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Biblical economics, Part 2: Patterns of right relationship

Photo of Annika Greco Thompson Annika Greco Thompson
5 min

In Part 1, I made the case for examining how we as Christians think and behave with regards to our finances. Just as He did with the Israelites when He brought them out of slavery and into a pattern of right relationship, God calls us to be holy, set apart, with a different worldview. What does this mean in practice? 

God’s Word is full of advice: the New Testament provides guidance on how to pursue holiness with a focus on the inner life and an individual outworking of Jesus’ reconciliatory work on the cross, while the Old Testament contains wisdom on how to cultivate a righteous society – essentially, living in right relationship with God and Man. It is for our benefit and blessing to observe the various safety mechanisms God put in place to keep human nature from leaning into its penchant for pursuing selfish gain.

Debt and interest

God understands our human desire (and sometimes need) to have things we can’t presently afford, and he also knows how destructive and debilitating debt can be for people, both practically and relationally. In the Old Testament, He made allowances for people in reduced circumstances to become bondservants in order to support themselves and their families as they got back on their feet. He also gave clear instructions to those in more fortunate positions to help those in need, to not lend them money at interest, nor sell food to them at a profit (Leviticus 25:35-37). In addition, God mandated that anyone who became a bondservant to work off a debt was to be released from that debt every seven years and be allowed to return to his own clan.

In the UK, the personal debt of your average Brit is £35,000, and the household debt of your average family is £65,000 (source: The Latest UK Debt Statistics & Facts for 2024 (moneyzine.com)). That kind of debt can take decades to pay off, and possibly break marriages and other relationships in the process. But lending institutions don’t care, because they make millions in interest – about £171 million per day.

As Christians, it’s important for us to consider debt through a biblical lens and to apply restraint where needed so that we don’t fall into a trap. In God’s economy, no one was ever to be left without land, home, and extended family to return to. But also, the onus was on the individual and the community to ensure that any given personal situation didn’t become unmanageable.

No ownership without responsibility

It’s also important for us to differentiate between honest profit (godly) and exploitative profit (ungodly). God loves when His people use the talents and ingenuity He’s given them to be enterprising and creative. But He rebukes exploitative practices that dramatically separate shareholders from stakeholders.

In God’s economy there is no ownership without responsibility. You don’t get to be a shareholder in a company without also bearing responsibility for how that company is run and how it treats its employees and customers. You don’t get to earn income from an investment without having a relational stake as well. To that end, social impact investing is an increasingly popular method of earning a return while holding to one’s values. While not perfect, this type of investing does minimise the gap between shareholder and stakeholder. Also, there are plenty of social enterprises that are doing missional work as for-profit businesses; perhaps that’s an option to explore if you’re a keen investor!

What to do?

We can’t burn our financial structures down and revert to Mosaic Law. We could choose to live off the grid and separate ourselves from society, but then we’d be shirking our responsibility to be salt and light in this world. We are like the people of Israel, living in exile in Babylon, constructing our lives amidst ungodly mindsets and behaviours. In Jeremiah 29, rather than encouraging them to retreat into their own bubbles, God exhorts His people to put down roots and be active members of the economy, and seek the peace and prosperity of the city. We need Christians to be working in financial services, modelling a different pattern and way of thinking.

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us without examples to follow. Daniel and his friends lived uprightly in an unrighteous society. They dared to do things differently and they experienced tremendous favour as a result. But also, three of them ended up in a furnace and one in a lion’s den. Worst case scenario, we may have to choose between keeping our jobs and comfortable lifestyles and maintaining our integrity and faithful witness. A more likely scenario is that we may simply need to rethink our relationship with money and put biblical principles in place to guide our decisions.

Everything we have has been given to us by our Father, to provide for our needs and to find enjoyment in living – but more importantly, to display His glory through us, His Church. It is part of our confession of faith to live differently and to glorify Him with ‘our’ resources.

In Part 3 of this series (out in July), I speak with David Flowers, a Vineyard pastor based in Leeds and founding partner of Flowers McEwan Ltd, a financial services firm. He shares some of his own thought journey on this topic, including some helpful ways to think biblically about our finances.

More on money and the Bible

We have an array of blogs that focus on biblical stewardship and charitable giving, as well as a range of resources to help you think more clearly about money.

Further reading:

Money and debt advice | CAP UK

Debt is capitalism’s dirty little secret (ft.com)

The Divine Economy - Cambridge Papers

Time for a financial reformation? - Cambridge Papers


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Written by

Annika Greco Thompson

Annika is a Swedish-Italian-American with a diverse vocational and geographical background. Having married a Brit, she’s now settled in Liverpool and joined Stewardship’s Philanthropy Services Team in 2023.

Annika is passionate about seeing the Kingdom of God transform all areas of society and equipping the Church to live out its calling as God’s agents of reconciliation. She loves to live generously and expansively through hospitality, travel and strategic giving.