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  • Writer's pictureGODVERSITY

Should Christians Embrace Financial Freedom?



What is financial freedom, and why do we need to embrace it? As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of the resources that God gives us. What does it mean?

Stewardship is not just about tithing or caring for the earth; it is about every choice we make. It is then inextricably tied to flourishing. If we are not good stewards, we cannot possibly practice true sustainability by creating more than we are given and caring for one another. Markets facilitate stewardship by helping us to fulfill the great commandment, which calls us to love our neighbor.

What does it mean to flourish?

In the Old Testament, the concept of flourishing is best described by the Jewish word shalom. Biblical scholars tell us that shalom signifies a number of things, including salvation, wholeness, integrity, soundness, community, connectedness, righteousness, justice, and well-being.

Shalom denotes a right relationship with God, with others, and with God’s good creation. It is the way God intended things to be when he created the universe.

In most of our English Bibles, we translate Shalom as peace, but it means much more than just an absence of conflict. The idea of flourishing as Shalom in the widest sense of the word is a significant theme in the Old Testament:

  • When the Lord brings shalom, there is prosperity. Ps. 72:1-7.

  • There is health. Isa. 57:19.

  • There is reconciliation. Gen. 26:29.

  • There is contentment. Gen. 15:15; Ps. 4:8.

  • When the shalom of the Lord is present, there are good relationships between the nations and peoples. God’s Shalom has a social as well as a personal dimension. 1 Chr. 12:17-18.

Shalom has rich meaning in Hebrew. “Peace” is an accurate translation of the term, but shalom implies more than lack of conflict. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” It is translated “success” and used as part of an inspired blessing in 1 Chronicles 12:18. Shalom is applicable to an external peace between two entities—such as individuals or nations—and to an internal sense of peace within the individual.


The Old Testament prophets pictured Shalom as the lion lying with the lamb, weapons becoming farming tools, deserts blooming, and the mountains streaming with red wine.

One aspect of Shalom is material prosperity. It is no accident that over the last two hundred years we have experienced explosive growth in the Western world, providing a level of abundance and prosperity unthinkable even to kings and queens just a short time ago. Most of human history up to that point was marked by poverty and a struggle for subsistence. The path to flourishing has been uphill, but Christians have and can play a big part in bringing about more flourishing for all mankind.

Productivity per person, when graphed over human history, follows an exponential pattern, as demonstrated in the graph below. It was not until 1500 A.D. that we started to see even the slightest increase in GDP per person. Prior to 1500 A.D., net productivity hovered slightly above zero.

As the graph shows, most of the advances in technology, longevity, and prosperity are quite recent in human history. These innovations and advancements have benefited everyone, not just the rich.

Aggregated by competitive markets and international free trade, they have lifted billions out of poverty and are increasingly available to larger segments of the world’s population.

Yet poverty still plagues too many in the 21st century. The World Bank defines poverty as living on less than $1.25 per day. In 1990, 43.1% of the world’s population lived in poverty, but in 2008 that statistic dropped to 22.4%.8 The spread of global markets is the reason this number continues to decline.

Poverty is a scar on the God-given dignity of each human. How we care for the poor, enable them to use their God-given talents, and come into community with one another are all aspects of stewardship.

Good stewardship leads to flourishing, which is characterized by well-being, thriving, and abundance. It is the way God created all things before the fall, as well as what he will restore when Christ returns. In the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches that everyone is to maximize the gifts that he is given in order to contribute to the flourishing of the world.10 Greater economic freedom offers more opportunities to do just that.

Stewardship involves not just what we do with our money; it entails how we govern or manage all the limited and scarce resources with which we have been gifted. While this encompasses the earth and all that is in it, it also includes our time, energy, talents, gifts, and skills. Stewardship is part of the cultural mandate found in Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them,

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Each of us is created uniquely by God to contribute something to His Kingdom. We have a special opportunity to use our particular interests and abilities to do something significant.

This larger view of stewardship encompasses every aspect of life. The job that one takes, where you live, how many children you have, and where you send your children to school all involve stewardship. Those options require us to make choices with our scarce resources, as each tradeoff presents us with a cost and becomes part of the calculus of stewardship.

Working is one way that we bear the image of God; we were indeed created for work.11 Our efforts can bring delight to us and to the Lord and allow us to serve the common good. Creating value through work is then a mechanism for stewardship.

In order to labor effectively, we need a robust institutional environment. Through a setting where people know and understand established rules of the game that coordinate cooperation among individuals, we may come together to serve one another effectively through our work. This sort of environment requires greater financial freedom.

Financial freedom ensures that individuals can coordinate their plans most effectively which in turn helps us steward our scarce resources wisely; this in turn generates prosperity and greater wealth accumulation.

Join in the conversation via comments below. May GOD bless you to live your life free from financial burdens and stress.

 

References:

1 Matt. 22:39, NIV.

2 Ps. 72:1-7.

3 Isa. 57:19.

4 Gen. 26:29.

5 Gen. 15:15; Ps. 4:8.

6 1 Chr. 12:17-18.

7 J. Bradford DeLong, “Estimates of World GDP, One Million B.C.-Present,” last modified May 24,1998, http://econ161.berkeley.edu/TCEH/1998_Draft/World_GDP/Estimating_World_GDP.html. Graph constructed from data in DeLong’s paper.

8 The World Bank, “Poverty and Equity Data,” last modified July 2013, http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/home/. Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz, “With Little Notice, Globalization Reduced Poverty,” YaleGlobal Online, July 5, 2011, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/little-notice-globalization-reduced-poverty; James Gwartney et al, “Economic Freedom of the World 2012 Annual Report,” Frazier Institute, 2012, http://www.freetheworld.com/release.html.

9 Gen. 1:26.

10 Matt. 25: 14-30.

11 Gen. 1:26.

12 James Gwartney et al, “Economic Freedom of the World 1996 Annual Report,” Fraser Institute, 1996.

13 Ibid.

14 Prov. 29:27.

15 Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz, “Poverty in Numbers: The Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015,” Brookings Institute, 2011, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2011/1/global%20poverty%20chandy/01_global_poverty_chandy.pdf.

16 The World Bank, “Poverty,” last modified 2013, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty.

17 Eccl. 5:19.

18 Walter Kaiser, “Ownership and Property in the Old Testament Economy,” Journal of Markets and Morality 15 (2012); Ex. 20:15, 28-36; 22:1-15; Deut, 22:1-4; 23:24-25; Prov 22:28; 23:1.

19 Note: Many representative and constitutional governments, including the United States, take upon themselves activities that are not consented to and that often violate their constitutional arrangements.

20 For additional references on a biblical perspective of limited government see Chad Brand, “A Case for Limited Government”; J.P. Moreland, “A Biblical Case for Limited Government”; and Tom Pratt, “God and Government: A Biblical Perspective (The Bible and Limited Government),” available here.

21 The World Bank, “China Overview,” last modified 2013, http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/china/overview.

22 James Gwartney et al, “Economic Freedom of the World 2012 Annual Report,” Fraser Institute, 2012.

23. Faith Works Economics

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