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Christianity & Wealth, Part 3: Can A Christian Be A Capitalist?

The God of the Christian Bible cares much on how we view wealth, poverty and those around us who may be blessed or afflicted with either.  I will be the first to admit, that the possession or pursuit of wealth can indeed be a stumbling block to some people.

This is the 3rd post of a 3 part series addressing Christianity and wealth.  In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I answered two questions in the affirmative and gave specific evidences for each:

  1. Can a Christian possess wealth?
  2. Can a Christian acquire wealth?

Building logically upon these two previous affirmations, I will now address the question “Can a Christian be a Capitalist?”

 

Can a Christian be a Capitalist?  The answer lies in the form of Capitalism one is talking about.

There are many who would want to parse the definition of “Capitalism”, along with all its nuances, including all the different forms that Capitalism has taken over the centuries.  I do not want to enter into that type of discussion.  My succinct inquiry will be:
Under the Biblical admonishments for wealth (idolatry), does a form of Capitalism exist that meets righteous Biblical standards of trade?

If the answer to this question is “yes”, then it logically follows that a true, born-again, spirit-filled Christian can righteously advocate that form of Capitalism.

So, what ARE those Biblical principles that, if adhered to, would produce a “righteous” form of Capitalism?  A Biblically righteous form of Capitalism would have rules set in place that:

  1. Enables libertarian free trade and economic association.
  2. Punishes theft.
  3. Honors property and intellectual rights.
  4. Enforces pre-established agreements and contracts.
  5. Enables upward mobility.
  6. Rewards hard work, persistence, risk taking, and entrepreneurship.
  7. Benefits the population by raising the standard of living.
  8. Punishes monopolies.
  9. Promotes good stewardship of resources.
  10. Promotes giving and charity.

Perhaps in future postings, I could described each of these in detail.  For the most part they are self-explanatory.

But the main point is that a Capitalistic system that encompasses these rules already exists.  It exists right here in the United States of America.  It is our form of American restrained Capitalism given to us by the faith, wisdom, hardship and blood of our largely Christian Founders.

My blog refers to this system as “Christian Capitalism.”  One could also call it Restrained Capitalism for the reason that the above rules are in place to “restrain” it from being dog-eat-dog Capitalism.

Yes, there are forms of Capitalism where one trading party loses when the other party wins.  This type of Darwinian Capitalism is advocated by very few, if any, Americans.  This is the type of Capitalism is most often used in the Straw-Man argument by Socialists against proponents of American Capitalism.

The “Straw-Man” is a false argument that projects upon one’s opponent a position that he does not actually hold.  We get the name “Straw-Man” from the illustration of one creating a “man” that is easily knocked down.  Here is another definition for the Straw Man fallacy.

The most common Straw Man fallacies invoked in the Capitalism/Socialism debate are the Darwinian Capitalist accusation and the “Stalinist” accusation.  Both accusations are usually very far away from the position that is actually held.

 

One of the phenomena of American Capitalism is that occasionally, very rarely, one person can become very, very rich.  This occurs when an enterprising individual such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or Steve Jobs of Apple hits on a product that many consumers desire over the cash they possess.  The consumer then makes a free decision to trade his money for the product.  The question is then asked, “How much wealth is too much wealth?”  Should these people be punished or penalized for coming up with a successful product?  The Bible never demarcates how much money we can earn.  Indeed, some very industrious persons never get much wealth, while others seem to “stumble” upon billions.  Also, some poor people are more greedy for riches than those who actually have the riches.

The Parable of the Talents describes greater wealth being bestowed upon those who are faithful with a little wealth.  God often blesses cheerful givers with further wealth.  God even places those cheerful givers into influential positions.  Executives of corporations often lead their companies into the same cheerful giving.  American corporations have historically been spectacular philanthropists.

Admittedly, there are also those who will stumble and sin because of their wealth.  For this reasons, some individuals choose not to seek wealth.  God’s ultimate desire is that we not covet others’ wealth (Exodus 20:17) or prevent others from acquiring wealth (Romans 14).

Perhaps a good rule for Christians is:  “Within righteous Biblical standards, earn all you can, so you can give all you can.”

 

The American or “Christian” form of Capitalism promotes many virtuous results:

  1. It creates a win-win trade for both parties.
  2. It provides a higher profit to capital ratio (i.e. Less time working; more time with family).
  3. It celebrates God’s creative spirit placed within all men.
  4. It is self-policing due to the internal convictions of the traders.
  5. It promotes the spread of the Gospel through the alms of the prosperous.

I hope that this series has helped many who are concerned about the acquisition of wealth and righteous Biblical living.  I hope to have dispelled the myth that American Capitalism and righteous Christian living are mutually exclusive.  The healthy Biblical view, that Jesus Himself held, is that wealth is a tool.  This tool can be used for righteous or unrighteous purposes.

In the New Testament, there was a lady named Joanna, who was the wife of the household manager of King Herod.  King Herod’s household was most likely lavish and large.  The position of household manager was probably a very lucrative one and the salary emanated from very pagan sources.  However, Joanna, in her belief that Jesus was indeed Messiah, took some of the funds in her limited control, and used them as a tool to aid Jesus’ ministry:

Luke 8
1  After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with him,
2  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;
3  Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

It is not immoral to profit from our gifts, resources, and labor.  The alternative to profit is loss, and surely the loss of wealth, especially when due to a lack of initiative, does not constitute good stewardship.  But if wealth comes, we have a warning:

Deuteronomy 8:10-18
11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God … 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— 17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
18 “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

 

 

One Comment

  1. Will Edwards wrote:

    An interesting article. I agree with your three propositions that Christians can possess wealth, acquire wealth and also embrace capitalism. I actually think it is a great shame that so many Christians seem to stumble over what the Bible has to say about the subject.

    Best wishes,

    Will :)
    Will Edwards´s last blog post ..Does God Want Christians to be Poor?

    Monday, April 9, 2012 at 3:24 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Christian Capitalism › Virtues Underlying Capitalism on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    [...] Now there are some in our society who cannot legitimately compete.  These are the ones that Christ commands us to help.  This is where “Compassion” comes in.  One of the keys to compassion is determining if someone is legitimately in need.  This brings us back the to “Truth.”  Historically, the government and politicians have been very inept at ascertaining and advancing truth.  This is why I’m against to big government.  I actually desire a small federal government that:  1.  Restrains evil.  2.  Enforces the ideals of “Christian Capitalism”.  I wrote about that in a recent posting. [...]

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