny of the urgent,” as non-Christians. That is, their lives are one frantic attempt to meet a schedule of activities that is difficult, if not impossible to fulfill. A pattern of both vigorous work and rest should be characteristic of a Christian’s life. (See Matthew 11:28-29.) A practical gauge of whether there is rest is the hour or so before bedtime in the home. Do adults and children begin to wind down calmly and deliberately or is there a frantic rush to get last minute things done and jump into bed? (See Time Management.)

There is one caveat. Life is quite unpredictable, and none of us is perfect, so many days and nights may be unavoidably frantic. However, in the main, the latter part of all evenings are a gauge for the fulfillment of work and rest in an individual or family’s life.

Resources

www.freebooks.com Go to bottom of home page, click “Page Two.” At the top of the page, click “Main Area.” Look in the left margin column for “Books by… subject.” Scroll down to Economics. I suggest for basics, these books by Gary North:

An Introduction to Christian Economics

Honest Money

Inherit the Earth

By George Grant:

Bringing in the Sheaves

In the Shadow of Plenty

Books by Tom Rose, purchased new: http://www.biblicaleconomics.com/body_books.html.

Tom Rose used books at www.amazon.com.

 

 

 

 


 

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