God the Economist is not a book promoting the values of Republicans or Democrats, of Tea Partiers or Socialists, or of Marxists or Libertarians. It is a book that asks the question, "What would Jesus do?" Douglas Meeks seeks to construct an economic ideology based on the model of the Trinity, and he does it better than most of the attempts I have seen. These are the reflections of a Christian dedicated to understanding the kind of economy Jesus wants us to look to as a goal. Whatever your economic ideals, this book will be a challenge.
Norman Gottwald aptly stated in his review of the book that Meeks "reads theology economically and economics theologically." Meeks begins by showing the lack of focus on economics in the church, as well as the reluctance of economists to speak of God. Whether or not the church addresses economics, it has a profound effect on how Christians live their lives, and how churches are run. And whether or not economists acknowledge God-concepts, God-concepts are at work in their economic ideologies. Both groups, says Meeks, will find their ultimate guide in the community of the Triune God, modeled in Jesus Christ.
Meeks provides that an essential move toward Christ-like economics is abandoning the emphasis on scarcity. Rather than focusing on hunger and gain, the economy should be centered around the livelihood of the members of the community (or, to use his word, the 'household'). Livelihood is a God-given human right. As children of God, we have been blessed with the right to experience his righteous abundance. When scarcity takes over, accumulation becomes the goal. Focus is taken off of the household and placed on one's self. Walter Brueggemann laid this out in a presentation on the narrative of accumulation vs. the narrative of abundance: an ideology of scarcity leads to anxiety about not having enough, which leads to self-focused amassment, and then monopoly and oppression.
The book gets pretty technical at times, but never too technical. Much of what Meeks says is quite profound. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you'll know that I've been posting quotes for days. What the book could have used more of are ideas for practical application. Meeks provides a great framework with which to pursue practical application, but he himself does not offer a whole lot in that arena. This isn't necessarily a flaw, though, as it seems hard to imagine his ideas not inspiring creative action.
The need today for a book like God the Economist cannot be overstated, as the church continues to lose sight of Christ's model for money management, our nation is experiencing greater and greater wealth inequality, and our middle class is growing weak in the face of an ever-amassing few who exploit workers, accumulate wealth and power, and gain more and more sway in the government of our society. We are in desperate need of Jesus' model of other-focused generosity, rooted in the abundance of God. I encourage all who care about the economy, Christian or not, to read this book. And even more, I implore Christians to read it, as it contributes significant insights to how the church can and should approach society in the future.