Economics God’s Way (2)
“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19.11, 12
Economy and money
“Economy” is the term we use to describe various policies, practices, protocols, and provisions that govern the use and exchange of private property and other resources and services. The American capitalist economy is premised on the idea that a wide range of goods and services should be available to meet the demands of consumers, and that going into debt is a proper engine and means both for generating and securing those goods and services. The motive force of our economy is the belief that, in a very general sense, happiness equates with a sufficiency of readily available goods and services. The economy, therefore, exists to facilitate material happiness.
Unhappily, from the beginning, this economy has been used by many to place their own interests and material happiness above those of everyone else. This has given rise to practices of exploitation and unfairness, and to various forms of corruption, opening the door to increasing government regulation and control of the economy.
In the divine economy, justice—defined as love for God and neighbor—is the motive force which drives, guides, and is expressed in the use and management of all resources. As we have noted all along in this study, an economy based on justice and love rather than getting and spending will be of a different character and require different policies from what, in many ways, the American economy encourages and supports.
In very few economies is a man required to supply all the needs of himself and his family by his own wits, strength, and resources. Barter—trading goods or services—has been present from the beginning of human economies. But barter is not always the most efficient means of achieving economic ends. Money arose to facilitate the transfer of goods and the purchase of services. Where barter could not fetch a desired commodity or service, precious metal, bright shells, or other form of “currency” did the trick.
The economy of ancient Israel also used money, the value of which was carefully regulated to guard against inflation or deflation of the currency. Money quickly became a preferred means of satisfying the economic needs of the people, the primary medium by which economic transactions were concluded.
Honesty and fairness
In His Law, God commanded His people to treat one another with honesty and fairness in all transactions. They must not lie about the quality of products put up for sale. They must maintain just weights and balances when weighing out one commodity or one sum of currency to be exchanged for something else. “You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut. 25.15).
To treat a neighbor dishonestly was a violation of the fifth, eighth, and ninth commandments, and to commit an abomination before the Lord (Deut. 25.16).
All units of measure were to be strictly maintained and observed: “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Lev. 19.35, 36). People were to remember that property is a stewardship from the LORD and is to be used with a view to furthering His goodness in love for one’s neighbor. To deceive one’s neighbor, or to take advantage in any transaction, was to offend against God.
Under the watchful eye of God
In a just economy, therefore, people will regard all transactions as being done under the watchful eye of God with a view to benefiting one’s neighbor at least as much as oneself (Lev. 19.18; Col. 3.23, 24). Violations of neighbor-love in economic transactions should be quickly redressed and punished. The fact that we still see a good deal of this principle in American law indicates among Americans the inherent sense, written on the human heart (Rom. 2.14, 15), that the Law of God is truly good (Rom. 7.12).
No policies enacted by government at any level should favor one property-owner over another. Thus, for example, the increasingly common use of eminent domain to seize private property, through forced purchase, and to sell it to other economic interests merely for the sake of economic advancement, rather than the common weal as traditionally understood, should be regarded as unjust.
Other unjust practices of government would include, setting prices for goods or services at one level for certain buyers and another level for others, subsidizing certain producers with resources confiscated from the public, catering to business in contracts for political ends, and seizing inheritances or even a portion thereof.
At more local levels, every transaction that passes between co-workers, employers and employees, neighbors and members of one’s family should be true and unvarnished and intended for good to all concerned. If we do not practice such honesty at the human level, we have no grounds to expect it at corporate or governmental levels.
Christians can most directly affect the shape of our economy by practicing love for God and neighbor in all our transactions. Beyond that, we should make the most of every opportunity and means for influencing the shape of public policy so that honesty, fairness, justice, and love guide all the policies that bind us together as we the people.
1. Many today find it lucrative to deceive others for economic gain. Consider such things as credit card scams and identity theft. How can believers protect one another and their neighbors from such injustice?
2. What do honesty, fairness, justice, and love require of you at your workplace? In your school? At home with your family?
3. What can you point to in American law today which indicates that people agree with the Law of God about justice in transactions?
Next steps—Preparation: Consider all the transactions of every kind you made yesterday—whether of goods and services or conversation and friendship. Give thanks to God for any ways that He was at work within you for good through those transactions.
What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your free copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a free copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, 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.