The Economics of Righteousness

PalaceMuch is made of the study of economics. At its most simple, however, economics has one overriding principle – every action taken by an individual is to maximize his possessed value. The principle of maximum value is easily demonstrated by a man who buys any good. He values the good more than the money he paid for it and the seller valued the money more than the good. There are many factors which determine the value any individual places on a given good or service, but the crux of the matter is that value determination is entirely subjective.

How does this relate to the attainment of righteousness, that is, likeness to Christ?

As it is written: Deuteronomy 6:25: “And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.” and John 15:10: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

To obey the commands of the Lord is to be righteous and, therefore, to be like Christ. What does this have to do with value? If we recall the conversation between Christ and the rich young ruler (among others) about the ruler’s ability to be with him and attain righteousness, Christ offers a choice – your goods or your life. Applying an economic lens to the decision at hand, we can easily see that this is a simple case of competing values: righteousness vs. stuff. The ruler chooses poorly. Many within the Western Church are doing the same.

The question is simple, which do you value more – your money or your obedience to Christ? But it’s easier even than that, because the scriptures resound with the surpassing bliss of nearness to the Savior (Psalm 16:11: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”), thus clearly indicating that a believer cannot but choose the Christ when presented with this choice.

What, then, are we to make of professing Christians who neglect to tithe?

I have made a very informal study of psychology for the purposes of self-reflection and one of the conclusions that I arrived at is that true beliefs are behaved. That is to say – you act in a manner consistent with what you genuinely believe is true. The simplest case of this is gravity – everyone believes genuinely in the existence of gravity and acts accordingly – no one walks off cliffs in the expectation that they will continue on the level. Thus, we can see that those who do not participate in the sacrament of the tithe do not believe that act of obedience to be more valuable than the money that they would be able to keep, which we have already discussed is impossible for a believer in Christ to believe – as it is written: “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you” (Psalm 31:19).

We can surmise from these facts that the belief of the Christian who does not tithe is disingenuous to some extent. This is a sin and should be treated as such, in the same way as any other sin which is confessed to you as a brother in Christ – Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

The value assessment can be applied to any commandment, not just the injunction to tithe, and is as satisfactory an answer to the question of how a Christian should act as any I have yet encountered.

Therefore go and behave as if you believe what you profess to believe, and be “… more than conquerors.”

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