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This past week, I gave talks at the International Students for Liberty Conference and at Regent University about why Christians should care about economic freedom.

What resonated with me most were the different perspectives of these two audiences:

1. The ISFL crowd was already excited about economic freedom, but some didn’t understand if or how it connected with faith in Christ.

2. Regent University students were unified in their commitment to Christ, but didn’t know if or whether economics or economic freedom had anything to do with their faith.

Part of the disconnect between faith, work, and economics these audiences were experiencing stems from the fact that Christians don’t always view all truth as God’s truth.

Abraham Kuyper said it best:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’

All truth is from God. As Christians, we very much understand this as it applies to our faith. We even apply this to disciplines like biology and chemistry. Yet we tend to forget that even economic truth is from God. Jay Richards offered this reminder in a recent post:

Economic truths are truths. They don’t stand outside God’s dominion. When we take the time to learn basic economic facts, we are exploring an area of God’s dominion that he has given us to cultivate. When we engage with economic truths, we practice loving the Lord with all our mind.

Economic truths help us understand a number of important points:

  • Economics provides us with truths about costs, trade-offs, and the consequences of the choices we make everyday.
  • Economic freedom provides a road map for the best chance to achieve human flourishing.
  • Economic freedom is a measure of the ability of people from any race, gender or faith to trade and use their gifts and skills to serve others. It is the best known path to unleash the creativity of each individual.
  • Economic freedom gives us the best-tested chance to provide an opportunity society for all income levels, not just for the wealthy.

Keeping these points in mind, Christians should concern themselves with economic freedom for the following five reasons:

1. The Christian understanding of human anthropology.

We are created in the image of God. The Four-Chapter Gospel and the Cultural Mandate inform us that humans are created to workWe are unique and have purpose. Therefore, we need freedom to provide opportunities for us to find our vocations, unleash our gifts, and impact the world.

2. We are called to serve others, especially the poor.

Proverbs 29:7 tells us the righteous care about justice for the poor. Poverty is an affront to human dignity. Justice means enabling the poor to elevate their dignity, and helping them escape the trappings of poverty. There is no other way of organizing society that has lifted more people out of poverty than economic freedom.

3. We are called to flourish.

The language of Genesis is full of abundance. We are not called to live in scarcity, poverty or remain in subsistence conditions. God wants us to enjoy the fruits of his creation and the fruits of our labor. We can’t do this alone. We focus on our gifts and trade with others. This results in a level of flourishing otherwise unobtainable.

4. Property rights are a biblical principle. 

Property rights are upheld and defended in scripture. The eighth commandment is explicit, and property is defended throughout the scriptures (see Exodus 21: 28-36; Exodus 22: 1-15; Deuteronomy 22: 1-4; 23: 24-25; Proverbs 22: 28; 23:1).

Economic freedom is predicated on the property rights of individuals. Such property rights include your talents and labor.

5. Redistribution through coercion is not biblical. Limited government is a more biblical model. 

The importance of property rights helps us understand the consequences of coercion. The scriptures emphasize limited models of government because it protects our natural, God-given rights. Limited government broadens the path to flourishing.

While measures of economic freedom might not have been developed by Christians, these measurements rely on truths about the nature of man and God’s intentions for humanity, which are biblical. God’s truth will set us free, and economic freedom is part of the fallen world’s path to flourishing.

Why else should Christians care about economic freedom? If you disagree, why shouldn’t Christians care about economic freedom? Leave your comments here

Dr. Anne Bradley

About Dr. Anne Bradley

Anne Bradley, Ph.D. is Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Anne received her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. She is a visiting professor at Georgetown University and has previously taught at George Mason University and at Charles University in Prague. Read More...

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  • vosburg

    Thank you for the article,it is timely, currently working an issue through with a public utility and the entire issue centers around one key point, economic freedom. This may appear a bit off topic but I firmly believe it is not. You mentioned government but also the monopoly companies are a concern. A regulated company can by their improper use of power “no pun intended” can cause economic strain for their captured audience. There is no freedom of choice in some utility suppliers and their ability to coerce is a bit frightening. Energy is needed to be productive, energy can also,….or the lack of can be determental.

  • RogerMcKinney

    This is a nice defense of freedom. I like to add a few other things.

    I like to start with the only government God ever created, the nation of Israel. The Torah is a libertarian’s dream, if interpreted properly. Jews considered the ceremonial laws to be the domain of the priesthood, similar to our separation of church and state. The moral laws (coveting, taking care of the poor) were personal issues between an individual and God. The courts were not to enforce them. The courts took care only of the civil and criminal laws. That was God’s pattern.

    Other than prohibiting theft, fraud and murder, the civil law left the markets free from government interference in a way that has never existed since. The law created free markets because it took “thou shalt not steal” very seriously. Property requires control and control requires freedom. Property rights can’t exist outside of freedom. Every infringement on freedom is theft because it takes away the control necessary to have property. If someone has no control over his property but has a paper title, he still doesn’t have any property.

    Yes, Jubilee sort of redistributed property, but the reality of Jubilee is that it kept people from selling property permanently. All they could do was lease it for 49 years. But the poor laws (Jubilee and debt forgiveness) were considered part of the moral law not enforceable by the courts but something that demonstrated one’s devotion to God. In other words, taking care of the poor is a personal and religious duty. Avoiding it a sign of godlessness but not a crime.

    Israel had no legislative branch because God had given them all the laws they needed. The courts could figure out all of the rest. Israel had no executive branch, no police and no standing army. God expected them to trust him for national defense. Whatever arguments people may fabricate for adding those things, they violate God’s plan. Later, God said through Samuel that Israel could add those things, but as a punishment for their rebellion.

    And Israel had no taxes before the adoption of a king. The people had personal and religious obligations to support the priests and help the poor, but the government took not one dime to support itself. The only government that existed was the court system, and being a judge was voluntary, an honor bestowed upon older, wise and wealthier men.

    That is God’s pattern for government. Whatever people claim for their own pattern, it’s just personal preference. God has just one pattern.