Who will be our next president? It’s a question that is on everyone’s mind. In light of the upcoming presidential election, economic questions like, “Should we trade with China?” or “How do we pay for our debt?” are swirling in the minds of Americans.
Questions like these are important, but they are also overwhelming and seem to best belong with pundits and academics. The reality is, the average American has little impact on the economic policies that answer these questions. The way we affect change is far more micro than macro. It starts with everyday questions like, “How should I spend my time?” or “What job should I take?”
The futures of our families, churches, communities, and nation are grounded in our personal responsibility to make decisions that please God. From “What should I eat for breakfast” to “What ministry at church should I volunteer for?”, our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to God’s desires in everything that we do.
As believers in Christ, we strive to hear the blessing of our Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). The question is, how do we do that? How do we know that we are pleasing God in all that we do? How can we make God-pleasing decisions, both big and small?
Applying the economic way of thinking helps us be wise and prudent in our decision making. Thinking economically helps us steward all of our resources—time, treasure, talent—to the glory of God.
The economic way of thinking forces us to evaluate the costs of all of our choices and thus be good stewards. When we utilize this way of thinking in our own lives, we are able to serve others better with our God-given gifts and talents, and others are able to better serve us in return. Wise, God-pleasing decision-making allows us to both benefit from and contribute to the human flourishing God desires for his creation.
When we are allowed to freely pursue our unique talents in the way that God intended, we no longer have to accomplish everything with our own resources. This benefits us personally, people we know, and even people we don’t know. Amazingly, by living into God’s purpose for our lives, we can help strangers across the world.
Getting up every morning, going to work, and getting paid to provide a product or service frees others from doing something they may not be good at doing. This is motivated by the pursuit of profit but it is the pursuit of profit under the rule of law and with virtue that actually allows us to use our gifts, talents and abilities to serve each other. When others pursue profit they are induced to serve complete strangers and when done with integrity, this benefits not just the entrepreneur but the customers they are servicing. Consider a simple example of bananas. I live in Washington, DC, in a climate that is not conducive to growing bananas. Because I live in a society of freedom that incentivizes citizens to serve others, I can walk into a grocery store and buy bananas for merely 19 cents each! This is a truly amazing example of the complex design of God’s creation.
God creates us each with unique gifts and talents, and he calls us to be fruitful with our resources. Productivity is a good thing; it gives us leftover resources with which we can serve others. Part of our job as Christians is to pursue productivity in order to seek the flourishing of the community we live in. Consider Jeremiah 29, where Jeremiah encourages the Babylonian exiles who are living in a foreign land.
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:5-7)
God called the Babylonian exiles to seek the flourishing and prosperity of their foreign city. It’s a message that rang true thousands of years ago and still applies today. How do we do it? We do it by serving our families, our neighbors, our communities, our churches, our city, and our nation. And we do it by making careful, wise decisions about how we serve others. With limited time, money, and energy, we must think economically about the most efficient, best way to serve others with our resources.
The economic way of thinking is not just applied in politics or the economy. To seek the flourishing of our communities and the world, we must use people’s talents wisely, understand the role of the church and what God is calling the church to do, and we must employ the talents and gifts of the church wisely.
When we do this, we serve and are served. We have more time to do what God is asking us to do. This produces flourishing because it is precisely how God created the world to work, a world of complex interdependence where strangers can serve one another.