By W. J. Cameron
DESTINY -- The Magazine of National Life
Fifth Issue (May) 1966
Merrimac, Massachusetts 01860
20 cents each; 6 for $1.00 postpaid
Printed in U.S.A
ECONOMICS OF THE BIBLE By W. J. Cameron
How PROFOUNDLY the economic fact influences the temper andquality of our lives! Even in ordinary times it exercises a dictatorship overus comparable to any other authority we recognize. Not the government itself,with all its wide-reaching control of our actions, nor even our conventionalreligious belief, has the dominance over our lives and thought equal to that ofour economic condition. It determines our personal and social status frominfancy to old age.
The economic condition of the family into which we areborn often determines what our physical development shall be. It determines oureducational opportunities and the class of people we shall walk with throughlife. Our marriage is affected by it and by it the advantages of our childrenare limited or enlarged. It dictates at what hour we shall rise in the morning,or perhaps that the morning sun shall light our returning from a night of work.It commands how every precious day shall be spent; to what tasks we shall giveour hands and mind; how every hour shall be devoted; at what time we shall bereleased at night; in what frame of body and soul; to what kind of home weshall come.
There is nothing with which we can compare this mastery ofmultitudes by the economic fact. We have never seen a whole city moved by thename and glory of Jesus Christ, but we have seen a whole nation moved by theblast of the 7 o'clock shop whistle. Compare the dominion of Jesus Christ withthe domination of the present economic fact and, in doing so, reflect that thedominance of the economic fact by Jesus Christ may be our most pressingeconomic necessity and our most imminent economic possibility.
Most of the social sins which plague us today, and most ofthe crime that afflicts us, have economic sources, for crime is a big,adventurous business, conducted for quick and large profits. But there is noneed to go into that, although it would further emphasize how completely we areunder the influence of economics in everything that pertains to our life inthis world order.
Has this phase of living, which is today the foremostburden on human minds, been overlooked in the Bible? Even if we do notspecifically know the answer to this question, most of us would assume that aBook which speaks so authoritatively and healingly in regard to every otherhuman condition must have something to say on economic matters also. Since fromthe Bible we have those principles on which our free government of laws isbuilt; since from the Bible we have the revelation on which our religion isbuilt; since from the Bible we have that bent toward reason, reflection andresearch on which literature, philosophy and science are built, what is morereasonable than to expect that in this Universal Book we may find some guidanceon economic principles as well? The wonder is not that principles of economicsare to be found in the Holy Bible, but that anyone could conceive of any Bookworthy of that name omitting them.
Of course, these matters are in the Bible because theywere first in the lives of the people to whose origin, history, development anddestiny the greater part of the Bible is devoted.* These economic principleswere not written in the Scriptures until they were first demonstrated in life.Thus, we read in the First Psalm: "His delight is in the law of the Lord;and in his law doth he meditate day and night." This does not picture aman with his face buried in the pages of a Bible (there were no Bibles then),but it pictures a man contemplating the marvelous wis-
* See The Covenant People. $1.00 postpaid. DestinyPublishers, Merrimac, Mass. 01860
dom, harmony andpower observable in the working of the Divine laws of economics in his nation.
This man saw how buying and selling and tithing and allthe so-called material activities of men, as carried on under the Divine lawsof economics, ministered to the moral consciousness and physical welfare of thepeople. This is one aspect of wonder that we have missed. Philosophers havemarvelled as they viewed the stellar universe above us and the moral universeof mankind. The Bible, however, contemplated our having another revelation ofthe Divine nature in the interactions of human society. One of the Psalmistsobserved:
"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I notseen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." (Ps. 37: 25.)
This is a text which, down through the centuries, has beenregarded as a sort of insurance that the righteous family would never bereduced to dependence and need. Thousands of sermons on the unfailingProvidence of God have been preached from this passage, yet the years of thegreat economic Depression of 1929 in the United States gave it a strange setting.Men who had lived industrious, quiet and helpful lives lost their employment,their homes, their independence. They saw their families reduced to stark needand they quoted this verse, not in bitterness, not in repudiation of theirfaith, but in puzzled grief. How can the Psalmist's words be reconciled withthings as they are?
The Psalmist was speaking the exact truth concerning thecondition of his people. He was reporting the true state of things in hisnation. There was economic security then; there was no economic humiliation.Why could he say that then, and why cannot we say it now? The answer is plain.The Psalmist and his people were living, in a substantial measure at least,under the Economic Law of the Lord and obedience
to Hiscommandments, statutes and judgments rendered need and beggary impossible.True, its sway was breaking even as he wrote you will see this if you observethe economic notes of the remainder of the 37th Psalm but it was stillsufficiently operative to enable the Psalmist to say what we cannot say, thatthe right-living family is guaranteed, by its very righteousness, a soundsecurity from economic need.
It is not the Providence of God that is in questionbecause of our modem economic uncertainty. Divine Providence gave us the methodof creating economic security. The matter in question is what became of thesystem that produced the social condition so vividly described by the Psalmwriter? We read in the book of the Prophet Micah:
"But they shall sit every man under his vine andunder his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lordof hosts hath spoken it." (Micah 4: 4.)
This is a delightful picture of individual economicsecurity. Micah prophesied this of the future, but, oddly enough, he used preciselythe words which, 235 years before, had described an actual existing condition:
"And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man underhis vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days ofSolomon." (I Kings 4: 25.)
That condition of well-being had once existed in his ownnation but had been lost; Micah prophesied, in the name of the Lord of Hosts,that it shall be restored.
For argument's sake let us say we knew that 235 years ago(that would be a little over 100 years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed on ourshores) this country had enjoyed a perfect economic life, the fruit of a systemof laws then observed, in which economic security had been achieved by ourforefathers. If it were prophesied that such happy conditions would
return again asthe result of our recovery and observance of the same laws, would it not belogical to conclude that it would deeply concern us to learn all that was to beknown about that prosperity and the laws which produced it? Yet there is nospirit of inquiry, even in days like these, on the part of our national leaders none whatsoever although this in itself may be a mark of identity, forthrough the Prophet Hosea it was declared:
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also -reject thee. . . . As theywere increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their gloryinto shame. . . . For they shall eat, and not have enough . . . because theyhave left off to take heed to the Lord." (Hosea 4: 6-10.)
This subject could be pursued in the New Testament also,but in order to conserve space, only one reference will be made here. It is thefamiliar observation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
"The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests;but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Matt 8: 20.)
We look about us today and see that the economics of Godfor the creatures are still operating in good order and it is just as true thatmany of the sons of men have not where to lay their heads. We inquire into thispoverty of Jesus and, to our astonishment, we find that it was all so needless.The constitution of His nation guaranteed Jesus and every man and family of Hisnation a homestead, a freehold that never could be alienated. His nation hadpossessed an economic system in which God provided for the sons of men ascompletely as for the foxes and the birds.
What became of it, that Jesus was compelled to be ahomeless Pilgrim? It had been lost and the people who once had it lost theirnational independence when they lost their economic system. No one can followthe teachings of Jesus as they relate to "the kingdom of
heaven"without being aware that He was referring to a restoration of that which hadbeen lost. The very term, "kingdom of heaven!' referred to a socialcondition on earth'. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth."
As we now go on to outline the Law of the Lord, we are notspeaking of an ideal system that existed in some good man's pious desire; weare not speaking of some reformer's dream. We are speaking of an economicsystem that was once in practical operation among ordinary people. Its laws arefound in the Bible, as well as the history of its development anddisappearance. More than that, we are speaking of a body of law that shouldstill be administered today, for it was not in any sense localized inPalestine.
True, it was given at Mount Sinai and its promulgator wasMoses. Nevertheless, Moses was given the basic law directly from the hand ofGod; indeed, by the very finger of God:
"And he [Jehovah] gave unto Moses, when he had madean end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tablesof stone, written with the finger of God." (Ex. 31: 18.)
Undoubtedly, Moses was instrumental in the development ofthe Law of the Lord, particularly in the articulation of its judgmentsaccording to national experience in the light of spiritual values. That heoutlined the main framework of the system admits of no doubt whatever. Its mainpoints can be found operating in the time of the Judges, in the time of theundivided Kingdom, in the time of the prophets, in the time covered by theApocrypha, and in the time of our Lord's ministry preceding the destruction ofJerusalem. For that matter, the only elements that support our present economicsystem and prevent its utter collapse are those elements we still preserve fromthe economic system of the Bible which is so amply described in principle andpractice.
Scope of the Law
The Economic Law of the Lord, before it did anything else,gave every family its own bit of private property. Every man in the nation hadhis private freehold, which could not be bought or sold or taken away from him.The National Landlord was Jehovah, who said:
"The land shall not be sold forever: for the land ismine; for ye are strangers [guests] and sojourners with me." (Lev. 25:23.)
God ordained that the land should continue to be theproperty of its original holders and their descendants, enlarged as the familyincreased, to the remotest posterity. Thus, a child born into the nation ofIsrael was already provided for. His birth certificate was a title deed to hisestate. Under our system, estates are inherited by reason of someone's death;under God's law an estate was inherited by reason of birth. Truly, that may bethe difference between the two systems the difference between life and death!In Israel children were an addition to the wealth of the land, not a drain onits poverty.
The family allotment of land remained with that familyforever. It could not be sold; it could not be lost on a mortgage; it could notbe seized. It was a perpetual possession. No generation could waste thepatrimony of its descendants or weigh them down with debt.
The guarantee of individual independence was at the verybasis of God's economic law. Men were not compelled to spend most of theirlives and half lose their souls to obtain a foothold on the earth. They wereable to live as sons of God should live. This is why Israel, under God's economiclaw, was able to bless the world with Psalms and prophecies and spiritual lightunrivalled by any nation or by any other period of history. Israel's soul wasfree from subservience to the kitchen side of life as long as the peo-
ple lived by thislaw. They had perfect economic liberty, without which their political libertywould not have been worth much.
Divine System of Taxation
The Bible system of economics begins, therefore. with theman on his land secured to him for a lifetime and to his children after him.What does he give in return for it? As a price for the land, nothing. It has noprice. It has no assessed valuation. How is it taxed, then? It is not taxed.But are there no taxes? Yes, but neither the man nor the land pays them Godpays them. This idea may seem strange, but who, other than God, ever paysanything or creates anything with which to pay?
Let us examine the Divine system of taxation, which manyare coming to believe has the most scientific basis and produces better humanresults than any other system thus far known in this tax-burdened world. In theBible, taxes are called tithes and offerings. They were not based on the valueof property, but on the produce of property the natural increase of the land.Even that hardly describes it, for there was no tax at all on the produceconsumed by a family's living. Only the surplus over and above a livelihood wastaxed, and that in slight degree.
A property tax is a form of piecemeal confiscation. Whatdoes a workingman's cottage produce that it should be taxed? Put it on the taxroll for a sufficient number of years and it is eaten up. Bible taxes are notlike that; they were not laid on property, nor on the means of living; theywere laid on the annual increase', and rose or fell accordingly.
Every man paid his own tax, not the combined andaccumulated taxes of everyone along the line of trade which eventually fall inone lump sum upon the shoulders of "the ultimate consumer." Two taxevils were absent: 1} there was no way to evade one's own tax except bycommitting a sin before God; 2) there
was no way ofbeing compelled to pay anyone else's tax.
The tithe supported all public activities much more thanour taxes do. Government, religious worship all public services, such as legalmatters, medicine, education and public welfare all were supported by thetithe.
In addition, the law required the formation of a fund inthe taxpayer's own hands to be used for travel, recreation and culture forhimself and family. God's system of taxation actually left part of the taxes inthe taxpayer's hands for vacation trips and attendance upon national andseasonal festivals by himself and family, and for the aid of those temporarilydistressed. There never has been anything on earth to match this system, in itsrecognition of the rights of the taxpayer. How foolhardy it is to continue toignore the gracious invitation of the Lord, for He said:
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me. . . . For myyoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11: 29-30.)
Increase, Not Interest
Now, as to money in Bible economics not much is heard ofit, except for certain prohibitions concerning it. That is the differencebetween a civilization where the profit of living is cash and a civilizationwhere the profit of living is life. Where there can be no economic collapse;where no man can be cheated out of his property; where there is no profit to bemade out of debt; where money is not regarded as wealth money naturally dropsinto its proper place. Today we make automobiles, and raise wheat, and sell ourlabor, in order to buy money. The buying and selling of money is the whole ofmodem business. In a natural society we buy and sell commodities of use moneyis just the counter across which the exchange passes.
The principal money law in Divine economics is the lawagainst interest. I simply state the fact: it
would require abook to give the reasons underlying this law. It may, however, impress thisfinancially wise generation to know how large a part is played by the InterestBusiness and the Debt Business in national and international finance. InIsrael, because of this law concerning interest, there was no incentive toinvent means to lure people into debt because there could be no profit in debt.
This law prohibits the creation and refunding of long termdebts, but it is also the strong source of credit. Do you know of any law thatcommands that credit shall be given? The Divine law legislates credit just asit legislates taxes (tithes). Credit not as a burdensome debt, not as anadvantage taken of our pressing need but credit, as a lift, a help, a truefavor. The creation of credit without the multiplication of debt is amasterpiece of economic legislation.
Another strange point is that the law that absolutelyprohibits interest, or that which is called usury, purports to come from thesame Divine power which practices increase all the time! We make dead moneyartificially yield a paltry 3 or 4 or 5 per cent not that the money yieldsit, the borrower does. However, have you ever considered what the Divine law ofincrease actually entails? The Lord Jesus Christ once touched upon it. Speakingof God's interest which He pays to men, Jesus said that in some instances itwas "thirtyfold, some sixty, some an hundredfold." That is not 30, 60or 100 per cent, but 3,000, 6,000 and 10,000 per cent! We reject the natural,living system of 10,000 per cent increase and substitute our artificial anddead system of 5 per cent interest. But men are already talking about acommodity economy as distinct from a money economy, and to this extent they areapproaching the economic principles of the Bible.
Law of the Cycle
In this brief introduction to Divine economic laws andprinciples, probably most of the attention of modern students will be given tothat section which treats
of the Law of theCycle. For the people of today the term "business or economic cycle"is ominous with the suggestion of hard times; in the Bible conception of thecycle, however, hard times are neither an accompaniment of it nor a necessity.
Everyone has heard of the cycle of hard times. Theregularity with which panic and depression appear has long puzzled economists.They have studied the problem from many angles and eventually they confidentlyannounced that the "supposed cycle" in business had been conquered,that our new financial devices had it whipped! But just when we seemed mostcertain of this, a double cycle appeared and all our expert wisdom became as somuch smoke.
One of the wonderful phases of the Economic Law of theBible is that it announces the Law of the Cycle. Throughout the history andexperience of the nations of Israel this fact of the cycle is continuouslyrecognized. There is no explanation of the cycle only plain regulationsprescribing what Israel must do about it. From this we may draw the suggestionthat perhaps we can know the meaning of the cycle only by making the experimentof entering it as Israel entered it. Experience is always the first step toknowledge.
The cycle remains a puzzle to our scientists because theyapproach it with the idea of abolishing it; the Bible's method is to tell usthat the cycle exists and that it is as much a part of the natural order as dayand night. The Bible provides knowledge so that we may recognize it; we aretaught how to enter into it and reap its benefits. There appear to be mightyindividual and social benefits inherent in the cycle which our generations havenever enjoyed.
We recognize this Law of the Cycle everywhere except ineconomics. There is the cycle of day and night; the night repairs the ravagesof the day. How willingly we obey the round of work and rest; how rewarding wefind our obedience to be! This is the physical cycle.
There is the cycleof the week the seven-day cycle. We obey that too partially. Stand off andwatch this miracle of Sunday in Christendom; as you see it dominate industry,finance, government, commerce, you will realize the presence of a greatmystery. There is no apparent reason why we should close up shop, suspendlegislatures, bank our foundry furnaces and throw the country into idleness oneday in seven. It is not forced upon us as night and day are; there is noastronomical sign that designates the arrival of Sunday. But it is a mark ofIsrael, either in ancient lands or under the modem name of Anglo-Saxon. Indeed,it was to be a sign between Israel and her God (Ex. 31: 14-17). Wherever thepeople of God may be, they will be found observing the rest day. Day and night the natural cycle for the body. The Sabbath the moral cycle for the soul.
Further, in the Biblical compendium of the Divine lawthere is a third cycle the economic cycle. That law is: six years shalt thoulabor and do all thy work, but in the seventh year thy land shall rest. Israellived under this law for a thousand years. The sixth year was the Saturdaynight of the period, with all debts paid or, if they could not be paid,cancelled. Debt was not to be carried over and piled up as the case is with us.Israel's books were to be balanced. A Sabbatical Year was to be enjoyed by landand people. The seven-year cycle was to end and begin with a free people, freeof debt, fresh of outlook, renewed and eager for another six years of work. Itwas the Divine decree.
Israel had her big business men, of course, who inventedmany expedients to dodge this law. But a natural law does not depend upon ourconsent or recognition. Regardless of big business in Israel, as with us today,the cycle returned as regularly as the seasons. Israel could not have servedthe world as she did, religiously, morally or philosophically, without thisknowledge of how to make the cycle serve.
Sometimes Israel thought that, if she would forget thecycle, the cycle would forget to come but it
always came. WhenIsrael obeyed it, it came as a pleasant year of individual freedom and socialrecreation. When Israel ignored it, it became a time of economic difficulty.For this is the fact: the cycle fulfills itself. We may avail ourselves of it,or we may set ourselves to disregard it. Yet our attitude neither hastens norhinders it the cycle arrives.
It comes to us today, as it did to Israel 2000 years ago.This is the whole reason and history of hard times. Examine the charts of thestatistical economists for the last hundred years and you will see the chartlines dip approximately every seven years, with a deeper dip every fifty years.
The fifty-year cycle, or the cycle of the seven SabbaticalYears, is the Jubilee Year of Israel when all corporate obligations are to becompleted and cancelled, when land is to return to its original ownership atime of restitution of the social and economic balance. Not confiscation, mindyou, not a levelling up and levelling down, but restoration. As the seventh yearwas the Year of Individual Release, the Fiftieth Year was the Year of CorporateRelease. This was not any form of Socialism or Communism, but God's justice ina setting of the freest and most helpful individualism.
The great Law of the Jubilee is cast in letters of iron onthe Independence Bell of the United States at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitantsthereof." If you read where this is found in the Bible, you will see thateconomic liberty is meant the general economic liberty of the Jubilee Year(Lev. 25: 8-13). The pity is that our ignorance makes the Jubilee Year a timeof distress.
We have no social knowledge of how to avail ourselves ofthe cycles; we have to be kicked into them and then kicked out again.Everything we talk about in modem times the moratorium, controlledproduction, writing down of debts we are doing in
reverse order toour hurt, when we might have utilized their positive character for our benefit,as our forebears in Israel did under their economic laws.
The Law and the Gospel
These are some of the laws. We cannot avoid the thoughtthat if these laws are God-ordained, if they truly represent basic economicprinciples, then they are quite independent of our observance or neglect. Theyare not like laws on the statute books of the United States which die simplybecause men cease to pay any attention to them. Divine-natural laws workwhether we forget them or not. If they cannot be done through us, they will bedone to us. They are in force; they operate; they are self-executing.
Some people say: "But all these laws were done awaywith by the New Testament." If this were so, it is a pity their operationwas not suspended also! If they were done away with, why do we meet the severepenalty at the very point where we transgress them? Of course, such a statementcan only be based on lack of knowledge. How does the Gospel of Jesus Christ doaway with any of the basic laws of God written into the very constitution ofthings? Where in the Gospels or Epistles is anything of the kind intimated? Theattitude of our Saviour on the question of obedience to the law wasunmistakable; He specifically upheld "the Law and the Prophets."These are His words:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or theprophets: I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfil [the prophets]. Forverily I say unto you. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shallin no wise pass from the law, till all [prophecy] be fulfilled. Whosoever thereforeshall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shallbe called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teachthem, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-19.)
The Gospel in men's hearts disposes them toward all thegood ends sought by the Economic Law of
God. Our Christian good will is often aroused and eager todo something for the welfare of suffering humanity, but it is nullified becauseit does not know what to do. There is no remedial path to proceed upon, forgood will needs a method and a true method needs good will. These correspond tothe Law and the Gospel as you find them in the Bible, the Economic Law of theLord being the method and the Gospel representing the good will thatpredisposes us to do the right thing in the right way. Where there is a willthere is a way; we have the will in the Gospel and the way in the Law of theLord.
Covenant ^Promises Fulfilled
Wealth is a part of the covenant of God for Israel:
"Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is hethat giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant whichhe sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day." (Deut. 8: 18.)
This is national wealth. The National Covenant that the LordGod Jehovah made with our forefathers at Mount Sinai cannot be fulfilledwithout providing national wealth. Incidentally, in this respect it has beenlavishly fulfilled. It is one of the commonest sayings on the streets that"in this richest of countries, how strange it is that individuals shouldsuffer need."
National wealth has, indeed, been realized. The covenantconcerning that has been amply honored. But when it comes to the use of thisnational wealth by citizens, as their private property and right, we find thathindered stopped short by our disregard of the other side of that samecovenant. We are dishonoring the law by which individual prosperity comes, evenwhile God seems to be honoring the covenant by which national prosperity comes.There is no mystery about the paradox of immense national wealth and widespreadindividual poverty; just the enigma of our own ignorance and disobedience.
If national wealthdepended on our obedience, if it were not in lands and waters and ores andforests and fruitful seasons and cattle and population, which are the gifts ofGod, our national wealth would be on a par with our individual poverty. That isthe meaning of the disparity of wealth and want which we see around us today.There is great social wealth because its source is in the Divine provision;there is great individual want because we do not desire the Divine economiclaws to reign over us!
If there were no seedtime and harvest, there would be noWall Street or United States Treasury. All technical source works, all books ofpolitical economy, all systems of credits and exchange have no existence apartfrom what God is doing in soil and sun and shower. We cannot change theseasons. We cannot prohibit the wheat from ripening. There is one department ofeconomics that is free from our meddling.
That is not to say we have given up hope of meddling withit. We would sometimes change or abolish the seasons by Act of Congress if wecould. We would sometimes grant extraordinary powers to decree a year without aharvest if we could. When the presence of the golden wealth of wheat and thesilver wealth of cotton interferes with our price system, do we not decree thatthese shall be destroyed this living, multiplying wealth in order that deadmoney may still rule? But God is merciful the wheat still grows, the grassgreens in the spring, the sheep lamb in the field, the trees put forth theirfruit, and the wealthy showers descend, because they are all a part of God'snatural economic system, not of man's artificial and self-destructive one.
It is clear, from the point of view of the Bible, that thedistributive side of the economic process was just as truly ordered to functionfaultlessly as the Divine and creative side. To God's people was left the smallestand easiest part of the job, with specific directions concerning how to do it;actually with every human incentive to do it. Just as truly as the Ten Command-
ments comprise thebasic principles of a successful individual and social life, so the EconomicLaw of the Lord comprises the essential in fact, the inevitable andunavoidable principles of a successful national economic life.
It is no Utopia of the far-flung future that we find inthe Bible. It is a way of life that was to be witnessed to by God's peopleIsrael, whose laws were to be administered as the law of the land. It is a wayof life that the world will see again. It is the burden of many a prophet inthe Scriptures to foretell that so helpful a system, having once existed, willemerge again in much greater power.