The Divine Economy (7)
“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16.19, 20
An unstable pillar
As mentioned in an earlier installment, and as is becoming increasingly clear amid our present economic and political situation, material wealth can be a most unstable pillar on which to build one’s happiness.
When retirement accounts erode, property values decline, jobs evaporate, the national debt mounts, and the value of the currency declines, many Americans question whether our economics of materialism, as we have been pursuing it in recent generations, can continue to produce the good life we envision. The cries to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund the dependent and the entitled are little more than stop-gap thinking on the part of those desperate to ensure social stability and political power for the present.
But a capitalist economy cannot assure a safe and prosperous future. All who put their trust in wealth and things are destined to be disappointed, if not ruined. The wellbeing of the future will be built, not on material wealth, but on justice and the principles of the divine economy, as outlined in the Law and Word of God.
Scripture is given to equip us for every good work, and that includes how we live now as well as how we work for the future (2 Tim. 3.15-17).
The pursuit of justice
As long as the notion of justice in our society is treated as little more than a handmaiden to material wealth, the realization of true justice—love for God and neighbor—will continue to elude us. While Christians do not deny the legitimacy of material wealth, the pursuit of prosperity must not be the guiding factor in our lives or in the kinds of public policies we seek for our nation. Christians believe that justice—and its mirror image, righteousness—must be the defining norm of any economy. Justice is not defined by changeable social norms or the spiritus mundi, but by the unchanging Word of God and His Spirit, beginning with the Law of God.
In a just economy neighbor love will be the guiding principle. Children will be educated in the primacy of neighbor-love. Culture will reflect the dignity of human life and promote justice rather than self-indulgence. Government will function not as an advocate for equality of wealth, but as a promoter of the general welfare by ensuring that justice is the defining norm of all public policy.
The pursuit of justice, Biblically-defined, will increase our realization of a good society. The Law of God will save no one; however, keeping the Law, and working for public policies in line with God’s Word, will bring the blessings of God to His people, and through them, to their neighbors (Jer. 29.4-7).
The challenge of justice
An economics based on justice will go further toward ensuring a secure future than an economics based on material wealth. If such an economics—such a divine economy—is to have a more significant role in determining the course of America’s future, it must begin in the lives of those who understand the nature and value of justice and who seek it through the Gospel of the Kingdom. Unless we in the Christian community live and teach justice, righteousness, and love for God and neighbors as the guiding principles of our lives and culture, the land we inhabit will continue to wither and fade under the vain but persistent hope that we’ll all be better off someday soon.
The future wellbeing of this or any nation lies not in the amount and distribution of its material wealth, but in the degree of its devotion to, and the extent of its practice of justice, as defined by the Law of God and all His Word. We must firmly, boldly, and lovingly insist on this and work diligently to realize it in our lives and in all the policymaking arenas we inhabit.
Thus far in our series on the Law of God and public policy we have focused on the prolegomena—as theologians say, the foundational assumptions and principles—that must guide us in working through our subject. We began by examining the abiding validity of the Law of God, rightly understood, for speaking into this aspect of our national life. From there we examined various lociwithin which public policy is forged and practiced in our society, and we saw that many opportunities exist for members of “we the people” to exercise our civic responsibility for forming just public policies. Next, we examined the teaching of God’s Law concerning the true nature of justice, and saw that justice represents the expression in human society of the loving and true character of God. On that basis, then, we outlined a Biblical view of the good society, and explained the nature of a divine economy as the preferred means for achieving such a society.
These “first things” settled, we turn to consider specific areas of public policymaking. We will begin, in our next segment, to unpack aspects of Biblical teaching, primarily within the Law of God, concerning the kinds of public policies that contribute to a good society and can help to ensure a future based on justice. Our discussions will survey, in outline form only: money, wealth, and economics; caring for the poor, immigrants and immigration; life issues; the environment; and education.
This is by no means an exhaustive catalog of public policy matters. However, our hope is that considering these topics will help us learn to think about policy matters from the perspective of the divine economy in core areas of our common life, so that we begin to develop a perspective and mindset for considering other matters as well. In a final installment we will return to the question of the loci of policymaking for an overview of the many opportunities available to believers to bring Kingdom values to bear on life in our society.
The focus of our discussions will be on the Law of God, which, as we showed at the beginning of this series, is regarded by the writers of the New Testament as containing abiding principles of justice for pursing the divine economy and a good society, and which our forebears in this American experiment held in high regard for just those ends.
The Law of God is the acorn to the oak of divine revelation. The fact that it is neglected by most, despised by many, and virtually unknown by all but a few makes our consideration of the Law’s use in forging public policy for a good society all the more important.
1. What principles guide your thoughts about the future of this nation?
2. What does your church teach to help parishioners think about the future from the perspective of the divine economy?
3. What’s the most important lesson you have learned thus far in our series on the Law of God and public policy?
Next steps—Conversation: Share your answer to question 3 with a friend, and encourage your friend to review the previous studies in this series and join you for those that remain.
T. M. Moore
A companion study for this first part of our series on “The Law of God and Public Policy” is our book, The King’s Heart. Here we provide more Biblical teaching about the role of civil government. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.