Thursday, November 25, 2010

What about Greed?

Many will argue, in response to my last blog post, “Which is More Biblical, Capitalism or Socialism?” that a capitalist economic system promotes greed. Not really. Socialism and Communism, indeed all government systems are corrupted by greed. And that’s not because of the systems, but because of the sinful, fallen, greedy people that run them. If we the people were perfectly benevolent, any economic system would work marvelously. What capitalism does that is unique among economic systems is to recognize greed, and to “harness” it, if you will.

If the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 is indeed Biblical support of capitalism, then the parable that follows immediately afterward, “The Sheep and the Goats,” gives capitalism a purpose and combats greed. In the parable, Jesus comes in glory with all his angels, gathers all of the nations before him, “separate[s] them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (HCSB, Mt 25:32) He then rewards the “sheep” with eternal life, and damns the “goats” with eternal fire.

What is the criteria upon which Jesus makes this judgment? Whether the individual has fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, took in the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the prisoner. The “sheep” has done these things to the least of the brothers of Jesus, and thereby has done them directly for Jesus himself. The “goats” did not do these things, and thereby did not do them for Jesus.

In the “Parable of the Talents,” Jesus rewarded the productive servant for his stewardship and faithfulness in investing his treasure and making more. In the “Parable of the Sheep and Goats,” Jesus defines what faithfulness and stewardship mean: using those earned resources to take care of the less fortunate around us. This is not a function the Bible grants to government; it is the duty of each and every individual who is blessed with talents and resources from God.

How about us?  Are we using the talents and treasure God has given us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the homeless? Or are we trusting the government to do our job for us?

Which is More Biblical, Capitalism or Socialism?

Over the last year or so I’ve had several interactions with some British blogger brothers about the benefits and perils of capitalism and socialism. I’ve been praying, “God, is either capitalism or socialism Biblically supportable? Do you really care which economic system we use?” I was reading through Matthew today, and I think I found his answer.

“For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey.” (HCSB, 25:14-15, italics mine) Marx said, “From each according to his ability…” An interesting contrast.

The parable continues, with 2 of the servants doubling their master’s money, and the third being condemned as an evil, lazy slave for simply hiding his master’s money. Jesus has the master commend each of the industrious slaves by saying, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (HCSB, 25:21,23) The active word is “faithful;” God calls us to be faithful, to be a good steward, of the valuables he has given us. And he promises that if we are faithful with the few things he has given us, he will give us more!

Jesus closes the parable with the principle we are to glean from it: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” This sounds vaguely like a very common criticism of capitalism, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

I submit to you that this parable is a Biblical endorsement of a capitalist economic system over a socialist one. God has arranged the universe in such a way that resources are allotted to those with the most ability rather than those with the most need; socialism is just the reverse. God has provided that those that are faithful with what they have will be given more, while those that are lazy with what they’ve been given will lose what they have. Socialism takes from those who are diligent and hardworking and faithful, and gives to those that aren’t industrious.

Am I missing something?  Do you simply disagree?  Tell me why below.