By Drew Cleveland. Originally posted at the Kern Pastors Network Resources blog.
People love lists! We naturally categorize, organize, and label to cultivate order out of chaos. Even those who are disorganized find value in organization. This is one of the Creator’s strongest imprints on us. Perhaps more telling than we realize is one of the first tasks God gave to Adam in the garden – the naming of the animals!
Last month, we posted a short list of the essential elements for a “theology of work.”
This month, we turn to economics. As we noted, this pastors’ network is “dedicated to growing the numbers and influence of pastors and churches that are actively integrating faith, work, and economics for ministry that produces human flourishing”.
Our work matters to God. Yet we often become overly focused on just our work, our job, our career, to the exclusion of the bigger picture like our place in the world, the economy, and the economy’s place in God’s world. If we only focus on our own isolated efforts we easily succumb to hyper-individualistic tendencies and forget we live within a morally complex economic community. “The Made to Flourish pastors’ network believes wisdom is needed to navigate this complexity because economics is not morally neutral.”
Here’s my thinking:
- Economics is primarily about value creation and mutual exchange.
- Exchange takes place between two individuals or institutions of individuals.
- The nature of exchange places the individuals involved into a form community.
- Communities form systems and norms, and wisdom is needed to craft, cultivate, and course-correct these systems.
- Therefore, we need to seek biblical and moral wisdom about our role and relationships in economic community.
Below are statements on such “economic wisdom” that have been put forward and refined by a community of theological educators representing a variety of Christian traditions.
12 ELEMENTS OF ECONOMIC WISDOM
- 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.
- Economies flourish when people have integrity and trust each other.
- In general, people flourish when they take responsibility for their own economic success by doing work that serves others and makes the world better.
- Real economic success is about how much value you create, not how much money you make.
- A productive economy comes from the value-creating work of free and virtuous people.
- Economies generally flourish when policies and practices reward value creation.
- Households, businesses, communities, and nations should support themselves by producing more than they consume.
- A productive economy lifts people out of poverty and generally helps them flourish.
- The most effective way to turn around poverty, economic distress, and injustice is entrepreneurship and expanding opportunity for people to develop and deploy their God-given productive potential.
- Programs aimed at economic problems need a fully rounded understanding of how people flourish.
- Economic thinking must account for long-term effects and unintended consequences.
- In general, economies flourish when goodwill is universal and global but control is local and personal knowledge guides decisions.
To explore this more, check out the Economic Wisdom Project.