Applying Biblical Principles to Work, Wealth, and the World
Economics for Everybody is a video curriculum produced by Compass Cinema in conjunction with Ligonier Ministries. It’s designed to be the base of a one-semester economics class for homeschool high school students. This course is taught from a Christian perspective and explains what the Bible says about economics. The series shows how our view of God and man directly affects our politics and ultimately affects the economic world around us. The basic theme of the program is the premise that “God owns everything” and the “north star principle of stewardship.” In other words, God made man to be his steward, and under the authority of God’s ownership, man is supposed to carefully manage the property that has been entrusted to him by the owner.
The author and host of Economics for Everybody is Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr., a pastor and Bible college professor who has focused much of his teaching and writing ministry on worldview issues, apologetics, family matters, and economics. R.C. Sproul Jr. takes after his father in being able to explain complex theological, philosophical – and in this case, economic – concepts in layman’s terms. In his educational series, Sproul does an excellent job bringing the practical implications of economic theories into perspective for the average person.
Sproul is an engaging and knowledgeable instructor who presents a biblical understanding of economics in a fun and lively way. Tackling a subject that many students find boring, Sproul embellishes it with relevance, enthusiasm, and even a little humor. From the very beginning, Economics for Everybody grabs your attention with its montage of cartoon images, old movie clips, public domain footage, and even some video shot in Sproul’s own home. The first episode had barely started when my 17-year-old son said, “I can already tell I’m going to like this program.”
I highly recommend Economics for Everybody for junior and senior high school students studying economics. While the website says that this curriculum is geared towards middle school students through adults, I think it would be best for 9th grade and up. The essay and discussion questions, in my opinion, are more on a high school to adult level. Younger students can watch the DVD along with their older siblings; many of the concepts and terms will go over their heads, but it will help to familiarize them with the general idea of what the economy is and how it works. However, I must admit that my 12-year-old quickly lost interest even though the rest of us were totally enthralled.
Released in late 2012, Economics for Everybody provides timely analysis and relevant insight to the principles and practices of one of the most talked about but least understood subjects — economics, its influence, and consequences. Each lecture effectively depicts the relationships between real historical events and their corresponding economic theories. The curriculum is comprised of twelve lessons that build on each other and provide a thorough foundation for thinking biblically about economics. Here is an overview of the topics that are covered:
1. God Created Economics: Stewardship in God’s Image (15 min) – Economics is the scientific study of how God ordered the world. If we refuse to operate within God’s laws we will inevitably find ourselves on the road to poverty.
2. The Economic Problem of Sin: Law, Liberty, and Government (19 min) – A fascinating look at how the Ten Commandments actually show us how God wants us to operate economically.
3. The Path from Work to Wealth: Production, Property, and Tools (20 min) – God made us to be working creatures. Each one of us has a calling that can, and should, become a productive vocation.
4. The Route From Scarcity to Plenty: Money, Markets, and Trade (19 min) – As one person trades something he values little, for something he wants but another person values little, it produces a mutually beneficial exchange. This is how supply and demand works out in a free market system.
5. The Role of the Entrepreneur: Capital, Calculation, and Profit (16 min) – When the entrepreneur does not merely seek to serve himself by reaping profits at the expense of others, but rather seeks his own prosperity in the service of others, everyone ultimately prospers.
6. A Tale of Two Theologies, Part 1: From God to Politics (24 min) – A vivid picture of two theologies, showing how a Christian worldview leads to liberty and prosperity; and how an atheistic worldview (where man is god) leads to tyranny and poverty.
7. A Tale of Two Theologies, Part 2: Economic Philosophies and Systems (18 min) – In a free market system, individuals have liberty to control what they own, what they do, and who they do it with. In a socialist system, the state is the ultimate owner of everything and tells people what to do, how to do it, and who to do it for.
8. Government Intervention: Basic Principles and Education (19 min) – The more the state intervenes on free market systems, the closer a nation moves towards socialism — and the U.S. has been intervening in everything from economics to education at a rapid pace in the last 100 years.
9. The Two Mysteries of Monetary Policy: Inflation and Depression (27 min) – The laws of supply and demand tell us that the prices of goods and services will rise when the money supply rises. An inflationary monetary policy creates a boom/bust cycle in the economy. Increased production of currency ultimately results in reduced value of that currency, bursting the bubble and causing a depression.
10. The Welfare & Corporate States of America: Costs of Redistribution (23 min) – Even though some people may benefit from redistribution, the nation as a whole loses out. Since the government doesn’t produce any goods, it can only borrow and tax to fund social programs.
11. Economics Has Consequences: The Real Effects of Sin (27 min) – The best economic system is one that recognizes liberty and protects that liberty from the control of others. In free market economies around the world, children live longer, income levels are higher, life expectancy increases, and charitable giving is highest.
12. Kingdom Economics (15 min) – Now that we’re aware of what causes many of our nation’s problems, and armed with the knowledge that our liberty is ultimately at stake, Christians need to push back against government interventionism by getting involved in the political process starting at a local level, and by exercising economic control in our own homes and families.
The DVDs alone would be well worth the purchase price, and I was equally impressed with the high quality Economics for Everybody Study Guide. Most DVD study guides are merely a PDF that you have to print out and put in a binder, and they often look like they were thrown together as an afterthought. This one, on the other hand, is a complete 234-page softcover book that comes boxed with the DVD. The study guide contains an expanded outline for each of the twelve chapters along with Scripture readings, pertinent quotations, resources for further study, multiple choice and short answer questions, and discussion questions. The study guide and additional readings make this a comprehensive curriculum in itself, for introducing high schoolers to basic economic concepts. Or it can be paired with another economics textbook for those who want a more in-depth study.
Economics for Everybody is a great Bible-based study for all kinds of venues and audiences at school, church, and home. Christian teachers, church staff members, homeschool parents, youth leaders, small group leaders, and Christian business leaders should consider making use of this resource as a teaching tool. The discussion questions would be perfect for small groups or classroom settings. (The study guide can also be purchased separately if you need additional copies for group use.) This curriculum could actually be used as a stand alone Bible curriculum since it applies Biblical principles and extensive reading in each lesson.
Some years ago we watched a series of economic lectures on DVD from The Teaching Company. The Great Courses: Economics (3rd edition) was comprised of 36 lectures (30 minutes each) that offered a non-technical path to basic literacy in micro- and macroeconomics. It was taught by Timothy Taylor, an award-winning economics professor at Stanford University and Macalester College. He covered much of the same general information that R.C. Sproul Jr. does, but his classroom-style lecture was rather dry and tedious. Sproul had the right idea in making his presentation more visually oriented for a DVD audience. In addition, incorporating the Bible in our studies always makes learning about a subject so much more interesting and meaningful than the typical godless way of teaching. Everything from history to current news makes a lot of sense when you understand how the Bible and world events are interconnected.
Economics for Everybody is an eye-opening presentation in many ways. The vintage videos are quite effective for exemplifying concepts and help to maintain the viewer’s interest. Our whole family was impressed with the visual comparisons of Christian and communist countries. (Note: Some of the depictions of starvation and death in socialist economies are quite sobering, so discretion is advised with younger children.) I’m always amazed (and yet not surprised) how the basic laws of reality that impact how we should manage every area of society can all be found in the Bible! It’s critical for leaders in business and government to properly understand their roles in God’s sovereign design (if only they’d heed His Word). This program serves as a desperate warning to a country that is clearly heading in the wrong direction–but I bet the administration currently in power would want to censor R.C. Sproul’s teachings on the subject!
Also available: Economics Has Consequences is an abridged version of the 12-lesson series made into a 2-hour teaching documentary. While the original series is great for small groups, Sunday schools, and homeschool students, the abridged version is perfect for a single session at a church, an evening’s entertainment for a family, or anyone wanting a quick introduction to economics.