The vision paper of the Economic Wisdom Project (EWP) asserts that its 12 Elements of Economic Wisdom are “grounded in biblical and theological learning” and “in organic continuity with historic Christian thought and practice” (p. 8). Exploring how the EWP connects wtih theology, biblical studies and Christian history is one of the key tasks theological educators face in the Oikonomia Network. To assist writers and scholars who wish to explore those connections, we are releasing a research project providing notes, quotes, and references from 29 books on theology, biblical studies, and Christian history. The research to compile these notes was overseen by Scott Rae (Talbot School, Biola Universtiy) and Charlie Self (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Evangel University). Like the Elements themselves, this is not a comprehensive overview or summary of everything the Bible has to say about economics, nor is it a work of systematic or constructive theology. Rather, this document uses the Elements as a starting point, and explores where they intersect with some important works in the traditional, theological disciplines.
This month, we are releasing the notes for the first three Elements, which you can view here. Compiling these notes is a monumental undertaking; it is truly requiring us to practice what we preach when it comes to a theology of work! Notes for the remaining Elements will be released in future months until all the notes are available. To whet your appetite, here are a few of the hidden gems the research has unearthed:
Element 1: We have a stewardship responsibility to flourish in our own lives, to help our neighbors flourish as fellow stewards, and to pass on a flourishing economy to future generations.
“God created wealth and gave humans the ability to manage and exchange currency. Rather than restricting humans to the barter or exchange of goods alone, we should recognize that the free flow of capital is actually an exercise in dominion. It is another way that the crown of God’s creation, humanity, can practice good stewardship over the rest of creation.”
David Hall and Matthew Burton, “Calvin and Commerce,” p. 49
“The apostle Paul encourages a life of diligence in order to provide for self and family, and cautioned those who were not willing to work, when he said, ‘Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.’ What he meant by this is that if someone is not willing to work, he or she does not have any claim on the generosity of others. Paul modeled such a life of self-support, even while he was busy establishing churches, so that he would not be a financial burden on the community. He strongly commands idle people to ‘settle down and earn the bread they eat.’ He states this even more strongly when he counsels his understudy Timothy that ‘anyone who does not provide for his relatives, especially for his immediate family… has denied the faith.’ This kind of personal responsibility for self-support is consistent throughout the Bible, while making room for generosity and provision for those who cannot care for themselves.”
Austin Hill and Scott Rae, “The Virtues of Capitalism,” p. 35
The author argues that the execution of the rebellious son in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is an informative case study about the seriousness of the responsibility Israel had to take care of the family and future generations because family was the central economic unit.
Chris Wright, “Old Testament Ethics for the People of God,” p. 310-312
Element 2: Economies flourish when people have integrity and trust each other.
We are to be fair with fellow traders: Lev. 25:14. Both the buyer and the seller can do right in transactions: Gen. 41:57, Lev. 19:35-36, Deut. 25:13-16, Prov. 11:26, 31:16, Jer. 32:25, 42-44.
Wayne Grudem, “Business for the Glory of God,” p. 35
Ezekiel 22:29, Micah 2:2, and Amos 5:11-12 show that one of the main categories of the OT prophets’ denouncements against Israel was their use of extortion, robbery, and oppression of the poor in order to accumulate more and more wealth.
Craig Blomberg, “Neither Poverty Nor Riches,” p. 73
The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) illustrates that “in our economic life, promises are the basis of all of our dealings; they are called contracts.”
David Cowan, “Economic Parables,” p. 57
Often (but not always) ethical behavior that builds trust with associates and clients tends to go hand in hand with business success. A stewardship approach to businesses, practicing God’s ethical values and seeing business’s primary purpose of aligning itself to God’s purposes by serving its customers and employees (as opposed to maximizing profits), more often than not makes such businesses highly competitive – and even industry leaders.
Jeff Van Duzer, “Why Business Matters to God,” p. 118-119, 141, & 180-185
Element 3: In general, people flourish when they take responsibility for their own economic success by doing work that serves others and makes the world better.
Institutions alone can never provide for human development. Human development is a vocation and must be entered into voluntarily in order to be true progress. “Only when it is free can development be integrally human; only in a climate of responsible freedom can it grow in a satisfactory manner.”
Benedict XVI, “Caritas in Veritate,” p. 6, 9
Human freedom consists of the ability to pursue the development of one’s own talents and understand that such resources are God-given responsibilities.
Max Stackhouse, et. al., “On Moral Business,” p. 309
“A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life” by William Law (1686-1761) argues that men may differ in their employments but all are meant to serve God and glorify him in it. All things belong to God, so all must be used for God’s glory in a spirit of piety. Law argues that by devoting their trade to God, businessmen will no longer idolize worldly treasures, and will stop separating their Christian religion from their business.
William Platcher, ed., “Callings,” p. 304-310