Is Jesus a Capitalist or a Socialist?
Here is an interesting question. Is Jesus a capitalist or a socialist? I will answer that question at the end of this post, but first I want to share some facts and thoughts as we ponder the question.
Since I teach a course on budgeting, getting and staying out of debt, saving money etc., I have done extensive Biblical research on the subject of finances. Now I will tell you straight up I am not an economist, but I feel I know how money is suppose to work.
By definition, America is a capitalistic country. It espouses free enterprise which in its simplest definition means that people are allowed to start businesses and succeed or fail without government interference.
One of my favorite shows is Shark Tank, which features entrepreneurs who pitch their businesses to the Sharks (extremely wealthy business people) in hopes of getting both financial capital and partnership from them. It is exciting to learn what these financially successful people say to the entrepreneurs on whether they want to invest in their businesses. Many times a season or two later, the show features one of the businesses on how it has grown in sales and also in hires. In other words capitalism and free enterprise works.
Like many things, there is a however. We also know that even in our type of economic system there are certain restrictions, so we don’t truly have a 100% capitalistic approach. For example if one company completely dominates a certain field where there is no competition, antitrust laws kick in so that company can’t unreasonably charge for a product or service.
America also has a minimum wage law, so business owners can’t unduly pay lower wages to their employees. Also, many government entities like OSHA protect workers from unsafe environments; child labor laws that don’t allow companies from hiring too young a worker; and laws that allow unions to form to help workers negotiate for better pay and benefits.
We also have what some have deemed socialism: Social Security and Medicare. To be socialistic means that the government essentially owns all the business and controls all the decisions.
Now it is true that the government mandates Social Security and Medicare and so therefore one could argue that is a socialistic enterprise. But I see it more as government help without sacrificing the essence of our free enterprise system.
In the Scriptures we see aspects of free enterprise. Matthew 6:17-19 gives us the story of the landowner who has a choice of how he spends his money on workers needing a job. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 tells those that are rich financially how to act with their money. Interestingly we also see socialism practiced in the Bible.
In the book of Genesis, Joseph one of the twelve sons of Jacob, is sold into slavery by his brothers because of their jealousy of him. Eventually he ends up in prison through no fault of his own. After many years he is let out to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, because Joseph has a gift from God to do so. The dreams turn out to predict the future, seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph then adds some practical advice. During the seven years of plenty, Pharaoh should demand all his subjects give him twenty percent of their crops to be stored. Then during the seven years of famine there will be plenty of food to survive. This plan sounds exactly like Social Security, a forced savings plan.
We also find in the book of Acts, chapters 2 and 4, two references where the church has everyone submit to pooling their financial resources. This is done so when someone has a need, then there are funds for provision. Once again the language strongly suggests that this was expected of the believers to practice.
So on a practical basis how should we as believers and citizens of the United States look at the economy? The issue for me is not whether government is involved or not, but rather what works best to make our society better off financially. I can tell you if people were not allowed to determine how to make their businesses profitable, then I would be opposed to that level of government interference. On the other hand, because of the sinful nature of human beings, I know that being “forced” to pay into a savings account like Social Security is also good for us as a society. In addition, as a retiree I have come to appreciate benefits like Medicare because of the minimal costs for ongoing health care.
So back to the original question. Is Jesus a capitalist or a socialist? I believe the answer is neither because Jesus is for whatever makes his kingdom to come and his will to be done. When we approach finances with this in mind hopefully we also will become more kingdom minded as well.