MMW = NR + HE x T
It is an economic truth that man's material welfare is equivalent to the availability of natural resources plus human energies, whether mental or physical, multiplied by the number of tools available to assist in the doing of a particular task or work (i.e., MMW=NR+HExT). This means that ultimately man's material welfare is dependent upon the God who created the natural resources and human energy potential in the first place. Although many in our country today would be reluctant to give God the credit, no one can deny that America has been abundantly blessed with natural resources and human energies. Until recently, these blessings—coupled with a traditional view toward work derived from the Bible and working in conjunction with a Biblically oriented market system (capitalism) that encouraged the creation of tools—have allowed this nation to emerge as the undisputed economic leader of the world. Today, even though America is still the leader, our productivity has slipped drastically. And even though most Americans feel more properous, economically, we continue to wallow in a sea of debt. As of July 22, 1999, the national debt was $5,630,661,531,286.97. This means every man, woman, and child owes $20,650.25. Even with the present budget surplus, the national debt has continued to increase 289 million dollars per day since July 31, 1998. Congress, along with many Americans, reflect the sentiments of Artemus Ward, who said, “Let us all be happy and live within our means, even if we have to borrow the money to do it with.”
Why is this happening? I believe the answer is not just an economic one. The loss of productivity and the increase of debt in this country is, I believe, the reflection of a much deeper-seated spiritual problem. The religious foundation upon which this country was founded is largely being ignored today. Our current generation is a cut flower generation, severed from religious roots, living on spiritual leftovers. Consequently, we have been quite successful in corrupting an economic system that has proved, over and over again, its superiority to both socialism and communism. Consequently, I want to spend a little time with you looking at a much maligned “capitalistic” or “market” economy. Specifically, I intend to demonstrate that capitalism, although it may certainly have its problems, is actually sanctioned in the Bible. Now, if by capitalism, one means, “The state’s manipulation of resources and people for the benefit of those who run the political system and their adherents,” then there is no sanction in the Bible of such a system. Greed and avarice, touted by some “Capitalists” as good, is clearly condemned in God’s Word. What I’m talking about is the free and responsible ownership of resources by all who give value for what they receive, and all this without the application of any coercive power. This is the de facto economic system assumed by the Bible.
Some years ago I edited a magazine dealing with world views and church/state issues. I made the mistake of asking a college professor with a PhD in economics, who was a Christian, to write an article on the subject of economics from a Biblical standpoint. He turned me down, stating that the Bible had nothing to say about economics. Along with the professor, I am sure there are many folks who do not think the Bible addresses itself to the subject of economics. They are wrong! In fact, the Bible provides us with some important information on this very important subject, and it actually talks about money and possessions more than any other subject.
For the purpose of this article, I am defining economics as “a study of the choices human beings make with regard to scarce resources.” By “capital,” I mean: “Any asset—material or non-material—that produces continuing benefits of any kind.” In view of these definitions, the Lord makes a very important statement concerning economics during His earthly ministry. After His miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus said, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost” (John 6:12). Quite clearly, the Lord, in this passage, was speaking of the conservation of capital. Then, in Luke 16:10-11, He said: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [i.e. “riches" (money and possessions)], who will commit to your trust the true riches?” This does not teach greed and avarice, nor does it teach one to be consumed by the pursuit of money and possessions. In fact, earlier, the Lord had said that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). What it teaches is that the test of spiritual stewardship lies in the use of money and possessions. In other words, a fool is a fool, whether it has to do with material or spiritual things. “There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it” (Proverbs 21:20).
Consequently, in John 6:12, the fragments that remained were capital, as I have defined the term, and, as such, they needed to be conserved. Likewise, in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-14), the Lord taught a lesson on spiritual neglect by picturing a young man squandering his material possessions. Simply put, the Bible teaches a very important principle of economics: wastefulness (i.e., the failure to conserve capital) produces want (cf. Proverbs 21:20; 18:9; 29:3). Now, if this lesson alone was understood and applied by Congress, just think how better off we’d all be. As I’ve pointed out already, the economic base in this country is being eroded by an economic philosophy that says: “Let us all be happy and live within our means, even if we have to borrow the money to do it with.” If we started a repayment plan for the current national debt of one million dollars per day, it would take us well over three thousand years to pay back this debt. Furthermore, we must not be naive. This debt will have to be paid back through literal repayment (viz., future taxes), deceitful repayment (viz., future inflation), or cancellation (viz., political upheaval). Barring the Lord's return, there are no other alternatives.
In connection with all this, it is interesting to note that according to the Social Security Administration, only two percent of the American people reach age sixty-five financially independent: thirty percent are dependent upon some type of public or private subsistence; twenty-three percent must continue to work; and forty-five percent are dependent on relatives. As hard as it may be to believe, according to Social Security records, eighty-five out of one hundred Americans have less than two hundred and fifty dollars in savings when they reach age sixty-five. Why? Because, as Americans, we have not learned how to conserve capital. Instead, we spend, spend, spend. It is ironic that in the midst of seemingly unprecedented “prosperity,” we are, as a nation, decaying economically. But, as I said above, barring the Lord’s return, our economic chickens will eventually come home to roost, as we say down here in the South.
In addition, there are other areas in which we have failed to conserve capital. The family structure, as it was ordained by God, which is the very backbone of our nation, is currently being destroyed. Furthermore, the intellectual competence of our nation is being eroded. And in addition, our legal foundations, which reflect Biblical principles, are disintegrating. Why? Because we have forgotten how important it is to conserve these assets. If we do not quickly get back to a clear understanding of Biblical economics, then all these things we have enjoyed will be gone.
Returning now to money matters, there are only five short-term uses for our income. It may be...
- given away,
- spent to support a lifestyle,
- used for repayment of debt,
- used to meet tax obligations,
- accumulated or saved.
It is significant to note that the Bible addresses all five of these areas. How much do you know about what the Bible has to say about these areas? I think it is very interesting that the Bible says very little about these areas by direct commands. This is probably why most people fail to notice them. Mostly, the Bible teaches on these subject areas by principles and guidelines; therefore, in order to conduct oneself properly in regard to these areas, one will need to be intimately familiar with God's Word. Remember, it is God's Word that separates the sheep from the goats. Consequently, we should be diligent to present ourselves approved to God, workmen who do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (cf. II Timothy 2:15).