Chapter 17: Consumption and Budgeting

Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’ (Luke 14:28 – 30).
AnalysisHere is the economic principle: count the cost. It applies to every area of life, not just economics. Why? Because we possess limited resources. This is most clearly the case in economic affairs. Here, accounting techniques are basic to our lives as producers and also as consumers. Most people have more things they would like to buy than money to buy them. Here is a familiar statement: ‘Human wants are infinite, but resources are finite.’ This is incorrect. We are creatures. Creatures are not infinite. Wants are therefore finite, but their prices exceed the money that most people have to satisfy them.
The Bible teaches that a good way to deal with scarcity is to limit our wants. In a famous passage, Paul wrote:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (I Timothy 6:6 – 10).
This is the threat of mammon, which offers this promise: more. The confession of faith of the disciple of mammon is this: ‘more for me in history.’ This goal is not limitless wealth, for we are not infinite. Rather, the goal is indefinite wealth. It has no known limits. It therefore undermines contentment. It produces dissatisfaction.
A budget is a confession of faith: there are limits. It acknowledges that means are limited, so therefore goals are limited. Means must match ends in every area of life, especially budgetary means. It is legitimate to have large goals, but the Bible teaches that these goals must be theocentric. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’ (Matthew 13:31b – 32). To seek sufficient capital to attain these large goals is legitimate. But covenant keepers must not substitute means for ends. They must not seek increased wealth for its own sake or for their sake. To do so is necessarily to declare the means as autonomous. Nothing is autonomous. God is the cosmic Owner.

This post was published at Gary North on Gary North – June 17, 2017.