Economics and Trust

John C. Rankin

At the simplest level, the English word “economics” is from the Greek term, oikonomos, a word meaning “rule of the household.” The prior and parallel Hebrew term, bayith, is used likewise.

In other words, the government of the household is the predicate for government in the wider society. And this traces back to the biblical order of creation, the mutual fidelity of one man and one woman in marriage, and how such trust is then modeled for their children on outward.

So, for example, what is money? There are different technical definitions, reflecting various economic philosophies. Money is an exchange of trust. Coinage is the means – whether with precious metals, bank notes or electronic transfers of assigned value. We trust that the money represents a certain value, able to be exchanged for something judged to be of equal value.

As we look at economic crises across human history, they are always rooted in prior losses of trust in the social order. So the question is this – how do we biblically literate believers inject trust into an untrusting world?

In John 2, why did Jesus give better wine to people who already “had too much to drink?” Or more baldly – why give expensive wine to a bunch of drunks who cannot discern the difference from the cheap stuff? Simply, Jesus always gives the good gift regardless of our sins. He entrusts to us what is good, true and beautiful even in the face of our folly. And on the cross, Jesus entrusted his perfect life to us, in exchange for our broken lives.

Thus, at the height of the redemptive story, we note an exchange of trust from the one who is trustworthy to we who are otherwise not. “Redemption” means to “buy back out of slavery” and thus loaded with economic power. As disciples of Jesus, if we can grasp the reality of literally investing trust into a broken economic system to redeem it, we will then grasp true and good power.


In service to the economics of trust, the TEI has a vision to purchase office buildings for TEI Cohort members to lease space in and create entrepreneurial synergy across all disciplines.

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House of Lords 17 October 2017

Text of John Rankin’s address on the occasion of the 500th annive5rsary of the Reformation.