Jesus: Socialist or Capitalist — Part 2
Previously we discussed some of the economic and biblical stances in regard to wealth and sharing, but we really only determined that the story of the Rich Young Ruler does not necessarily prove that God supports redistributive policy on a governmental level. This purpose of this 2nd post is to take this point one step further and show that Christ endorsed risk and reward and rejected the notion of equal results for all. We will address the issue of Stewardship in light of the whole Bible, but will focus mostly on Christ’s teachings in the Gospels.
In the Gospels we have 2 different parables involving a wealthy land owner and his stewards. In the Matthew 25 version of the story, the Nobleman left talents to 3 of his hired stewards in the amount of 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent (note the lack of equality). After leaving for an extended time, he returned to find that the stewards had traded and secured a return on his investment in the amount of 5, 2 and 0 talents respectively. He praised the shrewdness and diligence of the first 2 but condemned the cowardly laziness of the third steward who was unable to increase the talent in even a very small amount. Jesus demanded his talent be given to the steward who already had 10.
In the Luke 19 version of the story, the nobleman has left with his stewards an equal amount of 1 mina apiece to do business until his return. Upon his return, the first steward delivered back to the master a total of 10 minas, to which the master praised the steward and made him lord over 10 cities. A second steward delivered to the master 5 minas in exchange for the one he had been given. Again, this steward was praised and given rule over 5 cities and enjoyed the favor of his master. Lastly, a cowardly and lazy steward delivered to the master a single mina, having earned nothing from it while the master was away. The master judged this steward with incredible severity and delivered the single mina to the steward with 10 minas already.
Now, before you take the course of thought that these parables were not expressly about money, but rather spiritual endowments, let me say that I totally agree. I don’t use these examples as the only Biblical equivalent of monetary policy but I think there is some monetary instruction that we can glean here. The point of these 2 stories is to show that there are some endowments of gifts where there is complete inequality and some that all humanity shares equal rights to. If Jesus was a socialist by nature, he would have divided the increase among the 3 stewards in the name of fairness because the lazy steward had been hindered by society, poor fortune, etc. As it is, we see Christ endorsing the role of risk and reward, labor and creativity in the stewards. While these parables do not prove conclusively that Christ was an endorser of purely capitalistic increase, it does prove conclusively that he did not endorse pure socialism either. Many verses in the Bible condemn the love of money and many condemn those with no ability to handle money rightly. To properly balance the socioeconomic views of Christ, we must dissect all that the Bible has to say on money. That would be the longest blog ever, but suffice it to say:
- Christ did not condemn having riches, only loving them and being unwilling to share them.
- Christ did not condemn being poor in these parables, only unwilling to labor.
- Other Bible writers were equally adamant about the believer’s responsible to work and share.
Paul says in 2Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (ESV)” He also tells us in 1Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (ESV)” So we cannot assume that we are doing anyone an act of service if we undermine their desire to work hard and supply sustenance for themselves and their own family. The entire Bible is full of promises to the diligent and honest with the rewards being much increase and savings.
Here is the safe conclusion as I read these parables along with the entire counsel of scripture (more of which we’ll get into with the next post); all of us are accountable to God for laboring and providing for ourselves, while keeping our hearts free from greed. We should see opportunities to give as an honor, not a burden; for if God’s love truly abides in our heart, we will be happy to help those in true need. Free Market Capitalism can hinder these things with an overemphasis on getting ahead at the expense of others. The danger of Socialism, however, is that it not only hinders productive labor, it actually promotes the exact opposite principles than espoused in these parables. It seeks to eliminate the consequences to the lazy or cowardly, and encourages shirking excellence and hard work. It encourages a reliance for existence upon somebody else, and discourages generosity due to the already over-abundance of Government handout programs and excessive taxation.
To oppose Socialism is not to disdain the poor, rather to encourage them to stand on their own 2 feet. This is NOT an excuse to be greedy or hardened towards the disenfranchised, but to love the opportunity to work to multiply the “talents and minas” God has graciously given to each one of us. We’re to love earning, saving and giving, free of government interference or mandate – principles that I do not see in Socialism.