Now that we have laid a few necessary theological foundations within the first chapter, Godly Wisdom About Gold, we can begin to delve into the financial aspects of Scripture and archeology in more detail. Within this edition of this series, I will begin by introducing some key economic concepts that will be foundational to the points we will cover thereafter.
Result of the Fall
In Genesis chapter three, we find that the man disqualified himself from God’s garden through rebellion and sin. It appears also that Adam found himself alienated from all of God’s freely given “garden” provisions. Thus, the concept of “lack” was introduced into humanity’s daily experience. Economists call this aspect of the world “scarcity” to indicate that all earthly resources are finite in their availability.
Adam and his descendants were now going to have to hunt for things that were once readily at hand. They now had to cultivate the soil to produce food that before they could pick at leisure from any tree (except one, that is). From this point forward “the sweat of his brow” (i.e. hard labor) was going to be a necessary part of man’s survival and wealth procurement (verses 17-24).
Let me note here once again that human beings worldwide seem to be “programmed” to esteem gold (and silver, precious stones, etc.) as a result of God’s design in the original creation. However, because of sin’s influence on men’s minds after the fall, that innate attraction towards things created by God as precious, now often manifests itself as covetousness. And anytime such selfish intent is acted upon—at the expense of others—then either theft, fraud, murder, and/or violence, is the unsavory result.
So the real problem in the world is sin—not wealth itself. Wealth is merely a thing; and properly used it can be a tool and a benefit. When men and women seek honorable ways of obtaining the things they need and desire in life (i.e. wealth), then such material things are a blessing to both the recipient AND others around them. In the aggregate, society as a whole is benefited hereby as well—and this truth will become more evident as we continue our study.
We Are Not Islands
As quickly as chapter four, we find another fascinating development already emerging: labor specialization. This is often referred to by economists as, “The Division of Labor.” Adam’s son Cain started off in a career as a farmer like his father, but his brother Abel was more inclined to become the first shepherd.
The familiar story from Scripture tells us that Abel made a burnt offering out of his flock, while Cain tried to offer up vegetables. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s with a warning against giving in to the sin already knocking upon the door of his heart (verses 6-7). Nevertheless, motivated by envy, Cain killed his brother. Afterward, Cain feared that one of his near relatives might kill him for murdering their mutual kindred (verse 13) and he was sent into exile away from his family, with his wife alone accompanying him. Cain was also cursed and had to quit farming (verses 10-12 ).
A Related Theological Note: The ancient Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote his Antiquities of the Jews based upon scholarly research of Jewish oral and written traditions, as well as upon the things he learned during his extensive travels and the other many historical documents available during his day (37 A.D. to circa 100 A.D.). He noted within his work that Adam and Eve, “had indeed many other children” (Antiquities 1.2.3). The footnote to that statement, written by the translator William Whiston within his English translation of the original Greek text, notes also that, “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition [i.e. among Jewish scholars throughout history], was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters.” Furthermore, the Bible (within verses 16-17) as well as Josephus (Antiquities 1.2.2) clearly infer that Cain had married a close relative (i.e. a sister, or possibly a niece) sometime before his violent attack against his brother Abel. This was both necessary and permissible during the earliest years of humanity, and even commanded by God (i.e. Genesis 1:28, “be fruitful and multiply”). This practice was later forbidden by Him, however (see Leviticus chapters 18 and 20), in-part because of the weakening genetic lines of humanity. So in case you were wondering, this is from where all the other people mentioned within the Genesis account came.
At first, Cain and his wife settled in the land of “Nod,” which means in Hebrew “wandering”—i.e. the land of his vagabond travels in exile away from his other relatives. Cain then discovered that he had a real talent as a “real estate developer” when he built the first city (verse 17) in conjunction with his wife and then-multiplying children and grandchildren.
In contrast, one of Cain’s descendants, Jabal, found that he was best suited as a nomadic cattle rancher (verse 20). His brother Jubal went into the music business (verse 21). Their half-brother Tubal-Cain built the first forge and discovered metal working as a trade (verse 22).
In short, each member of humanity discovered that he had both natural limitations and special aptitudes. These necessarily made each person better suited for some tasks while almost useless at others.
Emotionally, we have all also discovered that some tasks are loathsome while others are enjoyable (or at least, tolerable). This is also a part of the “equipment” built into each person to make us more apt to do some tasks, while avoiding other activities for which other people are better suited to do.
And as there were only 24-hours in each day, to become really good at anything a person had to devote significant time into developing those skills (and related technologies). Consequently, it was also practical to focus one’s efforts upon those activities that they were the most inclined and skilled to perform.
Other passages of Scripture show us this same principle of labor specialization, as they describe the fact that our core skills and abilities—to include mental aptitudes and desires—are given by God to every human being. These are to be discovered and then developed (preferably by His Spirit’s tutelage through His Word, for His ordained purposes). These skills and abilities also differ from person to person. Here are just a few of the other passages within the Bible that elaborate upon these facts:
Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.
(Exodus 28:3, NIV)
Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.
(Exodus 36:2, NIV)
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(Romans 11:29, NKJV)
And to see how these differing skills among individuals work within a community, consider this passage:
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ….Now the body is not made up of one part but of many….If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be….
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(Excerpt from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27, NIV)
Labor Specialization: God has designed each and every person differently, to include different strengths (abilities) and different weaknesses (liabilities). Through social cooperation, this fact becomes a blessing as each person can then focus their efforts on those activities to which they are best suited. This specialization then causes each person to become dependent upon others for the services/goods that they do not provide for themselves.
Just as a human body has many parts, each with its own special function, so has the Lord assembled the Body of Christ. Similarly, even within a secular community or nation, the God-given talents and abilities of each person help to augment and work with those of other people (if the society is functioning properly, that is). In short, we are not islands unto ourselves.
Now, obviously, there is redundancy within society so that we do not necessarily have to depend upon the same specific people all the time. However, the point is that we do need the God-given skills and talents of others within society (even non-Christians) in order to prosper within our own lives and families. Solomon even noted the foolishness of willful isolationism when he stated by the Spirit of God:
He who willfully separates and estranges himself [from God and man] seeks his own desire and pretext to break out against all wise and sound judgment.
(Proverbs 18:1, The Amplified Bible)
This specialization of labor within any community undoubtedly necessitates social cooperation to a great degree in order for it to become a blessing and not a source of personal lack and public disharmony. For example, returning to our Genesis context above, the typical farmer discovered he could increase his farming capacity with some of those “iron and bronze tools” that Tubal-Cain was inventing, but the latter man needed to feed his family something other than metal ore. Thus, it became mutually beneficial for the farming families to “trade” with the blacksmith family, and vice versa. By trading, each enabled themselves, and the other, to further develop their own occupational specialty while feeding their families. A “win-win” scenario was discovered wherein each party in the transaction benefited.
Economists call this particular type of transaction “direct exchange” because goods are traded directly for other goods This is also known as direct barter. Though very basic and oftentimes inefficient (as we will soon discover), direct goods/services for goods/services exchange is undoubtedly where markets and trade began. Moreover, this development in man’s social interaction made it possible for each person and society to benefit.
Beneficial Exchange: The freewill mutual exchange of goods and services benefit all parties involved. Society as a whole benefits also as these mutual exchanges proliferate.
It is also very interesting to note that Cain’s murder of Abel early in chapter 4 resulted from a lack of exchange taking place. When Cain’s offering of vegetables was rejected—assuming the common interpretation that this was because it was not a blood sacrifice, as God had demonstrated that He required in chapter 3 by slaying an animal and clothing Adam and Eve with its skin—Cain could have offered to trade vegetables with Abel to obtain a suitable offering. Apparently, the thought never occurred to either of them; and the frustration of Cain’s purposes through a lack of mutual exchange instilled enough envy and bitterness into Cain’s heart for him to murder his very own brother.
The Necessity of Exchange: A lack of mutual exchange actually frustrates the goals of each affected member of society (either directly or indirectly). This causes deprivation and poverty, and fosters envy and violence. In the extreme, a severe absence of mutual exchange will eventually destroy the entire social structure of the society in question.
The Principles Still Work
If you have read or watched the news lately about violent civil unrest in countries around the world like Greece, Spain, and others, you might have noticed that the above three principles are still VERY much at work as the current economic crisis unfolds. When economic systems begin to collapse, mutually beneficial trade becomes increasingly unfeasible, and even survival itself becomes dangerously difficult. When unregenerate men (i.e. those not born again) cannot feed themselves or their families—or fear that they might soon be unable to do so—being without a living faith in the living Christ, they tend to become violent. When that happens, “social cohesion” melts, and everybody turns on one another in a “survival” mode that can become quite desperate and brutal at times.
You see, these “organic” aspects of man’s economic order still exist today, as do all the original economic components of society. Though modern markets and economic systems seem very complex on the surface, in reality, the same core “organic” framework has to exist for any economy to function properly. When ungodly politicians, bankers, and economists, think they have a “better plan” and violate the core biblical principles that cause all sound economies to work, the system just falls apart…eventually.
And as we study these topics throughout these pages, you will know many of the key reasons why this degeneration is happening globally today.
- Man sinned, and lost the initial abundant provision. Thus, scarcity of earth’s resources would become a dominating issue, and hard labor would be required to survive and produce new wealth.
- Wealth itself is merely a “thing” and not inherently good or bad. When honest pursuits result in the attaining of wealth, it benefits the individual, their family, and society as a whole.
- Humanity is endowed with diversity; everyone has their own abilities, aptitudes, weaknesses, and preferences. Thus, a specialization of labor emerged immediately after the fall, and mankind began a process of self-discovery.
- This specialization, coupled with the conditions of scarcity, made interpersonal exchange helpful to all parties. Labor became economized (i.e. less work was required for the same output), people could focus on what they liked to do most and could do best (i.e. were happier and more productive), and everyone benefited by this advancement. Voluntary trade was born, and society prospered as honest trade increased and proliferated.
- A lack of voluntary mutual exchange transactions (such as between Cain and Abel) causes poverty, fosters envy and bitterness, can erupt in open violence; and in the extreme, it will destroy the social fabric of society.
So with that recap above, let us progress even further into our study. We will now briefly examine the biblical and archeological aspects of how Civilization Emerges after the events we just covered above. This brief examination will then provide us a wonderful reference for the subsequent articles of Organic Economics™—and our study will become profoundly more intriguing the further we progress.
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