A non-believer’s guide to biblical economics

I’ve studied economics and taught mathematics to students who became economists, but I’m not an economist. Still, I know enough to recognize that economists sometimes selectively focus on data that fit their liberal or conservative ideologies. At least both sides work with data and try to make convincing arguments for their models. Economists of all stripes recognize that their own models are by no means perfect.

I should have known it would be only a matter of time before biblical economics turned the “dismal science” into something even more dismal. Some conservative Christians are now educating themselves and others with quotes about economics that come from that same infallible “science” book describing a flat earth with four corners resting on pillars at the center of a ten thousand year old universe. It’s also the same book of biblical morals that once justified slavery, anti-Semitism, treating women as property, executing blasphemers and homosexuals, and burning witches and heretics.

Of course our government’s huge national debt is a looming threat to long-term prosperity. Good secular and moral arguments can be made on how best to solve the problem. We should analyze arguments over tax policy and deficit spending. We can have reasoned disagreements about what type of tax is fairest, and whether we should spend more on guns or butter.

The one thing we should not do is make economic policy based on “God’s plan.” Nobody knows God’s plan. I don’t believe God has an economic plan, because I don’t think God exists. Conservative Christians are citing passages from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in which God tells Israel not to borrow money from any nation. The implications are that we (even though we are not Israel) should not sell bonds to other countries and use the money to help poor people in this country. Whenever I hear something about “God’s plan” I compare it with the “Tooth Fairy plan.” Usually the Tooth Fairy comes out better, but in this case they are similar. Empirical evidence suggests that the Tooth Fairy gives more money per tooth to children of rich people than to children of poor people. I guess she must be an economic conservative.

You can quote from selected biblical passages to make whatever case you want, and then claim the moral high ground. Here’s something for conservative Christians to contemplate. Jesus tells us to pay our fair share of taxes without grumbling, and that he favors class warfare. He is probably a socialist, and maybe even a communist. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

Matthew 22:21: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Matt. 19: 21: If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Acts 2:44: All the believers were united and shared everything with one another.