How should Christians think about the work of an economist? What does it mean to think Christianly about the vocation of an economist? What does it mean to be a Christian economist? How can a Christian economist engage their vocation in a constructive and redemptive way? These are vitally important questions for Christians to consider, not just for the Christian economist. The answers to these questions do not just speak to the vocation of an economist but, by implication, also towards a redemptive approach to vocation in general. As Steve Garber is famous for saying, ‘Vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world.’ If this is indeed the case, then it matters how we engage with the idea of vocation and the vocations that God gives us. Therefore, what is a biblically informed vision of the vocation of an economist? A biblically informed vision of the vocation of an economist is rooted in the Christian worldview of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
I. Creation and Economics
In Genesis 1 we see God as creator and sovereign king over all that He creates. In His creation, God puts humanity as stewards of the earth in the command he gives them to ‘fill the earth and subdue it.’ This means that humanity is steward of that which they have been given dominion over. This stewardship isn’t merely a brute management of the property of an owner, but, in economic terms, is a pursuit and diligent effort towards a positive rate of return on the owner’s investment. To fill the earth is to add to it, it is to increase its material, and therefore economic, value. Gary North, in speaking about the way in which the steward does this, writes ‘He [the steward] does this by means of the productivity of the assets transferred to him by the owner. There is to be a surplus out of which the owner is paid. In the case of Adam, this initial asset base included Adam’s mental abilities. God required him to name the animals of the garden as his first assignment. This was an intellectual task: classification and assessment.’ This is the goodness of economics — the study and practice of stewardship of the good inherent in the earth.
The economist’s vocation therefore is to research, analyse data, and present solutions that enable stewards (humans) to add value to the earth. In short, the role of the economist is to equip humanity with the knowledge and strategic skill set required to efficiently fulfil the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28.
II. The Fall and Economics
In Genesis 3 we read the account of the fall. In the fall, Adam and Eve eat the fruit they were commanded not to and as a result creation became cursed: the serpent was cursed, Eve, Adam, and the earth itself too. Of particular concern to the brokenness of economics is verse 17 to 19 where we read of the curse of the ground. Cultivation of the ground will now happen through painful toil, and even what will be reaped will not always be beneficial — sometimes thorns and thistle will be the result. This is the theological underpinning of the central economic principle of scarcity: limited resources for unlimited wants. Gary North writes ‘There is no question that God’s curse of the ground created a new environment. From that point on, the earth has resisted man. Thistles that interfere with man’s ability to extract what he wants from the ground have grown up to increase man’s costs of attaining his goals… God added vast new costs to labor, reducing its efficiency, while simultaneously reducing the psychological pleasure and incentive attached to labor.’ Contemporary discussions concerning economic principles and decision making processes in society are not only a reflection of the goodness of creation, but also a reflection of the consequences of the fall.
It isn’t economics alone that is now broken; humans fell, humans are broken, and as such the economist is broken. The natural, post-lapsarian, disposition of the human is away from God and towards the self. This disposition is often described in pietist terms (such as religious devotion or the absence of such) that shades the deeply penetrating and permeating implications it has for all of life. An economist that has turned their face away from God is also one that will read economic principles and conduct economic research in ways other than God’s original design. For example, the human vice of pride makes constant appearances in the work of an economist. Since economists hold a great deal of power in their ability to study, analyse and articulate economic principles, policies, and programs, that power can be manipulated for personal gain. The cost of this manipulation is often the weak, poor, vulnerable, and marginalised. This has been seen, in the last century, by way of global recessions, the collapse of markets, and government policy failures.
III. Redemption and Economics
Crucial to the story of redemption is grace. Grace is the unmerited favour of God directed towards undeserved humans. In contrast to the broken world and economies we presently live in, the resource of the economy of Jesus’ kingdom is grace and there is no scarcity. The countercultural kingdom economy that runs on grace redefines the way a Christian interacts with the economy they find themselves in. Tom Nelson writes ‘we are the unworthy recipients of gospel grace; how can we not extend grace to others? In loving our neighbour rightly, there is no place for spiritual pride or arrogance.’ The gospel fundamentally changes the way an economist deploys their economic research. Instead of being deployed from a place of pride and towards self-promotion, it is not deployed from a place of humility towards human flourishing.
In addition to processing the way in which the gospel changes one’s approach to the vocation of an economist, the presence of the church in the world as a covenantal community also shapes one’s present pursuit of the vocation — because economists have the potential to be powerful, Christian instruction in virtue formation is crucial.
 As quoted in Amy Sherman, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2011), 101
 Gary North, Sovereignty and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Genesis (Dallas, GA: Point Five Press, 2012), 41
 North, 145
 North, 147
 One may, therefore, ask ‘why then can we find cases of good economic principles, policies, and principles that lead to human flourishing made by non-Christian economists?’ The answer to that is contained in the theological concept of ‘common grace;’ For more on common grace see Cornelius Van Till, Common Grace and the Gospel, Second Edition (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015)), and Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gift for a Fallen World (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015)
 Tom Nelson, The Economics of Neighbourly Love (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2017), 164
 Nelson, 167