“Never underestimate the importance of workplace evangelism,” Professor Ian Harper one of Australia’s best-known economists, and former head of the Howard Government’s Fair Pay Commission told the crowd at today’s Sydney Prayer Breakfast. He is grateful to the two colleagues who led him to Christ. “I was converted by a couple of economists – God has a wonderful sense of humour.”

After he was converted, Harper agonised about if he could be both an economist and a Christian.

Ian Harper, Deloitte Access Economics

Ian Harper Deloitte Access Economics

Workplace evangelism worked for him, so Harper is keen for others to do it too.

“’Haven’t you grown out of that?’ will go through a typical non-Christian’s mind,” he said, “I know, because it went through mine.”

“But because they were colleagues, and they knew more economics than me I couldn’t say ‘they’ve lost it’”.

After he was converted, Harper agonised about if he could be both an economist and a Christian.

Having decided it was possible to be both, and that God wanted him to stay an economist, Harper says “God changed my perspective about my profession”.

“God brought me to a place where I could see what my discipline does to the worth and dignity of human beings.

First he had to learn “that there is more to life than economics. My religion and faith was my profession, but God knew that. For many people, what they do is their counterfeit religion and god.”

He also learned that economics deals with real peoples’ lives. As head of the Fair Pay Commission, legislation required Harper to go and meet with low-paid Australians each time his panel made a ruling on the minimum wage.

“God brought me to a place where I could see what my discipline does to the worth and dignity of human beings.

“I will never forget one young woman who lived in a caravan park 100km out of Perth. She was keen to work. When I asked her why she was unemployed she said ‘My partner has broken his back, and we live in a caravan. There is nobody else to look after him. That is why I do not work.

“Not for the first time I was bereft of words.

“It may have been the Lord Jesus talking to me that day. Maybe one day I will find out”.

Another shift in Harper’s thinking as an economist has been to seek to reconnect it to its origin as a branch of moral philosophy. Harper says that his profession “needs not just to ask whether something is efficient or wealth creating but whether it is good”.

“Let me ask you: how has God changed your perspective on your profession?”

Wearing his economist hat, Harper said that the Australian economy is passing through the greatest structural change it has ever seen.

“The economic challenges we are facing give us an obligation to speak words of comfort and truth. For the first time in a long time, people are willing to listen.

At the end of his address Harper spoke to any non-Christian at the breakfast: “What wells do you draw on for moral guidance?”

And to the Christians: “Are you drawing up the living water? Are you giving it to the thirsty?”

Email Icon

Email This Story

Why not send this to a friend?

Share

More