Imagine: God called your family of eight to be missionaries.
Your possessions are packed in a cargo ship and are riding the waves from Seattle to San Diego to Mexico towards Chile, around the horn and up to a port in Brazil. You are faced with a precarious situation as you arrive. Either bribe a port official to clear your cargo from customs and receive your possessions in three weeks, or go through a convoluted process, taking months, meanwhile, living out of a suitcase. That was Pastor Leaman’sÂ welcome to Brazil. He made the God-honoring choice of not bribing officials, but taking the inconvenient route. We as Christians should strive to please God in all we do. This includes the realm of economics. Sometimes pleasing God in the area of economics can be challenging. Economics is the management of limited resources. Whether thatâ€™s money, possessions, time, talents, or relationships. How we manage what God has given us is economics. Last weekâ€™s article covered the topic of economic systems and, this week, we will dive further into the Biblical implications of those systems.
To recap, there are three economic systems: Socialism, Interventionism, and Capitalism. For the sake of brevity, this article will only focus on socialism and capitalism. Beginning with Socialism, or communism, we have Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles in The Communist Manifesto stating, â€œâ€¦The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.â€ A difference between socialism and capitalism, according to Dr. Ronald Nash, is the forceful means of exchange versus the peaceful means of exchange. The closest example in the Bible that we have of communal and shared property is in Acts 5. However, here is the difference between Acts 5 and communism: Communism forces compliance, whereas, in Acts 5, some members of the local church got together on their own accord and had â€œeverything in common.â€ This passage in Acts was descriptive of the church, not prescriptive, that is, we are not commanded to follow suite. Marx wanted to end economic inequality between the upper and lower classes. He believed the ruling class oppressed the lower class, in every situation, simply by having more money than the poorer folks. The apostle Paul, in Ephesians, tells slave owners how to treat their slaves. Paul does not condemn the different classes of society, whereas, Marx does.
Capitalism, a free market economy, harmonizes with the Proverbs 31 woman who can buy a field and â€˜perceive that her merchandise is profitable.â€™ She is prepared for the future and laughsâ€”unlike a woman in a Marxist-Leninist society who is fearful to what the future may hold.
Moving into the New Testament, in James 4, we see that capitalism is not condemned. Buying, selling, and making a profit, in and of itself, is obviously not wrong. What is condemned is not making a profit but rather the failure to acknowledge oneâ€™s dependence on God. Another passage referencing private property, which again is counter to communism, is the Ten Commandments. To not steal and to not covet is in the list. Stealing necessitates ownership and coveting necessitates inequality of possessions. Is it not God who gives the increase? Throughout the Old Testament, God sometimes blesses with material possessions (Ps 112). Job, in his misery, cried out that God is the one who gives and takes away.
Finally, we have our Lord teaching the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Amongst many lessons we can take away from the parable, comes the teaching of economic inequality. God, the master, gives to His slaves a certain measure of what He sees fit and He expects them to strive to make a profit and increase. The slave, who did not do anything with his talent, was called, â€œwicked and slothful.â€ Everything we have is His and not ours. It is what Dr. R.C. Sproul calls, â€œStewardship Capitalism.â€ We take what we have and make more for God and not ourselves. A capitalistic society is the fruitful garden we can take the resources the Lord has given us and cause them to flourish. May we strive to honor God with what He has given us and ensure that above all, He gets the Glory.
Dr. Nash discusses what economics is.
Discipleâ€™s Perspective aims to reunite gentlemanly virtues with scholarly conversation. Standing in the great Reformed and conservative heritage of thinkers like Edmund Burke and Abraham Kuyper, we humbly seek to inject civility into an informed conversation, one article at a time, bringing clarity out of chaos.Â
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Within capitalism, is exploitation necessary and unavoidable and therefore endemic to the system? Dr. Ronald Nash navigates this question with a fair trial.