Jesus, the Capitalist
He's not a Socialist as many would like to believe
Over the last decade, there’s been a shift in the Democratic party toward socialism. Even though a 2022 Pew poll reveals that overall support for socialism is down from 2019, it’s not true for young adults (a Democrat leaning demographic), who are increasingly pro-socialism over capitalism. Interestingly one of the ways pro-socialist types, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, try to gain more currency is to attempt to convince Christians that Christ was a radical socialist. The catch phrase “What would Jesus do?” has become a left wing dog whistle for faux empathy and a collectivist mindset. But in fact it’s actually hard to make the case that Jesus didn’t like profits and shrewd money managers. Jesus wasn’t a socialist. Jesus wants you to work, flourish, and profit.
More recently, articles are coming out that Jesus was in fact woke. Those views are based on Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Russell Moore, who frequently criticizes Christians for lacking compassion. Moore’s sentiment echoes among other pastors as well who appear to be influenced by the woke agenda, including well-known pastors such as Rick Warren. The woke have a way of cornering the market on empathy. But it’s always the short term over the long term. They believe it’s more empathetic to give a man a fish than it is to teach him to catch them on his own. Jesus was empathic, but he wasn’t short-term minded, he was very much long-term. Jesus wasn’t woke.
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Democratic Socialist Cornel West, who is running for the Green Party ticket in the 2024 presidential election, stirred the pot with ideas that a reader of the Bible couldn’t deny that Jesus was a Socialist. This begs the question: how is socialism being portrayed in the Christian community? Or said another way, how is Christ’s Gospel being contorted to support socialism?
Socialists point to Matthew 25:31-46 - “The Sheep and the Goats” as evidence that Jesus was a socialist. In these verses, it is presumably the end of times when Jesus is in his glory separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Jesus refers to moments when he was thirsty, and someone gave him water, or when he was hungry, and someone gave him food. He then says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of those brothers of mine, you did for me.” This is a wonderful verse that calls us to be generous. But how is this verse a call for the government to determine how we should be generous? How is this verse a validation that the government would be better stewards of resources ?
In fact, studies show that the government is not the best manager of resources. I recall Mary Meeker, a well-known tech analyst, said something to the effect that if America was a business, it would be bankrupt, and she called for “re-org of USA, Inc.” About 70% of money in government welfare budgets go to administration, not the poor, whereas private charities and churches give more than 70% of proceeds to the poor. In another example that shows the government may not be the best stewards of finances, public schools received a record amount of funding, yet they failed in their job of teaching.
Jesus isn’t a collectivist. His focus is on the actions of the individual. While Jesus does say that a man should pay his taxes, when he tells the Pharisees to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, there is no connection that those funds would satisfy man’s obligations to be charitable. Nor is there a connection that those funds would satisfy Jesus’ calling to be good financial stewards.
In Luke 16:10 Jesus says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” This is in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, where Jesus told his disciples about a rich man who accused his manager of wasting his wealth. Ashamed of his ways, the manager shrewdly gets his master’s money back through negotiation and smarts. Jesus praised good stewardship and market business savvy. That’s quite different than instructing his followers to give everything away!
Jesus doesn’t stop there. In Luke 16:12 Jesus refers to a meritocracy when it comes to private property. He says that private property is available to those who have earned trust in managing someone else’s property. It doesn’t say all property should be centrally managed and distributed equitably. It says the people who are good at managing property should manage it!
Staying in the same book, in Luke 19:11 - “The Parable of the Ten Minas,” Jesus spoke to people in Jericho and shared a story of a noble man who was going away and gave 10 of his servants 10 minas each and told them to put the money to work. When the man returned, the first servant said he doubled his money. So the noble man gave the servant 10 cities to rule. The next servant said he earned 5 more minas. The noble man then gave that servant 5 cities. Another servant said he kept the mina in cloth so he gave the noble man back one mina. The noble man was furious berating the servant for not even earning interest on the mina and so he told the servant to give his mina to the man who doubled his money.
Here’s the important part, the servant says, “Sir, he already has ten.” At which point, the man replies: “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” That is what Jesus would do! He would tell you to have agency over your life.
Jesus also sees profit as an end goal as it is said in Proverbs 31:18 “She sees that her trading is profitable.”
A generous nation
But counter to Proverbs 31, the socialist Democratic Party, which backed both AOC and whose honorary chair was Cornel West, says working people should “run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits.”
The Bible is clearly telling us that we shouldn’t conflate profit-making with greed. Profit-making may lead to greed, but so can centralized power over a welfare state. If it is for human needs to be met, then let’s look at the record.
In capitalist America in 2014, $358 billion was given to charity, of which, over 80% came from individuals, according to Philanthropy Roundtable. Those same individuals pay taxes. And those tax-payers have been giving a lot to poor nations for America’s historical sins. Henry Louis Gates Jr., in a NYTimes Op-Ed in 2001, (Gates was the Harvard professor who called the police racist for arresting him for disorderly conduct) said the West needs to repent more for slavery over African nations because the West benefited whereas African nations did not. Gates praised UN's Secretary-General Kofi Anan for pushing for $7-$10B in aid to mostly African nations to fight AIDS. By 2007, about $10B was raised. In 2022, the United States alone had given $6 billion in financial assistance to Africa. Melinda and Bill Gates have been big private donors who contributed to those funds. Let’s not forget how Gates climbed the ladder of success thanks to capitalism.
Capitalism has made billionaires, like Gates, created jobs and in the words of the DSA, met “human needs.” In fact, those who’ve risen in the ranks in a capitalist society pay for much of the welfare services the poor enjoy. The bottom 50% of earners only pay 2% of taxes.
Yet Socialists, like Bernie Sanders, want to cut the wealth of billionaires in half in 15 years so more money can be redistributed to the poor and the middle class. Sounds great, until we realize that with each tax hike, it’s the middle income class that gets hurt and is seemingly being hollowed out. In June 2023, a real estate report showed that middle income earners can now only afford a quarter of the home listings. This is down from five years ago when middle income earners could afford half the listings. The middle class is being pushed away from owning private property. When the government jacks up taxes and then turns around and spends trillions of dollars to pay for social services that unleashes 40-yr high inflation rates, that leads to decades-high mortgage rates, we’re left with unaffordable housing for the middle class and certainly the poor - the very people Socialists say they’re helping.
There’s much talk about Left wing political ideology being directed towards the creation of a utopian society. A heaven on earth of sorts. Where all people are equal, free of shame, and relieved of all burdens. Well you can’t combine that ideology with the Bible.
First the Bible is pretty clear, right at the start in fact, that we tried this in the Garden of Eden and failed miserably. But there’s an even more fundamental issue that’s impossible to reconcile. In the Christian faith man is, at his core, broken. He is a creature of endless sin. There is no way that Jesus would advocate for man investing his faith and belief in other men. Jesus knows that ends in a circular firing squad. Jesus wants men to fix their eyes on Him.
Jesus knows that collectivism would just devolve into sin and debauchery.
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