Biblical Economics

6. The New Testament

he New Testament does not add to, nor amend, the legislation of the Old Testament, but puts it in a different perspective, that of Jer. 31.3 1, Ez. 36.24 and Joel 2.28.

In these passages God promises not to repeal the laws which his people have failed to keep, but to write his laws on their hearts and to place his Spirit both within them and upon them so that they will be able to keep his laws without external sanctions.

In the Old Testament, the law of the Lord is either enforced or repealed by government sanction, by the actions of kings who enforced the laws of the Lord or the laws of Baal. In the New Testament it is expected that each individual will have the power of the Holy Spirit to keep the laws in the interim until the final establishment of God's eternal kingdom.

Jesus' first recorded sermon, announcing his platform, is the "Sermon on the Mount", given in Matt. chapters 5, 6, and 7. After quoting several key Old Testament passages, including the promise of land to the downtrodden ("Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land" -- quoted from Ps. 37.11), he goes on to say: "'Think not that I have come to destroy but to fulfil..."

This led some of Jesus' listeners to conclude that he, as the anointed king, the Messiah or Christ, would enforce the laws. This role he expressly rejected when he was asked to intervene in a case of injustice over land (Lu. 12.13 14) and be a "divider". Instead, he called on his disciples to do their own dividing: whatever you want someone else to do for you, you do for him (first) - Mt. 7.11.

On one occasion, a very rich young man, presumably a large landholder, asked Jesus directly what he should do. Jesus told him to keep the law. The man replied that he had done so all his life. Jesus told him bluntly, to dispose of everything and give it to the poor. This, clearly, was beyond the requirements of the law. (The story is given three times, and is obviously considered very significant: Mt. 19.21, Mk. 10.17, Lu. 18.18 etc.) Who this rich young man was, who went away sadly, we do nor know. We do knew that just such a man, on the Day of Pentecost or very shortly thereafter (see Acts 4.36ff), followed just this advice, first selling some of his land, then following Jesus as an apostle. His name was Barnabas, and the record shows that eventually, after financing his and Paul's first missionary journey, he disposed of all that remained of his wealth and worked as a laborer to support himself in his apostolic work (I Cor. 9.6).