12 Theses on a Christian Understanding of Economics, by Albert Mohler

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Regrettably, many American Christians know little about economics. Furthermore, many Christians assume that the Bible has nothing at all to say about economics. But a biblical worldview actually has a great deal to teach us on economic matters. The meaning of work, the value of labor, and other economic issues are all part of the biblical worldview. At the same time, we must recognize that the Christian worldview does not demand or promote a particular economic system.

Because this is the case, Christians must allow the economic principles found in Scripture to shape our thinking while simultaneously recognizing that we can act in light of those principles in any economic, cultural, or generational setting.

1. A Christian economic understanding has God’s glory as its greatest aim.

For Christians, all economic theory begins with an aim to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We have a transcendent economic authority.

2. A Christian economic understanding respects human dignity.

No matter the belief system, those who work show God’s glory, whether they know it or not. People may believe they are working for their own reasons, but they are actually working out of an impulse that was put into their hearts by the Creator for his glory.

3. A Christian economic understanding respects private property and ownership.

Some economic systems treat the idea of private property as a problem. But Scripture never considers private property as a problem to be solved (see, for instance, the Ten Commandments). Scripture’s view of private property implies it is the reward of someone’s labor and dominion. The Eighth and Tenth Commandments teach us that we have no right to violate the financial rewards of the diligent.

4. A Christian economic understanding takes into full account the power of sin.

Taking the Bible’s teaching on the pervasive effects of sin into full account means that we expect bad things to happen in every economic system. A Christian economic understanding tries to ameliorate the effects of sin.

5. A Christian economic understanding upholds and rewards righteousness.

Every economic and government system comes with embedded incentives. An example of this is the American tax code which incentivizes desired economic behaviors. Whether they work or not is an issue of endless political recalibration. However, in the Christian worldview, that recalibration must continue upholding and rewarding righteousness.

6. A Christian economic understanding rewards initiative, industry, and investment.

Initiative, industry, and investment are three crucial words for the Christian’s economic and theological vocabulary. Initiative goes beyond action. It is the kind of action that makes a difference. Industry is human work done corporately. Investment is part of the respect for private property found in Scripture.

Investment, as it turns out, is as old as the Garden of Eden. That which accrues value is honorable, and the impulse to accrue that value is honorable. Thus, a Christian economic theory indicts anyone who will not work, not respect private property and not reward investment.

7. A Christian economic understanding seeks to reward and incentivize thrift.

In a fallen world, money and investments can quickly be distorted to idolatrous ends. For that reason, thrift is a very important issue in the Christian worldview. In a fallen world, abundance one day can turn into scarcity the next. Thrift may be what provides survival in times of poverty.

8. A Christian economic understanding upholds the family as the most basic economic unit.

When thinking about economic theory embedded in the beginning of the Bible, the dominion mandate is central, but so is the divine institution of marriage. The pattern of leaving and cleaving described in Genesis 2 is fundamental to our economic understanding.

Adam and Eve were the first economic unit. The result is that the family (biblically defined) is the most basic and essential unit of the economy.

9. A Christian economic understanding must respect community.

Most secular thinkers and economists begin with the community and then move to the family. However, thinking from larger to smaller economic units not only does not work in theory, it also fails in practice. Beginning with the family unit and then working out towards the community is a much smarter option. The doctrine of subsidiarity — which emerged out of natural law theory — teaches that meaning, truth and authority reside in the smallest meaningful unit possible.

If the family unit is deficient, no government can meet the need of its citizens. When the family is strong, government can be small. When the family is weak, however, the government must compensate for the loss. By focusing on the family, we respect and better the community.

10. A Christian economic understanding rewards generosity and proper stewardship.

Christians who are committed to the economics of the Kingdom and to the good of the next generation must live with a future-oriented financial perspective. We each have the responsibility, whether we have a lot or a little, to see that our generosity endures far beyond our lifespan.

Spirited generosity, which is so clear in Scripture, is essential to a Christian economic worldview.

11. A Christian economic understanding respects the priority of the church and its mission.

Christians must embrace economic priorities that the rest of the world simply will not understand. Christians must invest in churches, seminaries and international missions. These are distinctive Christian financial commitments. Our ultimate financial commitment is not to ourselves or to our own investments but to the Kingdom of Christ. Thus, Christians should always be ready to experience upheaval in economic priorities and arrangements because urgent kingdom issues can intervene at any moment.

12. A Christian economic understanding focuses on eschatological judgment and eschatological promise.

This life and its resources cannot deliver ultimate joy. The Christian worldview reminds us that we must live with the recognition that we will give an account to the Lord for our stewardship of our resources. At the same time, Christians must look to the eschatological promise of the New Heavens and New Earth as our ultimate economic hope. We must lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth.


Source: Albert Mohler

A Cause for the Nigerian Church

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A God of Justice

God is righteous and just in himself and he desires justice in his creatures. His divine righteousness is thus the basis and obligation for human justice.

When we say that God is just, it means that ‘God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right’. According to the late Dutch-American theologian Louis Berkhof, “Justice manifests itself especially in giving every man his due, in treating him according to his deserts.” This is what God does, and he does so because that is what he is. In other words, God acts justly because he is just.

In Deut. 32:4, Moses declared concerning God that, “All his ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice. Righteous and upright is he.” Abraham also appealed to this attribute of God when he asked rhetorically: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25)

A God for Justice

Justice is dear to the heart of God. Several Bible passages bear this out:

“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!” (Isa. 10:1-2)

“Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” (Mic. 2:1-2)

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)

In Psalm 82, God notably declares his anger against rulers who pervert justice.

The psalmist begins by painting a scenario whereby God sits in council with the leaders of the earth and rebukes them. Why? For judging unjustly and being partial to the wicked. Then comes the instruction to

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. (v.3)

He wraps up the meeting with a stinging rebuke of these princes in that much-twisted passage:

‘I said, “You are gods,

sons of the Most High, all of you;

nevertheless, like men you shall die,

and fall like any prince” ‘ (vv. 6-7)

The psalm comes to an end with an appeal to God for global justice, for all nations are his inheritance.

The prophet Jeremiah was also keenly aware of the contrast between God’s just character and the ungodliness in his society, and in 12:1-4, he called on God to act.

‘Righteous are you, O Lord,
    when I complain to you;
    yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
    Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
 You plant them, and they take root;
    they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
    and far from their heart.
But you, O Lord, know me;
    you see me, and test my heart toward you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
    and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
 How long will the land mourn
    and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
    the beasts and the birds are swept away,
    because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”’

A People for Justice

The church is the body of Christ, his arms and legs, continuing his work on earth. We are the light of the world, God’s elect and chosen people. Our lives should reflect the heart of our Father. Where, as we have seen, his heart beats for justice, his people cannot be indifferent.

Jesus also makes care and concern for the suffering a criterion for judgment on the last day. The King will assess how we have treated the stranger, the hungry, the sick and the prisoner while we were on earth (Matt.25:31-46).

The Nigerian Situation

Our own society requires the church to fight for justice. For anyone who has lived within or studied it for a while, Nigeria is a society in dire need of reform. Consider just one instance: our prisons.

We have overcrowded prisons and it is heartbreaking to learn that a huge percentage of inmates are yet to even go on trial! According to the World Prison Brief, we have 63, 142 prisoners in our prisons. Out of this total, 71.7%  (45, 263) are awaiting trial or remanded. With an official capacity of 50, 153, our prisons have an occupancy level of 125.9%*.

Besides the appalling state of our prisons, we hear of repeated battery and harassment by members of the police force. Many are reluctant to report crimes to the police because they can end up being either branded as criminals or forced to part with money before their complaint is addressed.

What can the Church do?

As God’s community in the nation, what can believers do?

First, we should repent of our failures to take justice seriously as the church. In many respects, we have closed our eyes to the sufferings of the poor and the mistreatment of the weak.

Then we should pray for God’s justice to be restored in our land.

Next, we can petition parastatals and organizations that are noted for injustice and oppression. How about a signed petition from diverse Christian leaders urging the Nigerian Police Force to address abuses by its officers? Can we call on the Nigerian Prison Service to urgently address the plight of prisoners?

What about peaceful protests? We can organize peaceful demonstrations to call our government to tackle specific instances or areas of injustice. And we would do this in the name of Christ, who is the Judge of all the earth.

We should preach sermons which expound biblically the theme of Justice: both its nature as a divine attribute and our obligation to practice justice. Instead of messages which proclaim our comfort and prosperity, we need sermons which arouse our concern for the needs of others besides ourselves. And these sermons must be specific, highlighting how we often practice injustice to our employees, spouses, children, and neighbours.

In our individual spheres, let us cultivate fairness and justice. Are you in charge of a department or unit? live above board. Are you a parent? Avoid favouritism among your children. Are you a government employee? Be diligent and faithful. Do you run a business? Offer excellent service to both your employees and customers (in that order). Do you work in the Police or the Armed forces, I will repeat to you what John the Baptist said to the Roman soldiers in his day: “Be content with your wages”. Do you have the poor and needy around you (we all do)? Help them.

We must bear in mind the instruction of the apostle James:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (Jam. 1:27)

It is not enough to keep ourselves unstained from the world; we must also remember  widows and orphans.


*World Prison Brief, Institute for Criminal Policy Research. Figures are as at end of March 2016.

 

An American Dream, a Nigerian Lesson

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Several years ago, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He stood there not to preach nor to campaign, but to share a dream – a dream inspired by the belief that all men are created in God’s image and are therefore equal. His thought and civil action were clearly driven by his belief in the truth about humanity as revealed in the gospel.

Martin Luther King is an inspiration for a different but related challenge in our own society.

Nigeria may not have a challenge of racial injustice, but she does have a problem of ethnic intolerance. Like most countries in Africa, she is blessed with a racial homogeneity. However, the uniformity in race is more than offset by a diversity in tribal groups. According to the CIA World Factbook, she has more than 250 different ethnic groups. Over the decades, ethnic conflicts have sprung up in locations as far apart as Lagos and Kano. While the discord flares up from time to time in actual conflict, the disharmony is normally of a much more subtle nature. A remark, a look, a sneer – are some of the expressions which reveal our dislike of the other tribe. But also there is the discrimination in organizations, there is the coldness toward a neighbour from another tribe, and there is the outright distrust of some groups from the northern part of the country.

Just as the Gospel provides a stimulus for abolishing racial prejudice, it also gives a basis for seeking ethnic harmony. We may not all be excited about our 103-year-old Nigeria project. Some of us might still harbour a longing for a Biafra or some other autonomous region. Regardless of our hope or desire, the existence of Nigeria as a multiethnic nation is a present reality. Different peoples have been brought together to comprise one nation. Perhaps wrongly or imperfectly, the union has been several decades in the making. It is certain that this union was not brought about because the colonial masters wanted to realize the promise of the gospel. They did it to make the administration of this vast territory easier. But what began as probably a wrongheaded venture could be an avenue for the Gospel to be displayed in its grandeur.

Political force and legislation has not succeeded, and cannot succeed, in creating ethnic harmony; only the Gospel can bring this about. Why? Because ethnic sentiments are deeply rooted. As long as our identity lies in our ethnicity, we will always view those of other tribes with suspicion and we will regard them as inferior to ourselves. The Gospel, however, subverts this tendency by altering the basis of our identity. For the Gospel unites ethnic groups and tribes by proclaiming that they all have the same God and a common Saviour. Our ultimate identity does not lie in us being Hausa, Edo, or Gwari. It lies in us being humans created by a personal God who also redeems us through Jesus. And this same Gospel encourages us to look forward to a point in the future, at the end of this present age and the return of Christ, when the scene below shall be a reality:

‘After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’ (Rev. 7:9,10)

May Nigeria (along with other African countries), under the influence of the Gospel, be a little picture of this.


 

Nigeria needs more religion, not less

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Nigeria is a very religious nation. With an almost equal distribution between the two major religions of Islam and Christianity, it is one of the few countries where the major religions have an almost equal number of adherents. According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity and Islam claim the allegiance of 49.3% and 48.8% of the population respectively1. The CIA World Factbook, however, puts the ratio at 40 and 50 percentage points respectively2.

With such a religious, God-affirming, revelation-dependent population, it is often puzzling to outsiders and alarming to observant insiders how she could have earned such a reputation for corruption, fraud, human rights abuses, and now terrorism. How could she have so many poor people when she has been blessed with so much wealth in the hands of elites, many of whom are religious? How could you have so much evil in a nation so religious?

The proposal in some quarters has been to eliminate or reduce the influence of religion altogether. This view is not unique to Nigeria. Western writers from Voltaire to Karl Marx to Christopher Hitchens have argued against religion, particularly Christianity, claiming it destroys the good in humanity and poisons human freedom. They assert it has been a force not for good but for evil. They claim that it stifles our innovation and creativity, promotes discord in society, and generally impoverishes humanity. In the case of Nigeria, we could point to the several ethno-religious crises which have sprung up over the years in different parts of the country, especially in the North; detestable crimes and abuses involving religious leaders; exploitation of the poor on religious pretexts; the  ostentatious lifestyles of some religious leaders; and the general disharmony between leaders and organizations on both sides of the religious divide. Religion, it would be argued, has not profited Nigeria. Our constitution seeks to minimize the perceived disintegrating influence of religion by prohibiting political parties based on religion. Our schools generally avoid teaching from a religious perspective (though they maintain the teaching of religion as a subject).  Our workplaces operate on putatively neutral policies which discourage appeals to religion or religious belief. In short, we seek to minimize the supposed corrosive effect of religion by ‘privatizing’ it.

This approach is unhelpful: it is both wrong and false. It is wrong because it prevents a person from being fully herself, and false because it simply doesn’t work. Religions are worldviews; they colour and influence every aspect of a person’s life. So it is futile to profess a religion and not expect it to affect areas like Politics, Education, or Work. Like smoke, religious beliefs must surely seep out to shape practical life for good or ill.

Religion is basically a person’s ultimate commitment. To whom or what do you hold allegiance? What is that thing or being you depend on as your utmost authority? That, in essence, is your religion. Secularism is not a substitute for religion; it is an alternative among religions. Whereas other religions offer worship to God or some deity, secularism places humanity or human reason on the altar. Far from being a way to minimize religion, it merely offers a different kind of religion.

Nigeria isn’t corrupt because she is religious; she is corrupt because she has a false religion. We worship a pantheon of gods, including the trio of Money, Power, and Fame. And this actual religion is practiced under the guise of the major ones.  I was privileged to be at the inaugural service of the City Church, Lagos a week ago where my friend Femi Osunnuyi, the Lead Pastor, pointed this out. In describing how he came to plant the church in Lagos, he narrated how he was also confronted with this basic dualism in Nigerian society. So much religion, yet so much ungodliness. And he came to realize that the problem is that we have not really grasped or understood the Gospel. While a lot of people enter into Christianity by believing the Gospel, they sort of abandon it as a truth to shape how they live. And they go on living according to the dominant worldview in the society. The Gospel is Christianity, and when we lose the Gospel we virtually adopt another religion. And the consequence of that loss is all too obvious.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Gospel not only furnishes transforming power to remold the human heart; it provides also a model after which the new life is to be fashioned, and that model is Christ Himself. Christ is God acting like God in the lowly raiments of human flesh. Yet He is also man; so He becomes the perfect model after which redeemed human nature is to be fashioned.”

The Gospel is the story of divine redemption. It is God offering himself for our sins and defeating death through Christ’s resurrection. This victory of God over all things is at the centre of the Christian story. It is a story that abases human pride while directing him to look beyond himself and live for the good of others. How? By following the example of his Saviour. If humanity’s saviour was none other than the eternal God taking up human nature in order to bear the misery of his creatures and heal them, how can anyone live differently?

The Gospel kills human pride, stifles greed, promotes love, encourages chastity, inspires diligence, and fosters true unity. The Gospel reveals our weakness but displays God’s profound strength. It shows our corrupt hearts but points us to the true solution. The Gospel goes behind the human facade and artistry, striking at the root of our social problems. When we recover the Gospel as both a power to transform lives and a principle to live by, we uncover the power of God to renew our society.

The Gospel will heal our political system by pointing officials to a Jesus who came to serve and not be served. It will turn around our educational system through the influence of a Jewish rabbi who poured himself into the lives of twelve ordinary men and shaped them into ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom. The Gospel is the bedrock of human rights because it reveals a God who cared enough for the weak and helpless to heal them and die for them. The Gospel is a display of divine justice in harmony with divine mercy; it is a lesson for our justice and legal system. The Gospel reveals the profound love of God which does not destroy in the name of religion but restores and redeems through grace. The Gospel condemns arrogance for it tells us the King of glory left his throne and came to die for us. The Gospel subdues empty boasting and displays of power for it proclaims that the crucified Jesus is the reigning Lord over every nation.

If we desire to transform Nigeria, let’s give her a lot of religion – let’s give her the Gospel.


  1. The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050
  2. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2122.html