Economic freedom is foundational to political freedom, and redistribution, welfare, and confiscatory taxation are attacks on our freedom. But the fact that accusations of greed and materialism are so effective tell you they are true enough, and so we cannot yet afford to be free.
Guilt & Idols
Guilty people can be manipulated. Guilty people are enslaved. They are enslaved at the very least to fear: fear of what they don’t know, fear of what may go wrong, fear of the past, fear of the future, and fear of death at the bottom of it all. And fear makes for poor decision making, poor evaluative skills. Fear is a hook in the mouth that constantly tugs.
Arguably, real racial guilt made Americans easy targets for losing civil liberties to the false god of equality. Equal before the law? Yes. Equal as image bearers of God? Yes. Equal in almost any other way? Not even close, by God’s good design. What a horrid, drab world where everything is the same. What a great way to be unproductive, where everyone has the exact same set of tools, ability, knowledge, and interest. It is different gifts, different abilities, different interests that makes for a beautiful world, an inventive world, an interesting world. It turns out all that triumphant diversity training was actually a bald face lie, and the whole thing was actually conformity training.
This is what idols do again and again. They promise what only the living God can deliver (life, happiness, blessing, true diversity), but they promise to deliver it more efficiently, quicker, in a less costly way (without a Cross). But what they actually deliver is disfiguring, dismemberment, and a steamrolling of humanity. They promise life and deliver beatings. But the insanity of guilt and idolatry is a Stockholm syndrome. The idol blames the guilty for the beating, and the guilty precisely because the guilt has not been taken away still knows they deserve punishment. And so a guilty person is left wide open for more abuse and punishment. And no doubt some well-meaning Christian will suggest more diversity training as the solution to all this conflict in the church over masks and vaxes.
Justification & Freedom
This is why justification is one of the most startlingly political and social Christian doctrines. This is why when justification was preached in Europe in the 16th century it rattled every bone in every body politic. Justification is the authoritative declaration of the Living God in history that a sinful man or woman is completely clean, completely innocent and owes precisely nothing. The debts have all been paid. And even more than that, the sinner has been clothed in the righteousness of the perfect man, perfect Son. He has been given keys to the car; he has the run of the mansion. Everything is his. Everything belongs to Christ, and that is the inheritance of the justified.
You cannot understate this. This is the foundation of all freedom. So for example, justification is the foundation of economic freedom. A justified man has a completely clean conscience when it comes to money, material possessions, inheritances, wealth, and income. It’s all a gift. It’s all grace. It’s all his inheritance in Jesus. The justified man can use it. He can lose it. He can invest it. He can give it away. He is not bound by it. But it’s a tool to use in the Kingdom, and so he does so freely, boldly, ambitiously, seeking to turn a profit to build, to invent, to discover, to bless, to provide for others, to leave gifts behind him like his Father in Heaven. And when the snot-nosed liberal comes up, cheeks puffed out, pointing out how materialistic he is, how greedy he is, how unholy and worldly he is, the justified man laughs and cannot be bothered with such silly notions.
Think of it this way: imagine the sin you (by the grace of God) consider the furthest from your personal set of temptations. Let’s say its anger, and someone trots up to you and accuses you of being a wrathful person. You are full of angry curses. You cuss like a sailor. You blow up at the kids every day. But, let’s say, by the grace of God, you know it isn’t true. By the grace of God anger has been put to death in your heart for years, and the last time your conscience smote you it was the time you slammed in your finger in the car door, and let out a “sweet fancy pete!” So the accusations are not true at all. How do you respond? If there’s even a hint of defensiveness, then there’s still some guilt. True freedom is freedom from every accusation. Freedom from the fear, freedom from condemnation. The charge only makes you chuckle, not with pride, but with deep gratitude.
It’s sort of like being accused of being an ethnicity other than the one you were actually born into. I’ve been a scotch-Irish mutt all my life, but I’m not quite sure what I would do if an immigration officer showed up at my door accusing me of being Chinese or African. I would certainly try to be polite, but there’s no amount of haranguing that could induce me to feel even a smidge “guilty” of being of African or Asian descent.
So here’s the point of the initial statement. You are only truly free to use any of the gifts of God in so far as you have a completely clean conscience. This completely clean conscience is only possible by the blood of Jesus. The God who knows all things, and knows all of your sin, will not overlook sin, but He is willing to forgive it all for the sake of His Son. And when He does, what He declares is “not guilty” “innocent,” and because Christ has taken our sin, this declaration is completely true. And this is the only possible ground upon which we can stand in complete freedom, to use the gifts of God freely, free from all fear, free from all manipulation.
When the socialists and racialists come along accusing us of sin, accusing us of things we are not, we just stand there and smile. If our sins have been confessed and forsaken under the blood of Jesus, they have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west. We cannot be bothered. Materialist? Greedy? Fleshly ambition? Ha. All of that died in Christ. All this stuff is grace. All this wealth is gift. All our business ventures are for Christ. And wherever the old demons pop up, we kill those suckers. But we are washed and justified, and none of that old filth can stick to us.
We will not let you take more of our income than is just because all of it belongs to Jesus. We will not let you lay claim to our property or inheritance because Jesus gave it to us to care for our families and neighbors. We have good work, hard work to do, that is what our freedom is for. And that is why we cannot stand by and let you take it away. Christ set us free, and so we are free indeed.
Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash
Mike D'Virgilio says
Tremendous insights. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
Chris Gatihi says
Thanks for this article. I’m TOTALLY on the same page with you in that no government or man should coerce another man into how he uses the financial resources in his possession by God’s grace and providence.
But I do have two questions:
1) How are you specifically defining “economic freedom”?
2) How does that definition square with passages like the following in the gospel according to Luke?
 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;  he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;  he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51–53, ESV)
 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. (Luke 6:20–24, ESV)
 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32–34, ESV)
 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. (Luke 16:25, ESV)
 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:22–25, ESV)
Thanks for the questions.
Economic freedom is the responsibility to use resources in obedience to God. All coercion, redistribution, unlawful taxation takes that responsibility away from individuals, and therefore steals their freedom to give, spend, invest in obedience to God.
Those texts either describe what God does sovereignly to those who resist Him, comfort those who have been stolen from or afflicted in other ways, and call on believers to recognize that all of their resources belong to God and must be used to serve Him completely.