My last few posts have revolved around the way Barak Obama is knee-deep in socialistic thought. A commenter took offense at my opposition to socialism and wrote:
The basic underlying belief of christianity is that we must treat all with equality, as we are all equal in God’s eyes. Capitalism is the house of the devil. It allows for a few to walk on the backs of the many, something that Jesus was opposed to.
So your argument against socialism is contradictory to your christian beliefs.
I chose not to allow that comment on that post because I felt it would be more productive for me to devote an entire post to examine our American capitalism more closely, with a special eye to the truths that Jesus himself taught.
For starters, the underlying premise of Christianity is NOT equality. It is that we are saved through faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Period. All our former selves, whether we be slaves, business owners, ditch diggers, dish washers, car salesmen…all our former ethnic nationalities, whether we be Irish or German or Spanish or African or a Heinz 57 (like me!)…all of these things pass away. When we became Christians, we died to ourselves. I wrote in one of my last posts that God does not have favorites. That is true; he loves us all equally. But does that mean he means for us all to be completely equal in THIS world?
Let’s take a look at the ultimate source of truth and read what Jesus has to tell us about wealth in Matthew 25:
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver[b] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
Who is this man Jesus is referring to, anyway? And what is all this stuff about the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus has just spent some time telling his disciples what to watch for in the End Times. The point he made is that no one knows when this will be — he didn’t even know himself when it would happen. Only the Father knows. But he warned us that there will be signs. If we are watching, we will be ready for him when he returns.
What, then, shall we do while he is away, and what does he expect from us until his return to earth? To answer that question, Jesus tells two stories about a master who goes away for a long time. Who is this master he’s talking about? He is referring to himself, and we are the servants he has left to take care of business in his absence. The Kingdom of Heaven is the here and now. It is our relationship to our Savior. We have business to attend to on our Master’s behalf.
This parable contains two nuggets of truth. The first is that the source of our wealth comes from God. He’s the one who gives. As we’ll see in a moment, he’s also the one who takes away. The second nugget of truth is that God will give us not what we think we deserve, but what he knows we can handle.
He gave five bags of silver[b] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities.
The NIV translation says that the master gave 5 talents to one, 2 talents to another, and 1 talent to the last. But what’s a talent? A talent is equal to 75 pounds of silver. The price of silver today is $9.66 per ounce, which is $154.56 per pound. So, to put this story into today’s terms, understand that the first person received 375 pounds of silver amounting to a total of $57,960. The second person received 150 pounds of silver amounting to a total of $23,184. The third person received 75 pounds of silver amounting to $11,592. Jesus said that the master divided the money in proportion to their abilities. Does that sound like “equal” to you? No, it sounds like the sovereignity of God to me!
Now let’s see what happened after the master left:
The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
The first two servants were productive with the bags of silver, weren’t they? The first two doubled the master’s investment in them — one ended up with $115,920, the other with $46,368. The last one still had $11,592. Why did this one not double the Master’s investment in him? If we skip ahead a bit, we see that it had everything to do with his attitude.
‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
Rather than feeling grateful and content with what he had received, this third servant was resentful. Look again at what he dared tell the Master:
I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.
This servant harbored a jealous attitude. He saw the large amount of money the master had and felt that it somehow wasn’t FAIR. It wasn’t fair that the Master had a profit from crops that his hired help planted and cultivated. And don’t you think he felt slighted that the other guys got more than he did?
Jesus tells us plainly that the Master was very pleased with the two servants who had invested the resources he gave them — so pleased, in fact, that he invited them to “enter into the joy of your master (Lord).” In the NLV, he said,
‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!
But to the one who harbored restentment, the master does the exact opposite of socialism. Rather than taking from the ones who had been faithful and successful and giving it to the one who had less, he took away from the one who had little and gave it to the one who already had much. Huh? Say that again? It’s like reverse socialism. Take a look:
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.
Wow. There we have, in Matthew 25, the biggest argument against socialism I have ever seen. God gives to us according to what we can handle. He knows our hearts. Notice he didn’t give all the talents all at once. He started out with a little amount and then, when the servants showed that they were faithful to him with a little, he promised to give them even more responsibilities. Even more will be given to those who use well what they are given.
Use well. What does that mean? If we keep reading, we’ll see Jesus divide those who remain after he leaves into two groups: the goats and the sheep. The sheep will get to be with him in His kingdom, but the goats will be thrown into the lake of fire. Are you a goat, or are you a sheep? I so want to be a sheep! Jesus tells us we must act out our faith and not merely profess it:
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’
There is a clear mandate, then, that those who will be sheep — the same ones who the Lord just praised for using well the resources he gave them — are to use those resources wisely. They are to feed the hungry, provide for clothing, visit and comfort the sick and the imprisoned. They are to love their neighbors in the course of their lives. No where in this parable does Jesus tell us to pass off this mandate onto the government. All these things are individual acts of love.
The goats are the ones who are like the servant who buried his money in the ground, full of resentment that he didn’t get a bigger share of the pie. But there may be times that we act more like goats than like sheep. Too many of us just pass on by the tenements and the homeless shelters without even a second thought because we know that the single mom is getting formula for her baby through WIC. We don’t concern ourselves much with getting our hands dirty in helping the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned because we figure there’s plenty of governmental assistance. And when we do this…when we rely on our government to do the mandate that Jesus himself gave us…then doesn’t that make us look suspiciously like goats?
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
A Christian who refuses to help the least of the brothers and sisters is clearly a goat. Anyone who tries to “get ahead” by walking on the backs of others is not following Jesus’ commands to love each other and is also clearly a goat. But supporting the continuation of capitalism doesn’t make me a goat. I can believe that socialism is wrong for our country and still do my part on my own to help the least of the brothers and sisters. The point is, I want to be able to spread the talents God has given me myself (with His help) so I can give a real, personal, living testimony to those who I am called to serve. Socialism takes you and me out of the equation…and if we have Jesus living in us, doesn’t that mean it takes Jesus out of the equation as well?