Economics and Decision-Making

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eadmthumbAs many of you know, I pay my bills by labouring in the financial services arena. Therefore, my work involves the need to understand something about economics. The term economics,interestingly, comes from the Greek word oikonomia. This is made up by two separate Greek words: oikos meaning home or household, and nomos meaning law or custom. Therefore economics at its core means the rule or stewardship of the house.

The reason for the title of this article is that all law (nomos) and order has its root in the person of God. God is a God of order. He is the Chief Economist. “For from Him . . . are all things.” (Romans 11:36).

Matthew 25:14-30 is a stark wake-up call to reality in understanding our Lord’s approach to our economics, our stewardship of His house.

We see from this parable that the Master expects productivity and a return on his deposit from his servants. For a return to be generated, planning, application and effort is required. You will notice that the first two servants seemed to live light in light of the Master’s authority and rule. They were good stewards—good economists—because they recognised their Master’s rule. They laboured under his lordship.

In recent months, I have had to make some pretty serious decisions related to my career. One of the things that I learnt in this is that making decisions while living life in a fallen world is difficult. One of the processes of thought that I went through in arriving at my decision, was to assess why I do what I do and how, in doing what I do, could I best bring glory to God. How could I be a faithful steward over what God has gifted me with? In fact, this is something that I have encouraged our Family Bible Hour class to do. Write down why you do what you do and then try to process how you can bring glory to God in it.

At the encouragement of one of my fellow elders a while back, I wanted to let you in to the process of thought that I went through in an attempt to come to conclusions in this aspect of my life. This was written at about one o’ clock in the morning while my family and I were away in May this year.

Rationale for Why I Do What I Do

I am a Christian and this affects not only what I do, but how I do it.

I am a child of the Almighty God and an heir to His kingdom. His Son, Jesus Christ, has bought me from slavery to sin and death by His substitutionary sacrifice. In redeeming me, He has also enlisted me to the ambassadorial service of His kingdom. Therefore, all that I do in this world must be aligned to the propagation and establishment of His kingdom here on earth.

Unfortunately, I have not always believed this. This has been borne out by many foolish actions that I have done and decisions that I have made (the consequences of which I carry and suffer with to this day). Nevertheless, God has been gracious to me, has sustained me and my family and has brought me to where I am today.

Any work that I do must exist and function on the premise that its vertical vision has a direct bearing on its horizontal impact. How we view God (our vertical vision) affects how we relate to our fellow man (our horizontal impact). The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and then to love our neighbour in the same way as we already love ourselves.

In light of the above, this means that the economics (my stewardship) of investment and risk planning for my clients will be directly affected by my view of the Creator God.

The Four Cs

Risk planning exists because we live in a fallen world and because we are subject to the results of the curse. We recognise, as a result, that all of our earthly assets are subject to the known and unknown timing and effects of criminality, corrosion, calamity and change. As Christians, we rejoice and rest in the sovereignty of our kind God over the results of the curse and joyfully trust Him if and when we suffer as a result of the effects of corrosion, calamity and/or crime.

Having said that, planning for these things does not reveal a lack of faith. On the contrary, wisdom compels us to respond faithfully to the world as God has given it to us by taking cognisance of the reality of the effects of the curse, and to seek to plan for contingent outcomes, all the while recognising that, as a man’s heart devises his way, it is the Lord who directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). Faith does not preclude thinking, planning and execution. In fact, failure to plan exposes you to the possibility of shame.

Crime

Crime affects our stewardship because we may suffer theft, hijacking or malicious damage to property. This is the place of short-term insurance. Someone once quipped that everyone who has a lock on their door believes in at least one of the five points of Calvinism (namely, total depravity).

Corrosion

Here, we must think of asset replacement and maintenance. Jesus said that moth and rust corrupt our belongings, and it is, I believe, good stewardship to take care of the things that He has given to us. It is also incumbent on us as pilgrims in this world to hold onto these things lightly. But God is hardly glorified if we neglect to maintain those gifts that He has given us. This is why we should focus on building short-term accessible cash reserves. The benefit here is twofold: one, we can give it away should the Lord lead us to do so, trusting Him to look after our stuff; and two, we are able to fix stuff that gets broken.

Calamity

Think here in terms of illness, injury and death. Calamity is something that will come to us all in due course. The Lord is gracious and will not give us more than we can handle. Having said that, we ought to do all that we can under God and in wisdom to ensure that our family does not become a burden to the church as well as to others in the event of such calamity occurring. Where such provision was genuinely unable to be made, the church must be the church and do good to all men, especially the household of faith.

Change

Our lives can be summed up in this one word. If unchanging (or immutability) explains God’s godhood, then this one word reveals our creatureliness. From cradle to grave, this is our life: change! As we progress through the three stages of life we encounter various experiences of change along the way, ultimately culminating in leaving a legacy. We live to leave a legacy. It is not a question of if, but what.

Perhaps I may leave this challenge with you: Will our children remember us as good and faithful economists? May we leave a legacy of faithfulness passed down through godly lives, remembering that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (and this inheritance is not necessarily always financial)!

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