I am sure you will appreciate this article written by one of the community.
The economic systems of this world are at war against the truth of God and His created order, but most Christians don’t realize the enormity of the battle that’s been raging or what the implications are in society.
Unlike the world’s economic systems which begin with the allocation of scarce resources, Kingdom Economics begins with the first commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.” If people believe God and place Him first in their lives, they are acknowledging Him for who He says He is which includes: creator of the universe, author of the instruction manual for successfully living in His creation, and the redeemer of those who disobey His instructions. What follows is the recognition that God is the rightful owner over all creation, the supreme authority, and the judge over all of life and society. Obedience to the first commandment requires that all individual and societal pursuits of progress, prosperity and wealth accumulation be conducted within His prescribed boundaries of righteous living.
The world’s economic systems, at their best, are built without this foundational belief system and therefore they are void of moral authority and absolute truths that are necessary for propitious thinking, decisions and behavior. What necessarily fills this void is a heterogeneous and inauspicious system of beliefs that are based upon the subjective philosophical constructs of each member of society. History has shown repeatedly that no prosperous nation can survive indefinitely under these conditions. They most assuredly deteriorate until they are eventually judged by war, or devastated under the weight of socialism and lawlessness. At their worst; the world’s economic systems deny the existence of God and His laws completely. The rulers of these societies make themselves god and extort their citizens through corruption and force. This philosophy is a prescription for tyranny and abject poverty.
God is not a socialist or a tyrant! He is the original free-market economist and entrepreneur. In a passionate act of His own free will, God chose to create something of tremendous long term value. He is the developer, architect and builder of the universe and God’s plan is to engage us as His junior partners to expand the family business. God gave mankind instructions on what work had to be done and how to manage His creation. Then, He delegated responsibility, giving Man the authority and the decision making capabilities to wisely steward the earth’s resources in order that we might fill the earth, take dominion over it and deliver a return on God’s initial investment.
The economic wisdom of the ages was not penned by history’s great social scientists; rather it was authored by God and is especially detailed for us in the books of Moses. The Mosaic covenant, given on Mt. Sinai, is where God gave the nation of Israel the instructions and principles for how to create a prosperous free society, the kingdom of God, which is to function under His Kingship. What is interesting to note is that God gave them what was essentially their national constitution well before they entered the Promised Land. They were at Mt. Sinai, which was out in the world, and this implies that these instructions for living are intended for every nation, not just the nation of Israel. Throughout history we’ve seen this demonstrated as successful nations are the ones that have applied the principles from the Mosaic covenant, at least in part, either wittingly or unwittingly. In American society too, the Mosaic covenant was incorporated in the development of our economic and societal prosperity and included these principles: the importance of family and community relationships, accountability, responsibility, division of labor, individual ownership of property, written and recorded property titles, currency backed by gold, voluntary contracts between willing parties, enforcement of lawful contracts, establishment of justice through the Ten Commandments and other societal laws to protect and defend the citizenry and the property rights of owners, prescribed restitution to injured parties, and punishments to violators. In addition, God requires planning and decisions based upon present sacrifice for long range generational success; a principle which He uses Himself.
Post-Modern America has strayed far from many of these eternal principles of success and prosperity, choosing instead to embrace the wisdom of Man and the systems of this world. As we have drifted further and further away from the source of truth, we are experiencing increasing “isms” – socialism, secularism, materialism, individualism, etc. Today our society is far from God’s design of family, community, accountability and responsibility because humanity has pursued independence, freedom and avoids taking personal responsibility for actions. This has been facilitated through increasing technological advances, institutionalization, financial intermediaries, and digital communications, to name a few.
Our federal government has increasingly sought to replace and remove God from society and establish itself as the supreme authority. The result is that both our spiritual and social freedoms are greatly diminished. The government takes more control and authority over our lives in an effort to be the savior and provider for its people, thereby insuring their re-election. With their myopic focus on constituent appeasement and perpetual progress, we will stumble and fall under the weight of unfunded social welfare programs, demographic devastation through legalized abortion, growing federal budget deficits, crippling debt burdens, fiat money, the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the currency, inflation, and a growing entitlement mentality that breeds continued dependence upon the government.
While quick to deflect their own responsibility and culpability, the federal government criticizes business and the financial markets for our economic predicaments. However, history is clear that the more government interferes with and attempts to manipulate the currency and the economy, the more problems or “unintended consequences” they create.
God wants us to follow His instructions rather than the wisdom of Man because He knows what works, and He knows what is in our best interest and His. We are to apply His truths and economic principles while working diligently with the gifts, talents and resources that He gives us in order to produce results that benefit our families, our community and our society. In fact, as demonstrated in the parable of the talents in the New Testament, God demands a return on His investment in us!
The accelerating spiritual decay in our nation is the root cause of the massive moral decay in our lives, families, businesses, schools, churches, politics and our economies. The entire society is negatively affected when we ignore God’s instructions and embrace the “wisdom” of Man.
By numerous accounts, today’s American society is living like the devil and on the fast track to hell. What is so troubling is that the church is going along for the ride! While the Church and her members are to be salt and light to the surrounding culture, we have instead conformed to the cultures surrounding us. God’s instruction is that we be holy as He is holy. By definition that means we must be different; holiness means to be set apart for God’s purposes. We cannot be set apart to serve God while at the same time conforming to the systems of this world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world; we cannot serve two masters. God’s pattern is this; we are to live our lives according to His instructions, our obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings cursing. God is glorified in the process and those who witness this are then drawn into relationship with the one true God too.
Western evangelical Christianity has over-emphasized the great commission at the expense of adequately teaching and observing God’s covenants. Yet, it is our obedience to God’s instructions for all of life which provides the foundation upon which the great commission is to take place. By over-emphasizing the message of salvation, the church has focused too much of its attention on the future, and on getting off this planet so we can enjoy paradise for eternity! But God’s instructions to mankind are not concentrated on getting to heaven; rather they are the prescriptions for living successfully in His creation right now! The future and ultimate result is spending eternity in heaven with Him, but that’s not the focus today. Obedient living is the focus.
When it comes to economics, business, and personal finance, Christians today are not much different from the society they live in. Compare the church’s current dependence upon the government to solve our economic problems through political means instead of free-market means, our willingness to accept trillion dollar deficits, massive entitlement programs for our aging population that are not funded and are not affordable, and the rampant printing of currency so the government can finance its out-of-control spending at the expense of all consumers. Compare the reputations of Christian business leaders with non-Christians and their track records of honesty, integrity, reliability, accountability, greed, fraud, litigation, embezzlement, and breaking commitments and contracts. Our personal finances look very similar to the world’s too with our high debt levels, low savings rates, bankruptcies, investment choices, materialism and charitable giving.
If you are a business owner, all of this spiritual, moral, and social decay should seriously concern you because the consequences directly affect your ability to operate an efficient, profitable enterprise.
How well can your business contain costs, eliminate waste, innovate, raise capital and deliver long term value to all stake holders if your managers, staff members and trading community are all die-hard socialists? Their decisions and actions will not be in alignment with God’s instructions and your own values. The desired behavior you seek from them and the business requires you need from them in order to be competitive, prosper and create wealth will not be found. It costs businesses real dollars in terms of lost productivity from bad attitudes, poor work habits, and underperforming teams. It also costs money in terms of absenteeism, sick days, accidents, non-compliance fines, lawsuits, employee theft, and employee turn-over. The worldview or philosophies of employees and the community you function in really does affect your business and our entire economy.
As Christians we need to take a serious look at what we believe to be true regarding economics and societal prosperity and compare it to what God actually said. For us, the Mosaic covenant is our starting point and our guide. This covenant was not abolished with the coming of Christ. Rather, it was renewed and illuminated by Christ. Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Yeshua, our Jesus, is the goal of the covenant and He inaugurated it with His death and resurrection. This renewed covenant is with the nation of Israel, and we as believers are grafted in and are part of the nation of Israel, so the covenant applies to us too.
Since we have conformed so much to our society instead of obediently following God’s instructions within the community of His chosen people, our thinking and actions are now far removed from God’s original design. To restore what has been lost, we must begin by educating ourselves with truth and then teach all those within our community of faith and go out from there. Our obedience to God’s instructions are for our own best interest and in these rapidly changing times of judgment and discipline for the sins of our nation. We need to return to God’s standard.
Let’s begin by examining the very controversial issue of debt.
Clearly, it is more desirable to have a positive net worth and positive monthly cash flows than to have a negative net worth or negative monthly cash flows. Truly it is more blessed to give than to receive because the giver has a surplus from which they can actually give something!
When individuals, businesses and governments use debt to finance purchases, they are leveraging their future expected incomes in order to acquire things in the present. Since we don’t know the future, this could be tremendously presumptuous of us and we can easily and very quickly borrow much more than our future can support!
Having debt is not a sin, but our debts could be the result of sin in our lives from covetousness, greed, addictions, or simply not patiently trusting in God as our provider. God judges not only our actions, but also our thoughts and motivations. Therefore, if our debt is a result of sinful motives or disobedience that results in undisciplined behaviors and unwise decisions then we need to repent and change our attitudes and behaviors about money.
God commands us to be lenders to those in need and to not charge interest on loans to those in our community of faith that are poor and need the loans for their basic survival. (For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in you land” Deuteronomy 15:11). Since this is true, it is not possible for debt to be considered a sin in this case. God would not have us lend money to our brother that would cause them to sin by being in debt to us.
Also, as creditors to the poor among us, we should be willing to forgive these loans if they are unable to pay them when they come due, and we must forgive them at the end of every seven years. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)
When it comes to capitalizing a business or investing our surplus assets, debt is viewed differently than personal loans to the poor and needy. Debt financing of businesses is the cheapest form of capital when interest rates are low, and it offers the equity owners leverage that can potentially increase their returns on their equity investment. However, as the debt ratios increase, the risk of failure for the venture also increases. So, too much leverage in the capital structure of a business is a bad thing and it must be avoided. This tension between the risks and rewards of leverage should push us to our knees in prayer and cause us to seek the wisdom of multiple counselors to be sure that we are making business decisions that are in alignment with God’s plans and purposes for our businesses. We must be careful to guard against the entrepreneurial tendencies of being overly optimistic and the delusions of perpetual growth and expansion in our businesses when our economy is characterized with boom and bust business cycles.
We have experienced unprecedented economic growth in our economy until recently. This growth has been greatly facilitated by the expansion of the money supply and access to easy and inexpensive credit. This credit boom has produced a nation of debt addicts. Our economy has become dependent upon debt to survive, and we have confused debt and the accumulation of things with true wealth and prosperity. If your total assets are $1 million dollars and your total liabilities are $2 million dollars, you are not wealthy! If your revenues and cash flows drop so that you can’t afford your monthly payments on the $2 million, you are bankrupt!
Unfortunately, we have ignored the numerous warnings about debt in Scripture, and we have been caught up in the illusion of wealth and prosperity in America that has been created by record high debt levels. As a nation, we are now beginning to pay for these mistakes and I suspect that it will continue to get worse.
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is an appointed time for everything, including a time to tear down, and a time to build up. We are being torn down, and this gives us an opportunity to repent, correct our mistakes and adjust our course of action.
For decades now our financial markets, fund managers and personal advisors have been focused on accumulating and growing assets to fund retirement using equity mutual funds and stocks but they must now shift this emphasis to preserving what’s left of our decimated retirement portfolios and generating income from them as 75 million “boomers” enter retirement. The conventional wisdom is that as you grow older, you assume less and less risk and continue to shift assets out of equities and put them into bonds, which is government or corporate debt. How is this going to affect our markets, stock prices and the net worth of this most influential demographic?
Consider the future financial markets in light of our current economic and financial crisis, the aging Baby Boomer population, the insolvency of social security, the federal budget deficits and the expansionary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. Since the federal government is already so highly leveraged, fiscally irresponsible, and incapable of meeting its entitlement program commitments to our nations seniors, do you want to invest your money in government treasuries? Traditionally this has been the safest investment, albeit with a low return, but it is not going to be a viable alternative for many seniors going forward who will need more supplemental income then they planned on – much more.
Also, investing your money by financing the debt of our publicly traded corporations given all of the significant problems of corporate governance, greed, fraud, corruption and excessive costs within the financial markets themselves is proving to be much less attractive. The problems in corporate America and the financial marketplace have severely damaged the trust that is essential for them to operate efficiently and effectively.
The financial markets today are characterized more by speculation and short term trading than they are long term disciplined investing and value creation. Our capital cannot continue being poured into a limited number of large corporations that are not adequately accountable to their shareholders, are not producing adequate returns or are unable to provide the required predictable cash flows to support retirees.
Instead, the Christian community must look to invest its surplus assets within the faith community through alternative investment options. Christians must separate themselves from the world’s system and all of the problems and costs associated with our nation’s largest corporations and the financial markets.
As wise stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to us, we need to be actively looking for people we can have a relationship with, and remain involved in our investment decisions by offering accountability, contacts, and our expertise to the business owners and entrepreneurs within the faith community to improve results and increase return on investment.
It’s time to focus once again on the principles of kingdom economics as found in the Mosaic covenant. We need community, relationships and accountability to be successful at increasing the wealth and driving economic prosperity within the Christian community. We need to be intentional about working together in obedience to God’s instructions for all of life so that we can be different and set apart for God. Then we will be salt and light to the world around us.
John C. Thorman works with the owners and executive management teams of small and medium sized companies to solve their problems and improve their results. As a management and marketing consultant, he is uniquely gifted to grasp the big picture and then execute winning strategies that bring about significant and profitable changes to an organization.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org