Is God for capitalism?
By De Benny In an article by Jim Finn he argues that God was for capitalism and against socialism. Socialism, according to Jim, is redistribution:
He plainly told Joe the plumber he was for redistribution of wealth, which is socialism at its very core.
I mention this to avoid misunderstandings. Europeans tend to have a different understanding of what socialism means. I don’t know of a special term for redistribution, maybe because there’s redistribution all around. I produce something and sell it for money, to the money is redistributed to me and the product is redistributed to the buyer. The state needs more police and rises the taxes to pay them, so my money is redistributed to the new police officers and their time is redistributed to my security (in the best case). I earn more than I need right now and give it to social security so whenever I might earn less than I need to live, social security will support me. There’s redistribution everywhere, you give and you take, some are strong and give more because they can, and some are weak and take more, because they need.
I wrote some comments there, trying to make the opposite strong: That God was not for the stronger to press the weaker (which is the effect of capitalism) but for people to help one another (which means redistribution which is according to Jim “socialism”). The problem there was that Jim wanted bible proof, and I really had a hard time, because actually the society and the government systems in biblical times were a lot different from today and you rather need to read and understand the whole bible to get the point, rather than using it as a quarry to break out those verses that support your point. So I decided to write this article, not to prove my point, because from a very close to bible perspective it is hard to speak out for anything in our modern world. One could even claim without a big problem that God was against democracy, because it is never mentioned in the bible, while kings or judges as rulers can be found everywhere… This is why I am not going to prove my point here, but disprove Jim’s position, which I shall try to do from a close to the bible text perspective, so Jim and I can actually talk with one another. We couldn’t if I’d stick to more liberal ways.
So if you were looking for an argument for “socialism” from a position of faith, but also comprehendable for the liberal reader, you might just want to look here.
Jim starts by stating the following:
The Bible is always up to date. It has always been ahead of the times. There is no way to ever catch God off guard. God has something to say concerning most everything and that includes systems of governing and economics.
I would agree that the bible is always up to date. We need no new one (though some seem to think we do). And certainly we never catch God off guard (though I hope we can agree God is not the bible, but no, let’s not discuss this here). What I want to point out is that while God certainly has something to say on everything, we have no reason to think it would all be in the bible. There are plenty things the bible says nothing about. We can get an idea of things, reading the bible and using our reasoning to find out what it would mean today, but that’s it. Even the bible doesn’t say that the bible would give us recipes for every problem, right?
The first thing before delving into the subject is to recognize there is no fool-proof system as to fairness. No system has all the answers. Jesus Christ is the answer for mankind, not socialism, not capitalism and not a system in between.
Or beyond. Right. No problem with that.
The Bible commands us to give to the poor. God even expects poor people to give.
He bases this on Mk 12, 41-44. I wouldn’t say God expects poor people to give, but He praises poor people who give. Jesus didn’t say it was the woman’s obligation to give what she had. It’s about the faith of the woman rather than about the giving, though the giving proves the faith.
Then he makes a point that God wants a cheerful giver, which is right, and he quotes 2. Corinthians 9, 7-8:
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work
From this Jim draws the conclusion:
When you force someone to give what is theirs, you violate Scripture.
I don’t know where he finds this. 2. Cor speaks about Paul collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. In this situation Paul says no one shall give of necessity or grundgingly. I don’t know how this could mean that generally “forced giving” would violate scripture. It’s not charity, right. I wouldn’t even call it giving, but this does not say that any forced giving does violate scripture. Taxes are forced, still Jesus says that taxes should be paid (Mt 22, 21). You could maybe argue that forced giving does not count like giving to the poor out of free decision, I’d agree here, so if you try to fill your account of good deeds, you cannot count paying taxes to it, for example. Or any other time where you have the obligation to give. But the existence of obligations to give itself does not violate scripture.
Jim goes on:
There is no Scripture that contradicts 2nd Corinthians 9:7-8 If you can find it to be so please show me.
No, why should there? Paul certainly didn’t want to push Christians to give for Jerusalem, how would he have even been able to do so? But I could ask as well: Am I allowed to give money to charities that help landmine victims? In Jim’s logic, we can only do what the bible allows. Free giving is allowed, but there is no verse about “forced giving”, so it’s not allowed. Giving to the poor is allowed, you’d find verses about that I’m sure. But where in the bible are landmine victims mentioned?
Still we would consider it ridiculous, if someone claimed, we were not allowed by God to give to landmine victims, right? Nonetheless I can say there is no scripture saying that giving to landmine victims was allowed.
I’d say we better see what the bible prohibits, and take a close look to not get the wrong impression (otherwise it’s farewell to pork meat and lobster).
Then Jim quotes Ps 37,25:
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
and Phil 4, 19-20:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and
ever and ever. Amen.
Now Jim claims God dictated the bible (which I don’t believe and even the bible doesn’t claim) and says these prove that God would not let down anybody. He says it’s not King David in Ps 37 but God Himself who’d say that. I’d say of you want to stick to the text of the bible, we have to agree that David did not see the righteous forsaken (he never met Job). What David sees has nothing to do with what is happening. Besides? Who is righteous?
Romans 3, 10 claims:
There is none righteous, no, not one
and is quoting Ps 14 with this. So if there is no righteous person, no righteous person will be forsaken, right? And remeber: As long as you believe the bible is dictated by God, this also applies to Romans and Ps 14!
What about Philippians? Well, it might be my bad English, but I learned that “shall” does not equal “is”. What we have in Philippians is a prayer, and I wish that it comes true for many. And: Paul is writing there to the Philippians, not all mankind. But anyway, it is not supporting, what Jim claims:
God always takes care of His children no matter what. Gods children has never one time suffered for basic needs. I did not says wants, I said needs.
By the way, being a child of God does not mean, that child had to be righteous.
If you say no child of God has ever suffered for basic needs and you see children starving, this would either mean: Yes, well, they are not children of God, so why even bother, which would be more than hardhearted. Or you’d say: Yes, they starve, but still they cannot fall deeper than into God’s hands, even if they die. That’s not better.
Maybe it becomes clearer when we think of all the aborted children. Are they not children of God? Have they gotten all their needs? So why even bother about abortion?
Many and much more Scripture could I add.
Yes, Jim, I think you’d need to bring in more, because what you brought up to now is by no means convincing. This has nothing to do with me not believing in God or the bible. I just looked at the bible and saw what is written there. And it is, as for what you have brought forth, much less than you claim. So it seems you are adding to scripture here (I said seems, you can prove me wrong by bringing more convincing scripture).
Of course as Christians we are told by God that we are supposed to be a generous people but if you think for one minute that God lacks power because of our disobedience, you better be careful in you accusation.
The point is not at all that God would lack power. In fact I fear that power a lot. Because when the poor are not being taken care of, we will feel His power in the results of their poverty: Crime, insecurity and finally the collaps. It’s gotten worse and worse since we have not properly taken care of the weak and poor. Our wealth is nothing granted, we don’t have it for our hard work, because you can work hard and still have nothing. God has the power to turn down corrupt systems that feed the rich and starve the poor. Without redistribution, this is what happens.
Socialism rewards according to need as opposed to work down so says the Webster dictionary.
Wasn’t it God who would give according to need? Just a few lines up? Now it’s socialism!
Then, Jim uses Mt 25, 14-30 as a proof for profit being good. And concludes:
Profit is increase and according to Jesus profit is good not bad.
Actually, I do not see Jesus saying here that profit was good, He rather describes the kingdom of heaven like a man who gains without doing, which is quite the opposite of rewarding a man’s hard work with profits…
Nonetheless I would agree that profit itself is nothing bad. It’s good to have profits and to enjoy the fruits of your work.
Notice, not one time does Jesus mention the profit should be distributed to those whom did not earn the profit.
Right, because it isn’t about economy but a description of the kingdom of heaven. A parable. Just look at the first verse!
As a Christian we are supposed to work for our needs.
Agree. What if there are no jobs?
We have no right to consider our needs to be a right or something that others owe us.
Depends. If I work hard and the employer is giving me less than is fair and takes all the profits for himself, I have a right to say it is wrong. After all, he owes me for working hard so he can make profits. But basically, if I do nothing and am not part of a bigger context, nobody owes me. Right.
God says if a man is able but refuses to work, that man should not eat and we should have no company with such a person.
The problem is that many are not able to work because there is no work, and others are able to work and do work and still do not eat.
Ah, the part with nothing to do with them disturbs me a bit. Jim gets this from 2. Cor 3,14. There Paul writes about people who would not work and live on the expense of the congregation. What it is basically saying is: Don’t feed him, let him work.
But this is not about shunning the unemployed.
That’s basically all he writes. He didn’t even properly address “socialism”. It’s all about having to work (which nobody questions) and giving freely (which is something God wants us to do). He somehow tries to connect this all in a way so that it looks God would disapprove of social security systems. And this doesn’t work, because the bible is not anti social security. And there is nothing wrong with social security. You pay in when you have and you take out when you need. In some cases you are forced into such a system, which is also not wrong but in most cases for the good of most. God does not tell governments how to do their jobs, He just wants them to support justice, which includes the downtrodden. If a government decides to meet this end with a social security system, there is nothing wrong about it, as long as it’s a fair system where justice is served. And it’s just to care for the weak, and it’s just to have the strong bear more. Tomorrow the strong might be weak and the weak strong, whatever God gives.
God is neither for capitalism nor for socialism. He’s for justice. There are just elements in capitalism and in socialism. The trick is to use them both, and get rid of the injust parts.
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