I’ve never been a fan of economics. As a subject of study in school, it was just mathematical enough to be interesting but not precise enough to make any sense. Tracking and predicting how humans interact with one another in their exchange of goods and services seems far more of an art than science. And I’m not the artist type. And as a general label for anything that has to do with money, “economics” evokes big bank bailouts and lending fraud and corporate greed. Not exactly warm and fuzzy. But does God care about economics?
This seems like a silly question, but for Abraham Kuyper, the answer was not silly at all. His famous dictum still resounds clear: “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!”” If Christ is Sovereign over economics, then surely the church of Christ must care about economics. For Kuyper, the church received new life in Christ in order to animate her as a redemptive participant in God’s world. In other words, God redeemed the church so that through the church, the redemption of the gospel might flow to all areas of God’s creation—including economics.
If Christ is Sovereign over economics, then surely the church of Christ must care about economics.
Kuyper understood the church as both an organism and an institution. This may seem like an unnecessary academic exercise, but he is actually on to something profound here. And it directly relates to the question of God’s concern with economics. The church organic is alive in the world with the life of Christ. As Christians live and work within God’s world, they do so as the organic church. The church as an institution exists for the purpose of supporting, feeding and nurturing the organic life of the church. In today’s categories, Kuyper’s organism and institution are something like the church gathered and the church scattered.
So how should the church care about economics? Or better yet, how can the church be a redemptive economic participant? How can we as the people of God expand the blessing of the gospel in our economic activity—business and personal finance and charitable giving? Though Kuyper wrote in a time removed from the present by over a century and in a county removed from our own by an ocean, his voice is helpful at giving seven preliminary answers to this question.
One, we must awaken our economic imagination. Too long the divide of dualism separating theology from everyday life, the spiritual from the material has proved an impasse on the church’s journey of faith in God’s world. We have too long been content to preach a gospel that ignores the ninety percent of our life that is lived in the world as the church scattered. As the church gathered, we must boldly shine the light of the gospel onto the whole landscape of God’s creation, including economics. In our discipleship and preaching we must proclaim a whole-life gospel that animates the whole of our life so that we grow together to increasingly bear the redemptive image and function of Christ in the world.
The scattered church should live in the world in such a way that we force upon society the possibility of life, indeed even economics, in the kingdom of Christ
Two, we should aim to shape the economic imagination of culture. As the gathered church preaches the gospel, the church scattered should offer an alternative to worldly economic ethics. The scattered church should live in the world in such a way that we force upon society the possibility of life, indeed even economics, in the kingdom of Christ where the double love for Christ and neighbor reigns. This means, among other things, that our selling of goods or services ought to be fair and honest and our purchasing aimed at serving others, not accumulating for ourselves.
Three, we ought to understand our vocations as mission. As the church scattered, we are scattered seed in God’s world that aims to take root and bear fruit of blessing. The business activities of the church scattered are ripe for displaying the blessedness of serving Christ over, and oftentimes against, the economic gods of profit or utility or efficiency. Therefore, the church gathered should affirm the many vocations of the church scattered—architects and doctors and teachers and software developers and homemakers and musicians—as necessary and valuable in the economy of God’s kingdom.
As the church scattered, we are scattered seed in God’s world that aims to take root and bear fruit of blessing.
Four, we should champion and foster an entrepreneurial spirit. Kuyper scholar De Bruijne says “it is the task of the church [gathered] to instruct Christians about their responsibilities in public life [as the church scattered] and to support them while executing these.” Not least of these responsibilities is cultivation and creation of God’s world. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. Therefore, the church scattered should venture to create new businesses that meet the needs of our community while honoring Christ as King and loving neighbor as self.
Five, we must render supreme obedience to Christ, especially in our stewardship of money. Money itself is not evil, but a disordered love of money is. In a culture of money worship, there is perhaps no clearer expression of supreme allegiance to Christ than a church that holds her money with open hands and says, “For your glory, King Jesus.”
The giving spirit of the church should manifest as both the church gathered and the church scattered—in the offering plate and around the dinner table.
Six, we should enlarge our category of giving. The giving spirit of the church should manifest as both the church gathered and the church scattered—in the offering plate and around the dinner table. Further, the giving of the church gathered should have in view the whole of God’s creation. Beyond (but still including) the traditional categories of ministries, missionaries and para-church organizations, businesses that carry the banner of Christ into the world by seeking the welfare of our city and honoring Christ as King are worthy recipients of our generosity.
Seven, we should care deeply about the poor. Out of supreme obedience to Christ who “though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor that through his poverty you might become rich,” the church should carve out space in our calendars, our bank accounts and our living rooms for the poor. In so doing, we do them not simply to the “least of these” but to Christ himself.