Biblical Economics (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

1. Private Property. Although ultimately everything belongs to God, His laws on property rights in the OT (e.g. Ex 22:1-15, Lev. 25, 27) established the right to private property.
Ex 22:1 If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
• Ex 22:7 If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double.

God allows private ownership as an incentive to diligence. I therefore believe capitalism is more aligned with God’s plans than socialism or communism, but see below for moderating factors.

2. Justice. Economics is about distribution of scarce resources, and God’s aim is justice for all:
2 Sam 8:15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. (Also 1 Chron 18:14)
As such, He executes judgment with equity:
Ps 9:8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
• Ps 98:9 Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness And the peoples with equity.
• Ps 99:4 The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
• Prov 1:3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity;
• Prov 2:9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.

Some people wrongly assumed that to be fair you must treat everyone the same i.e. equity means equality. They are not. Equality treats everybody the same, but that does not translate into fairness when some start out disadvantaged. Equity means eliminating the disadvantages to provide everyone access to the same opportunities, thereby achieving fairness or justice.

equity 6

3. Industry. Industry here does not mean manufacturing goods in factories, but hard work. The parable of the ten minas (Lk 19:12-26) teaches that ideally reward should be proportional to diligence or effort. See also:
Prov 10:4 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
• Prov 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, But the slack hand will be put to forced labor.
• 2 Thes 3:10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

When communism first took over China, it stipulated a wage of RMB 36 a month for all workers, regardless of position, skill, or diligence. This goal of equality in fact destroyed incentive to get ahead, and rewarded laziness rather than initiative and creativity. Industry and fair competition is the better way.

4. Compassion. We live in a fallen world. Despite our best efforts to be fair and equitable, some fall on hard times and are poor and needy. What does God want us to do for them? That’s where compassion comes in:
Deut 15:11 For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’
• Ps 72:13 He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save.
• Ps 113:7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
• Prov 14:31 He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

The idea is tied back to fairness:
Co 8:13-14 (ESV) For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

There are many more economic principles in the Bible e.g. division of labor, money and taxes, God’s view of debt etc. But these four form the foundation on which we can build our economic structure for a just society.

Gender Bias?

Lev 12 2-5

Q. Why is it that a woman is unclean for 7 days when she gives birth to a son, but 14 days for a girl? Gender bias?

A. This is a puzzling passage in Lev 12:

Lev 12:2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: ‘When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean.
• Lev 12:5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days.

The uncleanness is not due to the birth itself, but the discharge of blood during childbirth, similar to menstruation. The purification period is actually 40 days (7+33) for boys, 80 days (14+66) for girls. Why double for girls? Commentators have suggested various explanations, none quite satisfactory:

Physiology of boys – Some suggested the “normal” duration for uncleanness for all babies is 14 days, but cut short to 7 days for boys, in order that they can be circumcised on the eighth day. This is so because the coagulation agent in the blood is at its peak on the eighth day, and the boy would heal faster. But if that is so, why isn’t the purification period 40 or 80 days for both when circumcision is not a factor?
Physiology of girls – Others believed that the babies carry the mothers’ hormones in their system, which may lead to bloody mucous discharge for girls for up to two weeks, but not for boys. This could explain the difference in the unclean duration, but still not the purification period.
Health for mothers – some commentators turn the negative connotation around by seeing the purification period as giving the mother a maternity leave, allowing her to rest after delivering her child. So the double duration for girls is actually a blessing compared to only half the time for boys.
Spiritual – Still others suggested that Eve was deceived by the serpent and led Adam to fall, so the duration is double for girls. 1 Tim 2:14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. While 1 Tim 2:14 is certainly true, the Bible never made a direct connection between this and the double duration.
Social – Some felt baby girls grow up to be women who in turn give birth to their own babies, whereas baby boys grow up to be men who do not give bear children directly. So the duration is doubled for girls.

As you can see, none of the proposals provide a fully satisfactory explanation. The pagan nations may have a gender bias in favoring boys, but I don’t think God has that prejudice:
Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.