Biblical Economics (1 of 2)

biblical economics 1

Q. Does the Bible have anything to say about economics? I don’t find the word “economy” in my Bible.

A. The Bible has a lot to say about economics, only that you won’t find that word in modern translations. The English word “economy” comes from the Greek word “oikonomia“, oikos means house, while nomos means law. Together it means the rules governing a household, which is translated “stewardship” in contemporary versions. Aside from its usage in narratives, passages bringing out the underlying meaning include:

1. A steward does not own the property, his master does. He is simply put in charge to look after whatever the master entrusted to him for the master’s benefit:
Lk 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
• 1 Co 9:17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.

Therefore a Christian should not seek physical assets for himself first and forget his responsibility before God.

2. Ultimately the stewardship is from God and centered on His grace:
Eph 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;
• Col 1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
• 1 Pet 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

That’s where our priorities should be:
Mt 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
• Col 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

3. The prerequisites for God’s stewards or servants, in particular elders and overseers, consist of:
1 Co 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
• Tit 1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, (See Tit 1:6-9, 1 Tim 3:2-7)

The requirements are not that you have to be smart, which the world looks for, but loyal, reliable and have integrity.

Volumes have been written on biblical principles of economics. I will list only a few key principles due to limitations of space and time.

(To be continued)

Cost-Effectiveness for Churches (1 of 2)

cost benefit 1

Q. A very senior and renowned pastor took up a pastoral job in a small church. When asked why he did so because with his fame and charisma, serving in a mega church should reap more souls and in return the mega church would give him a more generous pay, so it would be a win-win situation. Even setting the remuneration aside, shouldn’t reaping more souls be the primary concern of a pastor? His reply was that a mega church could afford to hire many powerful ministers and evangelists while this small church was one deprived of resources. It was in great need for revival but lacking a powerful minister to help them out on this. Whose statement is more valid, and should the “cost-effectiveness” principle be applied in reaping souls? It seems that the Lord teaches us that He is willing to leave the 99 sheep to find the lost one.

A. Just last week a relative asked me a related question – whether a church should review her programs’ performance. He said they are the largest church in the city. Whenever a Christian celebrity is in town, they would be asked to host a concert, drama, or evangelistic meeting as outreach. This consumed a lot of resources, and those who are results-driven questioned whether it is worthwhile. However, others answered that “God asks us to be faithful, not successful; so we shouldn’t count too much.” Who is correct?

On the one hand, many church leaders now are people in management or professionals in their secular career. They are successful in their jobs and used to management by objectives, strategic planning, performance appraisals etc. When they see the low effectiveness/efficiency in the church, they want to run the church like a business to improve her performance as an organization. On the other hand, there are “old school” leaders who believe that a church is a big family and relationships are most important. They feel so long as they are doing God’s work faithfully, God will take care of the results and they need not worry too much. Who’s right? I believe the answer is somewhere in between, not either/or, but both-and.

If early missionaries and mission boards counted short-term quarterly results like contemporary businesses, Africa would never have opened to the gospel. Hundreds and thousands of missionaries went to the “dark continent”, some with coffins as trunks carrying their earthly belongings, knowing that they may never come home again. Many died from tropical diseases within a few months after arrival, never seeing a single convert. Yet they were faithful and kept going, often with little results to show for their sacrifice. They persevered knowing that God called them and they need to be obedient. The same is true now for missionaries to restricted countries. You can’t measure pioneer work by standards for large organizations.

1 Co 4:2 says “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Stewards must be faithful. That’s a minimum requirement, but when circumstances change from pioneer work through development phase to growth, does God look for anything else? Is that still the only requirement? I believe He does, as illustrated in His parable of the fig tree.

(To be continued)