Warning! The following article may be deemed offensive. Well, let me rephrase that. The following involves information about capitalism, a term and economic system some people find offensive. While I’m not agreeing with them, I can understand why. We are presently in a presidential election season that, even though it seems a circus at times, You Decide 2016 has featured a who’s who of capitalist this and anti-capitalist that. Meanwhile, five minutes on Google reveals a proverbial ton of articles and blogs for and against capitalism. Still, is it really that bad?
What Is Capitalism?
If you answered the proceeding question with “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market,” then you are either out of breath, you read Merriam-Webster’s dictionary like me, or both. Either way, that is one explanation describing capitalism.
Another, albeit paraphrased, definition of capitalism is a system of minority privilege and class rule while destroying freedom and individualism for everyone but capitalists, while robbing freedom from democracy. That’s if you ask Gary Engler, a Canadian journalist, novelist, and co-author of New Commune-ist Manifesto – Workers of the World It Really Is Time To Unite.
Engler’s opinion got me thinking and that thinking led me to ask a few questions.
Is Capitalism unchristian?
“This is a difficult issue to wrestle with because sometimes it is going to depend on how the terms are quantified. What do they actually mean when they say capitalism or What they mean when they say Christian,” Dr. Benjamin L. Corey, Patheos contributor and author of Undiluted: Rediscovering The Radical Message of Jesus told me. He added that, on one hand, the term Christian means Christ-like.
“When you look at Jesus, or the New Testament church, there is a lack of concern for telling secular governments how they should and should not behave,” Corey says. “The New Testament is overwhelmingly focused on how Christians should behave. “
Caleb Parke, a Christian Millennial and Fox News employee, agrees the Bible is chock full of instruction on behavior. However, Parke thinks capitalism and Christianity go hand in hand.
“We (Christians) value free will, the freedom to make decisions on our own.”
Parke adds that capitalism needs a moral society because a capitalistic system is run by individuals and private owners. Therefore, Parke said, you need the rule of law to be implemented.
“Otherwise, you’ll have corruption and you actually will not be able to have capitalism.”
What about the early church?
As described in the Book of Acts, the early Christians sold personal items and property to give financially to the church. This has caused people over the years to debate whether the early church would have supported something such as capitalism?
“They were very communally focused, but I think it’s important to kind of separate our own culture,” Corey said. “We in the west have a very individualistic-type culture and that is neither right nor wrong, it’s just something we need to be aware of.”
In other words, Corey says the early church put value on what was best for the group. That, he thinks, is a good example to follow when it comes to tithing and meeting your church’s needs.
As for Caleb Parke, he believes the Book of Acts is not against capitalism, adding that in a capitalistic society you can still do what Christians do in Acts.
“You’re still able to make the decision if you want to give everything you can to the church,” Parke says. “If anything, the Book of Acts would support a capitalistic society, because you would not be able to do that in any other system.
Does Capitalism Help Christianity?
Let’s take a moment here and credit God for the spreading of Christianity. Without His grace and without His opening of hearts and minds, Christianity would not exist. In addition to that, however, is missions. In other words, God calls, sends, and expects His children to share the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 3:16, Mark 16:15). One way He supports them is through financial support provided by a missionary’s home church and siblings in the faith (Galatians 3:26).
If you ask Corey and Parke, both agree that capitalism helps the spreading of Christianity.
“With capitalism, the power is in the individual’s hands and as Christians we would tend to give that money towards the church to helping those in need,” said Parke.
“Capitalism has absolutely enabled the funding of the Great Commission in the last 100 years and the missionary explosion across the world,” Corey said, adding that it is a great side effect of capitalism. “But if we were to have a fair discussion, we could also say there are downsides to capitalism if there are not enough safety structures put into place.”
That, my fellow Millennials, is all the more reason to share Christ with others, not just the people of our age range, but all of our neighbors. And we already know, or at least we should know, what the Bible says about neighbors:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).