Economic Systems

Text: Luke 12:13-34


I.         Many of the things we take for granted in our life are difficult for everyone to produce individually

            A.        Imagine life where you had to produce everything yourself.

                        1.         That car you drove to services, would you be able to put one together yourself?

                        2.         What if that also required that you designed and manufactured the parts yourself?

                        3.         What if you had to gather the raw materials for the parts?

                        4.         Oh, and the gas that it uses ... imagine cooking that up in your backyard from crude oil.

            B.        Hard to imagine it because we are individually limited

                        1.         Limited in our education, skills, and, most importantly, time

            C.        Hence, we specialize. I produce things that I’m good at and exchange those things with the products you produce.

                        1.         How that exchange takes place is the basis of various economic systems

                        2.         No pure economic system exists in the world

                                    a.         Pure economic systems are theories

                                    b.         They break down a piece of the exchanges going on and describe why they are acceptable to the participants

                        3.         In every country and in every age a variety of systems are used simultaneously

                        4.         Generally, when we speak of an economic system of a country, we speak of the dominate one that exists.

            D.        Various systems are popular or unpopular with individuals. At times I’ll hear Christians talk of the merits or demerits of various systems.

                        1.         For example, communism is a system that many people loved to hate.

                        2.         What disturbs me is when Christians begin to think that their favored system is the only acceptable system

                        3.         For example, whole denominations were created around the denial of private ownership of goods.

II.        Types of Economic Systems

            A.        Market Economy

                        1.         Operates by voluntary exchange. It is not planned or controlled by a central authority

                        2.         Anarchism: A complete rejection of any central authority, such as government. Individuals should have complete free choice with no government involvement. Concentration of decision power even in corporations is also rejected.

                        3.         Capitalism: Private ownership of goods and production allowing personal profit. Ideally, government involvement is minimal and the free market determines direction based on supply and demand. Emphasis is placed on competition and profit.

            B.        Planned Economy

                        1.         A central authority makes a wide range of decisions pertaining to production and wages

                        2.         Feudalism: Ownership of all land is held by a central authority (king) who grants rights to portions of the land based on a contract of loyalty and service. These people in turn subdivided their land to other individuals based on contracts of loyalty and service. Lowest are non-land owners who simply exchange service for protection.

                        3.         Socialism: Collective or government ownership and management of production and distribution. Emphasis is placed on cooperation and social service.

                        4.         Communism: A form of socialism where property is held in common; there is no private ownership. Individuals are held to be equal and share an equal benefit from the common property.

III.       Is one economic system more moral than another?

            A.        One university professor, Robert H. Nelson, notes that any economic system must be based on a considerable degree of honesty and altruistic behavior in order to function.

            B.        Anarchism fails because it denies the legitimacy of government to exist

                        1.         Romans 13:1-7

                                    a.         Government is needed to separate good from evil

                        2.         There will always be products that some will be willing to purchase and others to sell that are neither good for the individual or for society as a whole.

                                    a.         Recreational drugs

                                    b.         Pornography

                                    c.         Prostitution

                                    d.         Should you be able to hire an assassin, if you can find someone willing to kill a fellow human?

                                    e.         Extortion - paying money to keep that person from harming you

                                    f.         There is a whole host of sinful practices that technically would be available unless government existed to impose a moral standard

            C.        Capitalism is faulted because it rewards the greedy

                        1.         It should first be noted that greed exists independent of any economic system. It is true that capitalism does not prevent greed, but then no economic system can prevent a sin, such as greed.

                        2.         The right to private ownership and decision is noted in the Bible - Acts 5:4

                                    a.         No one compelled Ananias to sell his property.

                                    b.         No one forced him to contribute it to the disciples

                                    c.         His sin was not that he kept a portion of the proceeds but that he lied about how much he had given.

                        3.         On a related note, it is faulted because it provides no incentive for aiding the poor

                                    a.         It should be noted that it doesn’t prevent the aiding of the poor either

                                    b.         Ephesians 4:28 - Encouragement to earn funds for the opportunity to aid the less fortunate.

                                                (1)       Here is a capitalistic idea: earn more than you need, so that you have the ability to help the needy.

                                                (2)       True, helping the needy has no capitalistic reward, but the motivation for helping the needy is not financial but righteous.

                                                (3)       Systems where wages are fixed regardless of effort will not allow this command to occur because you will never earn more than you need.

            D.        Socialism's decision making body is prone to corruption

                        1.         Ecclesiastes 5:8 - Don’t be surprised by corruption in government.

                        2.         Because men can be corrupt and because socialism concentrates decision making power in the hands of a few, the possibility of system being corrupted is quite high.

                        3.         Where capitalism brings no natural restraint on greed, socialism has problems with envy.

                                    a.         It espouses self-sacrifice, but it is not voluntary. Those who are more productive are told they must give to all, whether they agree or not.

                                    b.         It is those who are less productive who demand that they share what the productive earn. This is simply institutionalized envy.

                                    c.         “Envy is the desire to not only possess another’s wealth but also the desire to see another’s wealth lowered tot he level of one’s own.”

                        4.         But didn’t Israel have a form of socialism?

                                    a.         What is usually referenced is the fact that all land belonged to God - Leviticus 25:23

                                    b.         However, this was not socialism. On the Jubilee year land reverted to the original family. There was always an owner of record - Leviticus 25:28

                                    c.         Nor was there a central body deciding what was to be produced, the amount to be produced, the prices to be charged, or the wages to be earned.

                        5.         Actually, the Scriptures teach that diversification is better than centralization - Ecclesiastes 11:6

            E.        Communism is faulted because it rewards laziness

                        1.         Since income is fix regardless of effort, there is no built-in motivation to provide additional effort.

                                    a.         Any effort provided then becomes one based on righteousness and not financial - II Thessalonians 3:10

                                    b.         Note that in a market economy this rule is built-in.

                        2.         But weren’t the early Christians communistic?

                                    a.         It is a mistake to associate generosity with communism

                                    b.         In communism, there is no choice about sharing. Everything is held in common whether you desire it or not.

                                    c.         Acts 2:44-45 - Was the sharing voluntary or required?

                                    d.         Acts 4:32-37 - Notice that some possessed land (not communistic), it was sold voluntarily to give to those in need.

                                    e.         II Corinthians 9:5-14 - The giving was voluntary; strongly encouraged, but voluntary none the less.

                                                (1)       In fact, forced sharing was explicitly condemned and forbidden.

                                                (2)       It was by an individual’s own purpose (choice)

                        3.         Communistic societies in recent years proved that people remained materialistic.

                                    a.         People spend long hours in lines to obtain consumer goods that were available in limited supplies.

                                    b.         Black markets arose to obtain sought after items that were not generally available.

                                    c.         They didn’t have as much material, but they still sought them.

IV.      Morality is not found in a particular economic system

            A.        Yet no economic system can operate without moral people.

            B.        There cannot be an exchange of goods or services without a basic trust between the producer and consumer. In other words, lying is bad for the economy.

            C.        The problem with economic models is that they leave God out of the equation

                        1.         Israel learned that fallacy the hard way - Haggai 1:6-11; 2:17-19

            D.        Righteousness must proceed prosperity - II Corinthians 9:10-11

            E.        Why isn’t morality factored in?

                        1.         Because it isn’t measurable and its effects as God stated are not predictable based on what is done

                        2.         But simultaneously, it cannot be ignored. It’s absence has a greater detrimental effect that one would scientifically expect.

V.        Christians ought to have a unique view of the world

            A.        We don’t serve money - Luke 16:13

            B.        Yet at the same time we use money to accomplish God’s will - Luke 16:9

            C.        God judges our faithful in minor things, like handling money - Luke 16:10-12

            D.        Christians should see themselves as stewards of God

                        1.         What they possess is loaned to them by God for a period of time

                        2.         They use those possessions to further God’s will in the world

                        3.         Whether they possess little or much is up to God, but whatever they have, they will use to the best of their ability to do what is right - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

                        4.         Luke 12:42-46

            E.        Where is your treasure? Matthew 6:19-21

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