Local Economy Man exhibits virtues no law can forbid

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The presence of giant corporate players in Chattanooga makes it all the more helpful to consider the virtues that make small players thrive.

Much of what we follow in the news is scary. Spain, succumbing to external debt pressures, is banning the use of cash in transactions bigger than 2,500 euros. The U.S. government is bringing population control-type policing to the homeland, pushing small towns into using equipment best suited to hostile occupations of enemy land. The feds want all new cars to spy on their owners. There’s very little we can do anything about these measures against an unhappy citizenry that has tolerated much and will accept more.

In the past 75 years the federal government and its clients piled on responsibility for much of the country. Their claim of jurisdiction under interstate commerce and national security it would seem every area is theirs. As their system falters in the pending debt crisis, the feds will be blamed for things that aren’t their fault. Innocence by association in the go-go years when all they touched turned to gold, turns into guilt by association in the collapse. Everything will become the fault of the benefactors who lord it over us, even when it isn’t.

The hatred against its congresses and agents will be impossible to quell, and in one form or another, their house will be left desolate. If you are a federal person, you won’t want to go work in the morning because even the waitress bring you your joe will give you the impression that you are on the wrong side. (These developments may even be reported on by the local newspaper and make local TV.)

As local economy rises organically from the lives of a people in a given locale, it will become more important to consider the characteristics that make for an ideal player and an honest partner. John D. Beckett writes about Local Economy Man in books such as Loving Monday; Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul.

Your man of virtue in local economy

A local economy actor, in his ideal form, is a Christian. He is one “who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful,” David says in Psalm 1. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Such a man, like a tree by a river, brings forth fruit in its season.Local Economy Man is a tree bearing good fruit. Christ speaks of this promise in his Sermon on the Mount. False prophets are known by their fruits, Christ says. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew  7:16-20).

The man we have in mind has Christ as his vine, and that man’s life is the fruit of his personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser,” the Lord says in John 15:1ff. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The fruit Christ refers to are godly works, the work of sanctification, the living out of the law of God for the purpose of glorifying Him and reflecting His ways to other men.

It is helpful to consider the various fruits together, as fruit piled into bowl on a tabletop in the light of a window. The fruits of the spirit vary in their evidences. Their strength depend on the individual, circumstance and the time on a person’s life. The fruits vary, but a Christian necessarily will bear fruit in his life. It’s a contradiction to say that one knows a Christian, but one who has no fruitfulness That’s an oxymoron.St. Paul in his fifth chapter of Galatians enumerates evil fruit, and good. Verses 19-21 tell us about evil fruits. They include adultery, lewdness, selfish ambitions, dissension and heresies.

These fruits are useless for anyone concerned about local economy. Evil fruits are spoiling to create a culture very needy of a police state, a welfare state, a zombified public, mass systems of control and deception, condoms and more truckloads of white bread and diabetes medicine.The good fruits of the Spirit given by Paul in Galatians 5 comprise a partial list. But they are character traits of Local Economy Man that make dealing with him a pleasure, a profit and a joy. They give him a solid bearing, a sense of direction. When he hears news of tyranny and evil plots from smart people in Washington, he is not worried. He seeks opportunity for profit and service in the locale. Key traits are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

“Against these there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23).

Law aims to lop evil fruits

Law exists against evil fruits. They don’t exist against Christian virtues. Indeed, many laws in criminal and civil cases suppress evil fruits such as plagiarism, mortgage fraud, perjury, reckless endangerment, voting fraud, monetary inflation. Of course the evil fruits are praised in TV shows and touted by movie stars (covetousness, vengeance, concupiscence), so evil fruits sometimes thrills and excites as marketers in Hollywood have their way.

But against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law. This clearing away of legal and moral danger from Christian virtues raises exciting possibilities for Local Economy Man. The Bible, which promises conflict over the truth for every Christian, isn’t about to let me take my point below too far (see, for example, Luke 21). Christianity, with its doctrines of grace and forgiveness, nonetheless is divisive. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Christ says (Matthew 10:34).

But the idea that it’s hard to legislate against the fruits of the Spirit is encouraging. It suggests that these virtues are a sort of sleeper public benefit that is unobserved and perhaps unobservable with surveillance or official optics. Certain Christian virtues are — possibly — immune from statutes, Codes of Federal Regulation, court opinions and administrative and private rulings. This prospect is thrilling if you think about it. Paul’s point seems important as we consider the local economy in the shadow of a careening national economy and its endless impositions.

A Christian is content with his lot and is perhaps a better prospect for business and mutual profit.. “[T]hose who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

The edifying replaces the corrupt

A person free of envy is one in whom I might invest as a small-scale capitalist. Such a person is one with whom I am willing to enter a contract. Such a man I can trust because I know he is looking out as much for me as for himself, as provided in the eighth commandment (against stealing). We have a personal relationship, and my confidence in him makes me willing to ignore evil things said about him behind his back.

Paul’s letters show how local economy works, with local replacing national, with local brands, if you will, replacing national ones whose plastic awnings have begun to fade.  Truth replaces falsehood (Ephesians 4:25). Labor replaces theft (Eph. 4.28). Edifying words replace corrupt words (Eph. 4:29).

Paul’s observation about there being no law against these virtues suggests that we should not be fearful of offending the world of officials, spies, regulators and licensing people. Even if a law comes down forbidding Chattanoogans from using cash in transactions greater than F$250 (in an ostensible war against the free market), there will be a way around such a rule. There are commonsense and old-fashioned ways to make such a diktat irrelevant. If we are confident we are being Christians in our business and investment dealings, no law from the baronies of Nashville or Uncle Sam can stop Christlike living and doing.

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[This essay was first published in August 2012.]
Sources: John D. Beckett, Loving Monday; Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1998).