I recently wrote about the need to reach beyond an earthbound economics, re-orienting our thinking around a more transcendent framework that requires active spiritual engagement and discernment. Even as Christians, far too often we set our focus too strongly on temporal features like material needs, happiness, and quality of life—all of which come into play accordingly—without first concerning ourselves with what God is actually calling us to do as individuals.
Transcendent ends will only come from transcendent beginnings, and those beginnings will only be ordered properly if we take the time to identify what objective truths exist for society and how exactly God is calling us to participate within that broader social framework.
As Charlie Self notes in his book, Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer on Faith, Work, and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship, “cultural, economic, and social institutions are built on transcendent moral foundations,” and rely on spiritually transformed individuals to function and flourish toward God’s ultimate ends. By structuring our institutions around this understanding, we create more opportunity for society to reach past the mere meddling of man.
As Self explains, properly rooted ourselves in transcendent truths opens the door to a broader, fuller approach to “service” itself:
Economic and personal liberties must be united with the rule of law to nurture loving and just expressions and allow all people to flourish. Objective truths, which guide behavior and relationships, do indeed exist. There must be explicit and implicit values that ensure cohesive and prosperous living. The Holy Spirit gives discernment and wisdom, enabling Christians to engage virtuously in commerce and culture without being enslaved by the perversions of liberty caused by rebellion and sin.
Human government is designed to protect God-given (natural) rights, restrain evil, and help steward the public good. Government is subsidiary, exercising its authority and responsibility after personal, familial, religious, and other nearby social institutions flex their proper and more proximate influences. The best policies and practices will only achieve their finest fruit through morally responsible people assuring that this local service is a mark of Christian discipleship. Spirit-empowered churches are crucial for the flourishing of communities and nations. They are God’s primary channels of economic, moral, and spiritual good and must not be overtaken by bureaucracies impersonally dispersing largesse.
Right action is furthered when we anticipate the possibility of such action. Yet as already mentioned, this requires us to respond as individuals. We can re-strategize and re-organize society all day long, but this in and by itself will not magically flip on the discipleship switch. As Self explains, it will always come down to transformed indviduals being obedient to God and actively listening to the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives:
Spirit-filled believers work hard, participate in the economy and aim to maximize the impact of the gospel upon all areas of society. But we never lose sight of the fact that all this positive transformation of the whole rests upon transformed individuals who are obedient to the principles of God’s Word and sensitive to the Holy Spirit in the application of truth.