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The Economics of Death

The Bible is full of economic wisdom which often goes neglected in our day because the Bible, the book for all of life, is too commonly reduced to a devotional manual and all "non-spiritual" truth is discarded.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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The Bible is full of economic wisdom which often goes neglected in our day because the Bible, the book for all of life, is too commonly reduced to a devotional manual and all "non-spiritual" truth is discarded. Solomon, for example, tells us, "cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days" (Eccles. 11:1). The reference here is to rice planting. The rice is broadcast into water paddies, as it were; the family's "bread" or food is thrown away, in a sense, but only thereby is a harvest possible in the days to come. In Psalm 126:5,6, the same fact is stated even more vividly: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Here we have a famine in view; the precious grain is sown with tears, because life depends upon its harvest. In both texts, the first emphasis is that present advantages must be sacrificed for future benefits; there is no harvest tomorrow without a sowing today. Sowing seed constitutes an investment in the future.

Second, very obviously, the man who sows seed has, on the most basic and elementary level, some hope for the future. A society without hope is present-oriented. It is a consumer society; it eats up its seed grain rather than planning for a future harvest. It becomes therefore something that God condemns, a debt-oriented society rather than a saving and sowing one. It pays no heed to the six-year limitation on debt, nor to the principal that the godly goal is to owe no man anything save to love one another (Rom. 13:8). A debt society is death oriented; it makes saving, thrift, and future-oriented planning difficult or unprofitable, because it encourages consumption but not production. A "tax-break" is offered to debtors on their interest payments; savings are taxed (for accrued interest) as well as production and profit (or harvest). The tax structures of our time are anti-Scriptural with a vengeance. Moreover, the moral order is reversed; debt becomes an asset to these statist humanists, and wealth a liability and an evil. Money today does not have gold or silver behind it, but debt. The Monetary Control Act of 1980, which went into effect on June 1, 1981, allows the U.S. to monetize debts other than those of the Federal Government, debts both domestic and foreign. This is eating our bread or grain, not casting it upon the waters!

The power of a popular existentialism on the 20th century mind is apparent in its present-oriented economics. For existentialism, the moment, stripped of all morality and religion, and all considerations from the past or about the future, is everything. This too is the essence o fall the varieties of Keynsian economics. Keynes despised the future; his premise was, "In the long run, we are all dead." This death orientation marks modern economics, and it marks the reprobate. As Proverbs 8:36 declares, "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death."

The Bible requires a future orientation of us, but, not in terms of ourselves, but in terms of Christ, the gospel, and the Kingdom of God. Our Lord says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose iU but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" (Mark 8:35; cf. Matt. 10:39, 16:25; Luke 9:24; Matt. 6:33). Our Lord here, in speaking of "losing" out lives, is not talking about martyrdom, but about "sowing," casting our lives by faith on the waters of the future, to yield a harvest to Him, and ourselves in Him.

Third,we are told that our godly investment in the future, God's future, shall certainly bear fruit: "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days." Again, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Humanly speaking, while there is no harvest without sowing, there is still then no certainty of a harvest. Drought, blights, floods, insects, war, and other disasters can wipe out a potential harvest. We are, however, promised a certain and inescapable harvest if we, in all our ways, seek to serve and glorify God: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose", (Rom. 8:28). This same fact is set forth powerfully and in detail in Deuteronomy 28.

Deuteronomy 28 emphasizes beyond any possibility of misunderstanding the moral and economic consequences of faithlessness to God. Inescapable curses and blessings are set forth: the religious, political, economic, personal, and agricultural consequences of denying God's law (and becoming present and man-oriented) are clearly spelled out.

The economic world of humanism is a world of present possibilities and no future certainties. Hence, existential economic experimentation is held to be both possible and necessary. We have then fiat money and economics, with man playing God and seeking to determine all possibilities by his fiat will. The world of causality is replaced by a world of non-consequential possibilities. Such a perspective leads to the economics of death: a thousand and one ways of economic death are experimented with rather than to pursue an economics of life, because only the economics of death reserves determination to man. The world of law is replaced by the fiat word of man.

As a result, by March 31, 1980, what Martin D. Weiss, in The Great Money Panic (1981: Arlington House) calls "The Debt Monster," meant a $1.5 trillion debt for the nation's corporations; a $949 billion Federal debt; and, for homes, office buildings, and shopping centers, a$1,362 billion mortgage debt. At the same time, cash liquidity is at an all-time low; unemployment in the United States and aboard is increasing, and the "solution" more and more in view is increased inflation. This is like prescribing more liquor to an alcoholic!

With all this, we have seen a reversal in moral order. As even one "Reverend Doctor" wrote me recently, "gay" is good, and heterosexual is evil (and all "straights" should be put into concentration camps, he held!) Abortion is good, and pro-life is fascistic, it is also held. Such moral disorder is to be expected in an era which sees debt as an investment in the future and an economic asset.

One of the great evils of modern economics is its purported scientific basis. Mathematics of a sort, and science of a sort, are substituted for morality. It will not do to tell our statists that their economics is a form of theft by law; their graphs and statistics are designed to replace economic morality with economic "science."

Economics was once taught as a branch of "moral philosophy." Adam Smith himself was a Professor of Moral Philosophy (although his ethics followed Hume, unhappily, but his economics presupposed an "Invisible Hand"). Today, moral considerations are banished from economics in favor of pseudo-science.

As a result, economic issues are seen, not in terms of moral considerations, which require character, work, and a future orientation, but in terms of "needs" and "lacks." Because of this, we speak of "underdeveloped" nations, which Peter F. Drucker, in Toward The Next Economics, and Other Essays (1981; Harper and Row; p. 64) calls an error: no country, he holds, is underdeveloped because it lacks resources; rather, it does not utilize its resources; its capital in such forms is not productively employed. Neither its human resources nor its physical resources are put to productive use.

We must add that productive use requires a faith and character geared to the future, and to a vision of a growing and dominion-oriented society. Unless such a faith revives, all nations will soon be "underdeveloped." As Proverbs 29:18 summarizes it, "Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."

To abandon moral and theological considerations in any area, including economics, is to abandon reality and meaning. It is to deny knowledge. Drucker cites the shift to a new definition of knowledge as "whatever has no utility and is unlikely to be applied." p. 49). We can add that such "knowledge" cannot successfully be applied. This certainly would cover the contemporary economics of death and suicide.

When a civil government rules by fiat, and when its economics is a violation of moral order, the result is either anarchy, or a return to or a revival of, the most conservative forms of moral order, or, usually, both of these at the same time. The U.S.S.R. has no lack of anarchy; it is a way of life for many. For many others, very ancient forms of family life and order are providing a close world of meaning. As a result, even the levirate continues within the U.S.S.R. (Helene Carrere d'Encausse: Decline of an Empire, The Soviet Socialist Republics in Revolt; Newsweek Books, 1979, p. 256).

The pre-occupation of contemporary national economic policies is with "the problems of unemployment and inflation," as Lewis E. Lehrman has pointed out ("The Creation of International Monetary Order," in David P. Calleo, editor: Money and the Coming World Order, P. 71; N.Y.U. Press, 1976.) Economic order having been violated, the consequences of national economic policies are disorders and increasing problems.

In the face of all this, the silence of the church on economic evils is amazing. Not only so, too often it manifests hostility to any mention of the critical issue of debt. In the past decade, my own comments and those of Gary North on unbiblical debt policies have brought forth some outraged responses. Just recently, because of references to the question of debt in some Chalcedon Position Papers, some highly emotional and angry letters have.come in from people who have been handed copies of these papers. This is not surprising. we have in such cases a very obvious fact. The person of the church is heavily in debt, and in debt for many, many years to come. They are also in a serious economic "bind." Instead of confessing to the Lord that their debts are violations of His law, and seeking His help to re-order their lives, they pray for "blessings," i.e., to be relieved of their debt situation by some miracle, and without penalties. To be told that they are in sin, and that the wages of sin are always death (Romans 6:23), triggers in them an angry hysteria. They want a god who will let them eat their cake and have it too.

There is a fourth aspect to the religious, moral, and economic implications of Psalm 126:5,6: He who is future oriented and sows with hope in the Lord, "shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bearing his sheaves with him." The result is not only productivity, but joy. David, in Psalm 144:12-15 prays for an obedient people, a faithful people, faithful to their covenant God and His law, "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace; That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets; That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD."

Such a society begins with your faithfulness and mine. It is time to say, "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

(Taken from Roots of Reconstruction, p. 1060; Chalcedon Report No. 192, August, 1981)

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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