The World Economic Forum (WEF) released its 2018 Global Competitiveness Index. For the first time in 10 years, the United States was deemed to have the most competitive country in the world. The U. S. was ranked No. 2 last year and No. 3 the year before. Rounding out the top five, the U.S. was followed by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan in that order.
The U. S. was ranked No. 1 for the markets component ,which consisted of product market (No. 3), labor market (No. 1), financial system (No. 1) and market size (No. 2) subcomponents. The U. S. also ranked No. 1 for the innovation ecosystem component including business dynamism (No. 1) and innovation capability (No. 2) subcomponents. The United States was ranked 12th for the enabling environment and 21st for human capital components.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also released the August Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Job openings at 7.1 million was the largest ever recorded. Job hires at 5.8 million was also an all-time record high. Total job separations totaled 5.7 million for a 2.4 percent rate for quits and a 1.2 percent rate of layoffs and discharges. Workers are more likely to quit a job if they feel optimistic about the prospects of getting another one. The JOLTS report documented an incredibly strong labor market.
In spite of the continuing correction in U. S. stock markets, the U. S. economy is incredibly strong. Current strength can be attributed to the economic policy changes since the beginning of the Trump administration. Decreases in the regulatory burden for businesses and declines in personal and business tax rates are responsible for increases in aggregate demand and aggregate supply.
Economic theory predicts that increases in demand and supply results in economic growth which will in turn require more workers to produce the increased output. In other words, effects from the policy changes were expected. Yet, even though politicians knew what to do to increase economic growth and the strength of the labor market, politicians chose otherwise for years.
Before we are too critical of the political class, are we seeing anything different in many of our churches today? Are we falling into unbiblical hyper-grace beliefs in which our actions do not matter? We are saved by grace through faith plus nothing. Salvation is a free gift of God from the willing sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to separate us from His love (Rom. 8:39) or to earn His acceptance. Through His blood we are accepted (Rom. 15:7). We are complete, lacking nothing (Colossians 2:9-10).
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).
"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).
"They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
However, the Bible also clearly teaches that our actions matter. Many of the Bible's promises are dependent on our obedience. In the New American Standard Bible, "Lord" occurs 664 times in the New Testament, while "Savior" occurs 24 times. We will reap what we sow. If we sow in the flesh, we will reap from the flesh. If we sow in the Spirit, we will reap from the Spirit.
"Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that will he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed His disciples to give to the poor, to pray and to fast, among other things. Heavenly blessings were attached to each of these actions, but only if they did it His way. He cautioned against doing any of the actions to be noticed by others because they would lose heaven's blessings for their action. Our God wants an intimate relationship with each of us. The Lord taught that if we gave, prayed or fasted in secret, our heavenly Father would reward us.
"Be sure that you not do your charitable deeds before men to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).
"that your charitable deeds may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly" (Matt. 6:4).
"But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matt. 6:6).
"so that you will not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matt. 6:18).
The Lord also gave a condition for the Father to forgive us of our sins. If we forgive others, our Father will forgive us of our sins. If we do not forgive others, our Father will not forgive us.
"For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins" (Matt. 6:14-15).
Too many Christians today are expecting the blessings of God while not complying with the instructions of Jesus. If we know what to do, we need to do it. If we don't know what to do, we need to find out. Jesus showed us the way and gave instructions which can be found in the Bible. Let us accept Jesus as our Lord as well as our Savior. A divine exchange awaits us.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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