Christian Economics

We are familiar with economics in commerce and government. We take courses in economics and deal with economics on a daily basis. In the world, whether individuals, government or businesses, economics is all about getting and the more one gets, the more recognition, honor and popularity one has.

Political candidates always promise tax breaks and benefits to get votes, but once they are elected, they pass bills to get more taxes. The angrier people get about taxation, the more votes these politicians get. Citizens never seem to get it. They always vote for the candidate who promises tax relief and benefits, yet taxation and spending are the primary jobs of politicians. That is why they seek office and why they are elected.

With business, it is not much different except for the terminology. A business doesn't call the choices people make "votes" and its promises are called "advertising." The getting is called "profits" instead of "taxes." Watch the TV commercials and read magazine or newspaper ads. Businesses are all "there to serve, give or please their customers". Firms pay big bucks to tell you that. The ads scream, "Save!" "Free!" "We care!"

Itís the same with healthcare. When my wife and I were scheduled for colonoscopies, we were first given a "pre-op" appointment. I suggested to the doctor that we both come in together, but he declined, saying that this was not according to procedure. He spent ten minutes with each of us, explaining what we were to expect and how we should prepare. If he had given us the same information on a cassette tape, it would have saved us time and gasoline, and our health insurance $450 ($225 each). My suggestion was contrary to normal procedures of the healthcare industry.

Unfortunately, such practices are common in many if not most charities, churches and organizations. Its all about getting; just the terminology is different.

A few years ago, a mission organization called CrossWorld was looking for a new campus. The mission was growing but there was no room to build and the location was not ideal. At a conference of mission leaders, Directors of CrossWorld and Avant Ministries happened to be sitting next to each other and this need came up in conversation. Avant had property that it didn't need, a training center that was only used half the time and it had just purchased a state-of-the-art computer system for its operations that was powerful enough to process twice as much data. Avant's Director asked, "Why not move to Kansas City and share services with us? Our missions have different ministries and areas of service, but we share the same doctrinal statement and general objectives." Many discussions and planning sessions followed, and today, the two missions share a campus, several buildings and the computer network. Both organizations are saving millions of Dollars that can now be used for missionary work around the world. An unexpected additional blessing is the fellowship between workers in the two organizations.

The primary difference between the colonoscopy doctor and these mission directors, could be seen in their differing concepts of economics. For the doctor, economics meant getting money, but for missions, economics means being more efficient in order to serve the Lord more and better.

When flying from Kansas City to Philadelphia, I studied the cities and towns below during take-off and landing. In addition to thousands of residences, one could easily recognize factories, shopping centers, businesses, schools and churches, all of which had large parking lots.

The commercial establishments showed the most efficient use of property. Shopping malls consolidated many businesses under one roof. The parking lots were filled with cars.

Schools were generally spread out and had flat roofs, indicating inefficient heating, cooling and building management. Parking and transportation was obviously a very expensive operation. Scores of busses that picked up and discharged students took up a lot of space even though they were only present at the school for 15-30 minutes at a time. The High Schools had parking lots for both teachers and students who preferred driving their own vehicles to riding a school bus.

It was the churches that were obviously least efficient. Large asphalt parking lots showed up from the air like gaping holes in an otherwise congested landscape. Many of these lots were filled only once a week for a couple of hours. The same would be true for the buildings themselves. Few churches have evening services or prayer meetings. The closest competitors of inefficiency are sports stadiums, but these are filled more often and for longer times than churches.

A large part of the teachings of Jesus and most of his parables have to do with economics. His economics were not new, however. He simply reinforced or reformulated what the Torah taught and drew logical conclusions from a "kingdom of heaven" perspective. We would do well to learn economics from our Master.

Ralph V Harvey, March, 2014