No Free Lunch: Economics for A Fallen World

Preface and Acknowledgements

Principle of Reaping and Sowing

This book also emphasizes that our choices fit into God’s economy through what some like to call the Principle of Sowing and Reaping. I have received very good counsel during the review process of this book to be very careful in avoiding presenting what is clearly a false gospel—the “health and wealth” gospel. I’ve tried to ensure no misunderstandings in the text, but it’s useful to more fully describe what I mean, and what I do not mean here, so when the reader sees my comment, he or she can understand the broader purpose in my more limited text statements. Fundamentally, I believe there is an ethical “cause and effect,” whereby our actions that are consistent with God’s revealed will generally lead to good results in this life (often even good material results) and always lead to good results for eternity (when done in faith). We see this in both scripture and in our everyday life. As it says in Galatians 6:6-9,

6The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

Jesus also tells us to seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all else (the material things we need in this world: food, clothing, etc.) will be added to us (Matthew 6:27- 33). Further, we see in life that people that are honest, work hard, save and invest, are kind to others, etc., generally have good things happen to them. For example, if someone graduates high school, does not have a baby out of wedlock, gets married (and stays married), and gets a job (and keeps it), he or she is highly unlikely to end up in poverty. This is consistent with someone that lives a life according to what we see in wisdom literature; Proverbs gives all of us sound wisdom as to godly behaviors that lead to a successful life. Proverbs should not be viewed as something that happens in all situations, but rather gives principles that are generally applicable. In His sovereignty, God may choose to direct outcomes that seemingly go against the principles of Sowing and Reaping (e.g., what happened to Job). While the principles still apply, the blessings and positive outcomes may be delayed. In some cases, the promises of God are fulfilled in eternity, as we see in the description of many of the Patriarchs in Hebrews 11:

13All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

This passage helps illustrate how the “health and wealth” gospel goes awry. God does want our best (Romans 8:28), but sometimes the best thing for us is not prosperity and health in this world. Jesus tells us in this world we will have tribulation, but take heart, because he has overcome the world. The reader of this book should embrace the practice of applied biblical wisdom, confident that this will lead to God’s blessings on his or her life. Nevertheless, we should be under no illusion or false doctrine that God’s best for us is blessing in the here and now; His blessing will certainly come in eternity. As we see at the end of the hall of heroes of the faith…

32And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:32-40)

Scripture will be applied in at least four ways in subsequent chapters. First, scripture will be used for examples of the application of economic principles—not necessarily to prove the principle from scripture, but simply to illustrate the application. Second, scripture will be used for historical value…such as showing the use of precious metals as money prior to any nation/state creation. Third, scripture will be used to outline general normative principles, which will then be applied to economic questions. For example, does “Thou shalt not steal” have implications for tax policy and income redistribution? Finally and most importantly, scripture provides the overarching worldview of how man acts. The reality of living in a fallen world (where man is both sinful as well as created in “the image of God”), will guide our assessment of the best institutional arrangements for economies (such as, do we allow free markets or have social ownership of the means of production?).

This book recognizes the intersection of positive economic science, public policy implications, and how Christian values might apply. It is written as an introductory student text, although the layman who wants a better appreciation for these relationships should find it useful. The scope will be focused on key economic concepts with applications for reinforcement. Each subject will also include a review of scriptures that provide insight into the unique Christian perspective of what “ought” to be. The intent is to provide the introductory student a solid foundation of basic economics to well prepare him or her for higher level classes, and for all readers to see how economic analysis is relevant to public policy decisions. The review of selected sections of scripture will help shape our thinking of how to apply this knowledge while reinforcing a Christian worldview.

“Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain…”

- Ecclesiastes 1:18

WARNING: There is a danger to increasing your economic knowledge. As you better understand the economic implications of public policy choices our leaders make, you may become frustrated and angry. But ignorance is not bliss; increasing your knowledge is the first step towards being a positive witness to our nation. Christians are called to do just that, and it is my prayer that this text will make you increasingly able to influence our world.

“The first law of economics is scarcity, and the first law of politics is to disregard the first law of economics.”

-Thomas Sowell

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2 total remarks have been added

  1. Jeff Guernsey | Jun 27, 2017 08:04 pm

    how about a link to a picture of and/or more material by Thomas Sowell?
  2. P.J. Hill | Aug 26, 2014 02:55 am

    I think you are a bit to sanguine about how following God's principles will generally lead to God blessing us. I agree that often happens, but much of the reason is that we live in a world where the institutions are reasonably good - despite the fact that they are deteriorating. In many developing countries following God's counsel does not lead to anything close to good results. We are fortunate to have the rule of law, a decent court system, and protection of property rights. I just read Gary Haugen and Vincent Boutrous's The Locust Effect and am impressed by how much injustice there is in the world.