This article's premise is from Matthew 19 verses 16-17, 20-22 (see below) and perhaps this might be a good place to start before reading on.
The world is currently in an interesting state where extreme left and right wing political positions are making a re-emergence after a relatively long period of centrist governments.This is because as the world recovers from the global financial crisis, questions of the role of government in regulating the economy continually surface. Talk on this subject is often related to the success of a nation and measured by GDP, inflation and debt. However by focusing on these measures we ignore something far more fundamental: Why should we value the economy?
Debate on the role of government regulation in regulating the economy often centres on political ideology. In Western democracies debate often relates the subtle differences between social democracy, which promotes high levels of regulation and equality, and laissez-faire principles, which focuses on individual freedom and equal treatment.
Both principles are undoubtedly framed by positive intentions, focusing on equal rights and justice, something that I think most Christians would support whole-heartedly. However, deciding which side to choose as a Christian can be difficult, but I believe should always be framed by our belief that we value the economy because we value people.
The purpose of economic gain should be to improve everyone's lives. This is different from a secular world view, where people are considered important to the improvement of the economy.
A Christian View of the Economy
Biblically there is nothing wrong inherently good or bad with generating wealth (discussed in previous articles here and here).However our approach to economic management should be framed by Christian ideals and by our understanding of two fundamental concepts: the effects of sin in our lives, and the need and purpose of grace. Even simpler still, this could be summarised are you "loving our neighbours as yourself?" (Mark 12 verse 31).
As fallen people, we do not always do what is best for ourselves or others. Our natural state is to live sinful lives, as we are born in sin (Psalm 51 verse 5). Matthew 19 verses 16-22 demonstrates how difficult it can be for people to overcome this sin. The rich man demonstrates that our own greed and selfish desires often override our love for one another. It can also be hard to help others, when we feel they do not help themselves.
However, as the recipients of grace, we should also acknowledge that showing love for our neighbour means sometimes treating people better than they deserve. Simply put, our grace from God is undeserved, and is something we should model to others.
The Economy Serving People, not People Serving the Economy
When we focus on measures of economic progress we neglect the Godly purpose of wealth. The purpose of the economy is to improve our lives. The purpose of our lives isn't to improve the economy. I believe the purpose of the action of governments should demonstrate this, by serving its citizens in a loving and caring manner. Their actions should acknowledge our selfishness whilst also showing grace which God has shown us.
The best way to do this remains an open matter for debate.
Matthew 19:16-17, 20-22
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments..."
20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist completing a PhD in the neurobiology of schizophrenia
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html