Preface

I grew up on a farm, so I left school early to work in farming. After a couple of years, I realised that I did not have the strength and stamina that farming needs, so I decided to go to university. While working with sheep and driving the tractor, I had plenty of time to think about the poverty and suffering that were rampant throughout the world. The problems seemed to be economic and political, so I enrolled to study economics and politics.

After four years of study, I realised that I was digging a dry well. The assumptions that economists have to make to ensure their models work are so unrealistic that their theories are irrelevant to the real world. It seemed that during the first three years of economics, they told you all the solutions, but in the fourth year, they explained why they would not work. (I noted that my fellow students who went into politics, often only did the three-year course, so they went out boldly assuming they had effective policies).

While growing up, our family had gone to church every Sunday, but for me, it was just a habit. When I reached university and encountered modern philosophy, I gave up my religious habit. However, just when I became disillusioned with economics, I heard the gospel of Jesus clearly for the first time. I surrendered to him and committed to living by his word and Spirit.

A few months later, I had an exam for a post-graduate course on comparative economics. The lecturer was a staunch Marxist. Full of my newfound faith, I wrote in my paper that Marx has no solution to human problems and that Jesus is the answer. I gave a similar response in a paper on macroeconomics.

Surprisingly, I passed the course with first class honours. However, at the beginning of the following year, one of my professors asked to meet with me. He disclosed that he was an atheist, but acknowledged that my faith seemed to be genuine. He told me that it was not enough to say that Jesus is the answer. I needed to explain how he could be a solution to the problems that concerned me. He concluded with a telling question: “What would the economy and society look like if everyone was a Christian”.

I could not answer his question, but I knew that I had to find the answer to it. I did not know enough about God, or his solutions to economic problems, but I made it my goal to find out.

I went to seminary for three years and studied theology and New Testament Greek. Later I studied Hebrew for two years to get a better understanding of the Old Testament. While employed as an economist, I read every book and article that I could find that is relevant to economics and the gospel.

About ten years ago, I felt that I was ready to answer the question that my atheist teacher had asked, but one more obstacle lay in the way. I still had faith in political power. I believed that God’s people could use political power to establish his Kingdom on earth. I needed to grasp the failures and futility of politics.

When I studied this issue seriously, I discovered that God had already given a system of government to Moses that does not rely on force and coercion. I described his system of local judges applying his law and voluntary military leaders protecting their community in a book called Government of God (2017). It explains how Kingdom Communities can function without political power. They can voluntarily provide all the services that human governments promise, but fail to deliver.

Once I understood the problems of political power, my understanding of the nature of economics changed dramatically. The policies of modern economists cannot enter the Kingdom of God because they need to be imposed from the top by human governments with the power to make people do the right thing. I began seeking a politics-free economics.

I discovered the Instructions for Economic Life that God gave to Moses (see chapter 2). I also found that Jesus had validated these instructions in his teaching about economics (see chapter 3). God’s instructions allow a community of people to develop an economy that can function effectively without the need for political power and coercion.

This book describes the changes to economic activity that will occur as the Government of God comes to fullness. It seeks to answer the following question: “What would an economy look like if most people chose to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit was able to establish the Government of God?”. This is the question my economics teacher asked me back in 1975.

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Economic Providence

Many people expect free markets to act as economic providence. They believe that free markets can “work all things together for good”. Anyone understanding markets knows that this is not true. Markets are not rational entities, so they cannot act to produce a perfect world. Only God works all things for good (Rom 8:28).

The belief that free markets work everything for good is totally unrealistic. Foolish transactions can make people worse off. Dishonest markets have allowed terrible evils to occur. Those who equate markets with providence trust in a false religion.

In an honest market, people governed by the Instructions for Economic Life, people are less likely to be harmed by buying and selling, but wise guidelines cannot prevent people from making unwise purchases or sales. Everything does not work for good, for those who reject God, even if they make smart economic decisions.

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Jesus Prophecy

Jesus was blunter than Paul. When teaching his disciples, he promised that the natural order of things would be turned upside down.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied (Luke 6:20-21).

Jesus promised that the poor would receive the Kingdom of God, but his message to the rich was a shock.

Woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry (Luke 6:24-25).

Jesus warned that the people who are rich and well fed would lose their comfort and be hungry.

Before Jesus was born, Mary had prophesied a massive economic and political upheaval.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm...
He has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53).

Those who are poor will be lifted up and be made comfortable. The rich and powerful will be disappointed.

These prophecies will not be achieved by war and revolution. They will be fulfilled voluntarily through giving and sharing. They were fulfilled by the early church, but they are not often fulfilled in the modern world.

The prophecies of Jesus and Mary are a challenge to the church. If the gospel is being preached effectively, the poor and hungry should be being lifted up and being satisfied. This will happen when followers of Jesus heed the Instructions for Economic Life.

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