Joel Belz: Challenging the creep

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 27th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. WORLD founder Joel Belz is here now with thoughts on God’s design for economics.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Who might have guessed that we’d be at a point where a growing number of candidates for public office enthusiastically refer to themselves as socialists?

For all of my lifetime, that’s been a putdown. Call someone a socialist, and you mean nothing good. You’re putting your opponent on the defensive.

But now it seems such a label can now lead to victory on Election Day.

And that’s not all. In more and more settings now, positive references to the “free market” may carry you to defeat. For many of these people, to equate free market principles with the law of God is close to blasphemy.

Yet I think there’s something else that’s even mere demeaning to the character of God: Many Christians claim that any one system of economics is the same in God’s eyes as any other system. To say God is all-wise but has no evaluative opinion about what he knows is the ultimate put-down.

Does God the Creator have opinions about what is beautiful? Is the one who formed the musical scales and the chirps of birds indifferent to good or bad music?

If such people mean to say that Christians should be prepared to live under any kind of economic system, I agree. The same goes for political systems.

But that’s a different argument. Recognition of God’s creation ordinances never implies slavery to them. Real obedience bears the fruit of freedom.

The free market that I think God has established as a basic building block of human society is pretty elementary. It refers to two (or more) parties making a voluntary and lawful agreement to exchange an item of value.

When they do so—in a context of good will—God has ordered that both parties can walk away from that exchange happier and more fulfilled than when they approached it. And as a result, both of them can be wealthier!

It works everywhere, in every culture, in every era of history. It works, not because Adam Smith said so, but because God planned that it would be so.

Can this simple scenario be abused? Of course it can—and regularly is. But the abuse of anything is no signal that the thing itself is wrong. Just look at what sinful man has done with God’s good gift of sex.

The beauty of free markets can be obscured by greed, laziness, impatience, pride, and failure to love our neighbor as ourselves. But none of these sins is a refutation of the magnificence of the original model.

A Christian’s responsibility is to learn to distinguish between obedient use of God’s systems and disobedient abuse of them.

This goes for virtually all of God’s marvelous systems—including his economic systems.

If we’d been doing that better over the last couple of generations, voters would be a little less attracted to the socialist label.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Photo/G. Ronald Lopez, ZUMA Press, Newscom)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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