Does the Bible Endorse Free Markets?
Religion & Liberty Online

Does the Bible Endorse Free Markets?

bible-studyMost Christians recognize that the Bible has lot to say about economic topics, such as money and poverty. Yet there is a paradoxical assumption, whether stated or unspoken, that these passages don’t speak to larger economic issues. Occasionally this is true, but more often than not, we can find principles from Scripture that can help us discern how we should think about matters related to economics.

Consider, for example, the issue of economic systems. The Bible doesn’t claim to favor any particular nation-based economic system, such as American-style capitalism or the old Soviet-style communism. But Scripture does seem to have a clear preference for the economic activities that underpin the free market. As David Kotter explains,

[T]he Bible contains clear economic principles and the early church grew in an environment of buying, selling, borrowing, and hiring. In essence, an economy of free markets and entrepreneurship follows from the commands given by God, though sin has marred the business practices that we experience today. Free markets only require recognition of property rights and the freedom to trade with other people. Further, comparative advantage (people are gifted in different ways) and subjective valuation (people prefer different things) mean that both parties can profit from any voluntary transaction. This mutual benefit from trading is at the heart of free markets and over the past two centuries has lifted the vast majority of people in the world out of abject poverty.

Without question the Bible requires people to recognize the property rights of others. “You shall not steal,” was not only commanded to Israel (Exodus 20:15), but was repeated both by Jesus and Paul (Mark 10:19, Romans 13:9). Further, Jesus approved of buying and selling, and he never would have allowed his disciples to sin in making purchases (John 4:8; 6:5; Luke 22:36; see also Jeremiah 32:8, 25). Engaging in such commerce is even considered virtuous, and those who sell grain are blessed as opposed to those who hoard (Proverbs 11:26). God’s word is clear that people have received different giftings and bring different strengths to the church and the marketplace. For example, Bezalel was filled with the Spirit specifically to empower craftsmanship for artistic designs in woodworking and stone carving (Exodus 31:2-6). Paul recognized a similar diversity of gifting among the believers in Rome that essentially serves as the foundation for comparative advantage and subjective valuation (Romans 12:1-13).

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(Via: Denny Burk)

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).