Apologeet.nlSilly Christian, isn’t God Against Capitalism?
Some words seem to carry an enormous load. Capitalism is such a word. Democracy is another one. In a previous video I already touched on democracy in the sense of freedom. In that video I also said that a Christian should promote freedom. Freedom of speech, religion and the freedom to have property.
But now this question pops up. Is the Bible against capitalism? Answering this question is not as simple as it seems.
I could say that the Bible doesn’t condemn capitalism because it narrates about having your own property.
For example Proverbs talks about establishing a good business by a trustworthy woman:
Proverbs 31:10;16 (AMP) “An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous], who is he who can find her? […] She considers a field before she buys or accepts it [expanding her business prudently]; With her profits she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.”
Well, let me tell you, if you find a lady like this you can consider yourself as a happy man! With a wife like this you don’t have to worry as long as you let her do her thing! So, it seems that starting a business isn’t a problem for God.
But now we also have parts in which God seems to promote socialism.
Acts 2:44-45 (AMP) “And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Saviour] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need.”
This was when the church started. They considered all their goods to be for the community. You could say that the Bible portraits this as the ideal for the Church of Christ. It looks like believers need to give up personal belongings for the greater good.
So Which One is it?
The answer is: Neither and Both. You see both systems are flawed. They might sound good in theory but like many things in life they suffer under human sin.
I will clarify myself with some example. In the capitalistic world we’ve seen the rise of many small businesses. Hardworking people who started a shop, a restaurant, a bakery etcetera. But now comes a big boy to town. Let’s say a company named Burger Champion. Now Burger Champion looks at the rivals in that town. A small snack-bar, and a tea room attached to the local bakery. Burger Champion’s main office is thinking… “Hmm, let’s throw in hamburgers for only 50 cents and let’s give two doughnuts for free when buying a coffee.” You see, Burger Champion doesn’t need to make profit right away. They are huge and the loss on this one location does not make a big difference on the whole company. Now, the customers of the snack-bar and tea room need to choose. Do they go and pay less or do they stay and pay more. Many will go and if the owners of the snack-bar and bakery don’t find a way to compensate they will likely face bankruptcy. Burger Champion will become the only one in town and can raise its prices significantly without the risk of loosing.
I’ve made up the Burger Champion example, but we know this has happened everywhere in the real world but also on the internet. Amazon started with very low prices. They could do so because they had some rich investors. After years of no profits and even losing money they became one of the biggest online shops. Most others could not afford to drop their prices, so they had to stop. But just go to Amazon today and you’ll see that some products are not much cheaper than in you local shop, some are even more expensive.i
Imagine some nice innovative companies who are working on improving robotic prostheses. Normally, they will have to compete with each other. Which products is best when it comes to affordability and quality? These companies will have to do their best to make a wonderful product and will spend many hours exploring innovating and testing their goods. Now, a new government decides it is time to put an end to all inequality. In a zealous attempt they decide that it would be better to control these companies. We don’t want the board to become richer over the backs of the workers, don’t we? So, the government will put new laws in place to make sure that the normal workers are being paid just as well as the engineers. After a while the companies also need to allow the government to control the new investments. No longer the company can make deals with producers of for example hydraulic systems. No, these deals need to be controlled to make sure that all companies are getting an equal share. It all sounds so good but in reality we see that the system initially works for a few years but then starts to destroy itself. The economy stops growing, engineers can not fully use their creativity, factory workers don’t mind saying that they are sick because their payment will never change anyway. No promotion, no awards and no ownership feeling among the workers. Venezuela is example of a country in which there was a promising economy until socialism took over. Poverty is rule now and a few have all the power. ii
More Capitalism than Socialism
As you can see both systems have their problems when not regulated well enough. The Bible teaches us that it is okay to have your own business. This promise already started when Israel was said to have the country divided into parts so that every tribe could have its share.
Numbers 26:55 (KJV) “Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.”
Every family was allocated a plot of land,iii and it was believed that this ancestral plot should remain, if not in the family’s possession, then at least in the possession of the clan. Thus, there really should be no sale of land.
The positive part of this agreement is of course that everyone could develop certain skills without having to worry that they couldn’t pay the rent for their land. If you worked hard you could earn more. Hard work was promoted with the idea of more prosperity.
Proverbs 14:23 (NIV) “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Proverns 22:29 (KJV) “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”
This attitude can be found in the New Testament as well.
2 Timothy 2:6 (ESV) “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.”
Colossians 3:23 (ESV) “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”
I believe that the Bible promotes capitalism more than socialism. Why you ask? Well, all equality the Bible speaks of is equality in essence. Humans are all created in God’s image but they are not all the same. Nowadays, the left winged parties hijacked the word ‘equality’. They make it to mean ‘in everything the same’. This is simply not what the Bible states. The Bible recognises that some are better leaders than others. Some can carry more responsibility, are stronger, are more intelligent and some are more diligent than others. Still, all humans, are equally created in God’s image. Some would scoff hearing this and say that the Bible promotes slavery and that why the Bible doesn’t promote equality. For you I have a very nice essay to read, you’ll find the link in the description of this video.
While God promotes hard work and earning more money, He also sees the problem of having to deal with humans. Humans who are not always willing to honour God in their works and mainly because of this attitude make life miserable for others. Then, we also have the groups that are not very fortunate and make wrong decisions. Look around you and you’ll see a lot of poverty. It is for this reason that God promotes social behaviour. Not socialistic behaviour, no because socialism is forced behaviour. God wants us to be social in the sense of cordial, gracious, hospitable.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The Bible also warns for having to much wealth. It doesn’t say you shouldn’t earn to much. No, but it does teach us that money can be burden in such a way that it draws us away from God. With that warning in mind we can also read about the pleasures of giving.
Hebrews 13:16 (ESV) “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
1 John 3:17 (ESV) “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
Giving is Honouring God
This is why I said neither and both. The Bible is telling us we need to do the best we can with our gifts, but we should only put our trust on God.
1 Timothy 6:17 (AMP) “As for the rich in this present world, instruct them not to be conceited and arrogant, nor to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Making money is great and taking care of the less fortunate is honouring your Creator. A famous text can be found in Proverbs 3:9 and 14:31
“Honour the Lord with your wealth. And with the first fruits of all your crops”
“He who oppresses the poor taunts and insults his Maker, But he who is kind and merciful and gracious to the needy honours Him.”
As mentioned earlier, our human-made societies are far from perfect. Neither Capitalism nor Socialism work 100% perfect. My, totally unbiased, opinion is that if we have to choose, we should choose capitalism. Giving freely from well-earned riches can only take place in a capitalistic society.
God promised to make everything new. Those who choose to live with Jesus Christ will inherit this new world. It is one of the biggest promises of God’s word. The biggest promise has been fulfilled in His son Jesus Christ, Who died and rose again on the third day. He took away our sin and by doing so, we will be with Him for eternity.
Isaiah 65:21-22 “[…]And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.[…]”
So we will build our own houses on the new earth and plant gardens and enjoy the work of our own hands. It will be a great place to be.
Isaiah 65:25 “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”
I hope to meet you there! Sitting under our own vine and fig tree with nobody to scare us because the Lord is there with us for ever (Micah 4:4).
ii How’s Socialism Doing in Venezuela? <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCIdm3cM6zQ>
iii See: Numbers 26:52–54, 33:54; Joshua. 13–22