When my late husband Clinton and I started dairy farming many lifetimes ago, he expected me to take care of the finances, including income and business taxes, as his mother had.
When I shared with him that he would be much better at it than I was, since I had majored in English and he in Economics, he shared with me that he had complete faith that I would pick it up easily. Economics had little to do with it, he said. So I picked it up, for good or ill. Many handwritten ledgers and versions of Excel and Quickbooks later, I was able to pass that chore onto another, much more worthy bookkeeper, who is now part-owner of the 320 acres. I don’t miss keeping the books. But I did learn that having a mountain of facts available in easily manipulable formats was critical to understanding the financial state of our business as well as recognizing what future decisions were possible.
In today’s definition, the word “economy” refers to the production and consumption of goods and services, or how goods are valued. In ancient economic theory, an action is considered economically rational only when taken towards a praiseworthy end. The Greek word oikonomia can be translated as “household management,” based on oikos “house” + nemein “management and dispensation.”
Although the word “economy” does not appear in the Bible, the concept of The Economy of Heaven or God’s Economy is not a new concept to Christians. Organizations are named for and books have been written with this subject in mind. In the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the phrase “The Economy of Heaven” has been used to describe God’s dealings with his children and his workings throughout his creations.
“Contrasted to the temporal economies, the economy of heaven has a very different approach to the concept of social welfare,” says the retired president of the LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, J. Lawrence Richards. He quotes President Ezra Taft Benson: “The Lord works from the inside out…The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
A foundational principle in the economy of heaven is to see what the world is doing, then looking in the opposite direction. For example: The world tells us that possessions, influence and power are the goals of education, work and relationships. Once accumulated, we then seek to do good in the world, says Richards. “The principles governing the economy of heaven suggest that we seek first the kingdom of God and then riches because we will use those riches to do good. The economy of heaven suggests that we give of our accumulation even in our poverty. We call it tithing.”
One principle of economics is scarcity—decision-making that is limited by available time, talent, and resources. But to the rich man, the Savior gave an invitation to sell all he had, take up the cross and follow him. The economy of heaven is thus built upon the principle of abundance. “For all who will may come unto Christ and be joint heirs in all the Father has… The world’s economy thrives on the accumulation of free capital that can be stored as wealth and used to buy goods and services, invest, and leverage. But the economy of heaven suggests that we store up our treasures in heaven where moth and rust doth not corrupt.”
Carolyn, a friend of mine who worked in a day-old-bread store, suggested to her boss that they give three-day-old bread to the community kitchens. He thought they would lose money, but instead their business picked up, because those who received the bread began frequenting the store and buying bread. It was the principle of abundance in action. All of our generous impulses will come back to us eventually.Ecclesiastes 11:1: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.