Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
Throughout my reading assignment regarding God’s economy I noticed the reappearing of some interesting economic characteristics. Consistently, the model of the economic system in the ancient Scriptures elevated the individual above the collective, and it revered the law and goodness above raw power. Moral standards trumped oppression; integrity and perseverance proved to be stronger than brute force or skullduggery in the end.
Other characteristics that seemed to continually recur were a call for personal responsibility and accountability, a promotion of fairness, frugality, production, and a conscionable work ethic.
At all times the power of individual choice was emphasized and discrimination was frowned upon. Respect was one of the underlying characteristics, whether it was the respect required for all of God’s creations or the presumed respect for the phenomenon of time, and the relative shortness of a person’s life.
There was, in addition, an expectation that the participants in the economic model would strive to make things better while they were involved in the system, and that they would hold in high esteem the elements of wisdom and knowledge. I was impressed that there was an emphasis on society and even governments punishing wrong and encouraging good.
Especially in the Gospels, economics of the interior appeared to be almost counter-intuitive at times and mostly up-side-down in logic. This is particularly true in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of a person being concerned with activities of getting, it placed a premium on the behavior of giving. Instead of an emphasis on accumulation, it was concerned with relinquishment. Instead of consumption, it emphasized stewardship. That is counter-intuitive and up-side-down logic!
I think it is fair to say that, usually, economic models of a society are largely designed with group behavior in mind. The economic system of the interior deals more with the innate value system and behavior of the individual who, coincidentally, finds herself or himself actively involved in a society.
In addition to the above listed characteristics of an economic system of the interior, I would like to pull out and discuss six additional characteristics that we will refer to as principles of God’s economy. This list is in no way an exclusive list.
Principle # 1: God Has Given
If God has an economy, this characteristic would certainly be the most unique. All other economic models are based on the economic trilogy known as Scarcity, Choice, and Cost. It is assumed that all things are in limited supply, because all those supplies have alternative uses. Humans are presumed to have unlimited needs and desires. There is no way that all those desires can be met by the limited supply. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that choices be made as to which needs and desires will be satisfied by the limited supply.
The real cost of making a decision as to which limited item will be used to satisfy the chosen need or desire has nothing to do with money or wealth. The real cost comes in the foregoing of the next highest need or desire that is forfeited. You decided to use the item or commodity on procuring the one good or service at the expense of not being able to procure your next highest desire. You, therefore, lost the opportunity to use that supply to meet another need or desire. That is known as opportunity cost. That is the reason that some people through the years have referred to economics as the science or study of making good choices. How can you make better decisions in determining which limited resource should be used for which need?
So, from whence did all those resources come . . . in the first place? My research found that there was no hesitation in the Holy Scriptures when it came to answering that question:
. . . Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything . . . Everything we have has come from you, and we only give you what is yours already! For we are here for but a moment, strangers in the land as our fathers were before us; our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon, without a trace. O Lord our God, all of this material that we have gathered to build a temple for your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! (1 Chronicles 29: 11-16 TLB)
Everything that exists came from the hand of God. Everything that I have has come to me as a direct gift from God or is a by-product of a gift exchange. Nothing exists that did not come from God.
The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is his! (Psalm 24:1TLB)
The balance of the entire economic system of the interior rests upon that factor. He never requires anything of his participants that He has not already given to them. In God’s economy there is no such thing as successfully cheating or robbing, because when the participants finally get through playing their greed-games with earth’s possessions, God ultimately reassumes and repossesses all the stuff.
O Lord, what a variety you have made! And in wisdom you have made them all! The earth is full of your riches. There before me lies the mighty ocean, teeming with life of every kind, both great and small. And look! See the ships! And over there, the whale you made to play in the sea. Every one of these depends on you to give them daily food. You supply it, and they gather it. You open wide your hand to feed them and they are satisfied with your bountiful provision. (Psalm 104:24-28 TLB)
God is the source; everything else is a resource in the economics of the interior. That is what prompted me to consider that the whole model is counter-intuitive and a bit up-side-down.
Since everything has always belonged to God, it is impossible for you to try to influence or bribe God by giving something to him first. But by giving first, God has set into motion the expectation for the participants in the model to join him in his giving and, likewise, give from their inventories to the needs of others whenever he so prompts or requests. That is called obedience.
If God is the source, then the whole paradigm of scarcity, choice, and cost must be revisited. Is that whole concept a ploy of political manipulation? How should we respond if there is truly no such thing as scarcity? Should not our real concentration then focus on abundance and allocation rather than accumulation and hoarding?
Next Week: More Economic Possibilities
(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson’s new writing project on Cultural Economics)
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."
As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson.