No Free Lunch: Economics for A Fallen World

1 | Introduction to Economics

What Type of Economic System Does God Favor?

Joshua 5:13-15

13Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

This is a very interesting passage of scripture, with profound lessons for our perspective on economics. After all, there are many Christians who think God is in favor of free markets, with many others equally convinced that God must be in favor of socialism. This passage tells us that our opening question is the wrong question.

Joshua’s question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” has to be one of the most absurd questions ever posed by a spiritual leader, which should give the rest of us hope! Joshua had seen the mighty hand of the Lord displayed powerfully time and time again in support of the Israelites: delivering Israel from their oppressors in Egypt, and promising to destroy their enemies in the promised land (Deut. 9:3). Of course God is for the Israelites and against the people of Jericho; the Israelites were His chosen people, and God had already condemned the wickedness of the people that possessed the Land (Deut. 9:4-5). What a silly question for Joshua to ask: are you for us? The man identified himself as captain of the host of the Lord, and undoubtedly was a visibly impressive figure; Joshua should have known that he was an agent of the Lord even before he spoke. Of course, if he didn’t recognize the man as an agent of the Lord, why would he fear one man? One man would not be in position to oppose the Lord’s chosen people.

Nonetheless, the man did not answer his question; he simply said, “no, rather I indeed come now as Captain of the host of the Lord.” He didn’t say who he favored, even though it should be obvious that God favored the Israelites. Or did he? This passage suggests to us that all of our human desire to have God favor us is misplaced. It is a man-centered focus, not a God-centered focus. We should never ask the question that Joshua did: are you on my side? The question we must always ask ourselves is am I on God’s side? Do I agree with God’s Word, not, does God’s Word agree with me?

So what type of economic system does God favor? The answer should be clear from what was just said: God does not favor any system of man. The questions should be: which economic system is most consistent with God’s Word? Which economic system recognizes we live in a fallen world and minimizes the damage we can do to each other? Which economic system best enables cooperation and service to one another through positive and negative incentives? While I believe that a system of free enterprise is most consistent with a Christian worldview, it is not based on some vision of a free market utopia. It is almost the opposite. Given we live in a fallen world, what type of economic system will best meet the needs of men made in the image of God, but who unfortunately all too often act in accordance with the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4)?

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