Capitalism vs Socialism

A Biblical Look at Capitalism & Socialism

I believe people can get caught up in terminology and ideology that leads to a total misunderstanding of what is going on. I believe this to be true with the words capitalism and socialism. Most Christians I know associate capitalism as the biblical way and socialism as evil. The standard understanding of the philosophy of these terms could lead one to believe this thinking.

Capitalism

“an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

Socialism

a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

New Oxford American Dictionary

However, if we understand the root of these words we might come to another understanding.

The word capitalize means; “take the chance to gain advantage from:” That can be a good thing. For instance, I took advantage of Christ’s work of redemption to gain Heaven. There are many opportunities to take advantage of a situation for our gain that is just fine. Capitalists have taken advantage of the many opportunities that America has to offer and gained great riches.

However one can capitalize on opportunities that are not so great. Here are a couple of examples of the wrong type of capitalism.

If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.

Deuteronomy 24:7

Here one could capitalize on the fact that they could sell their brethren. Somehow a person could get into a position where they have this advantage over their brethren. Here is another example of a warning not to capitalize on the poor.

If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

Exodus 22:25

I Samuel 8:10-18 talks about when there would be a king in Israel he would take advantage of the situation. In other words, a king would capitalize on their power to take advantage of their servants.

If we are honest, what we despise about socialism is really capitalism. The poor realize that they can vote to tax the rich and give to them.

It is not the words that matter it is the heart of man. Capitalism is a venue for greed. At in the early part of the twentieth century, American’s worked long hours in poor conditions because business owners could capitalize on the situation. After time unions were formed to stand up against such greed. The people of the unions capitalized on their power and greedily demanded more.

America has become a greedy capitalistic society. The poor capitalize on social programs. People see dollars in their eyes when they can capitalize on suing the insurance companies, businesses, doctors, etc. Corporations capitalize on the fact that they can hire slave labor in a foreign land to gain more profits.

Socialism is the idea of doing what is best for society. There was a day when business owners took great pride in providing good jobs for their community. Now they only care how much money they can make. The average person did not want to capitalize on a mistake someone made or the generosity of their neighbor.

While there is a good side of capitalism, in reality, it is the channel for greed. Again I say, what we think of socialism is really just a socialized form of capitalism.

Here is the biblical view of capitalism and socialism.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Ephesians 4:28

When someone steals they are capitalizing on the weakness or some advantage over another; yes taxation is part of that. When they labor they are capitalizing on the opportunity to gain wealth and this is the honest way. The huge difference that we have to make here is the motive. Why are we commanded to work? Is it to gain wealth? No, it is to give! To be sociable. To do what is best for society. Especially among the brethren.

Paul teaches us about this in 2 Thessalonians 37-10

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Paul could have taken advantage (capitalize) of his power to live off of others, but he forfeited it to be an example and stated that if a man does not work he should not eat. Paul was not a capitalist he was a socialist in the truest sense.

Paul taught to work to give. He also taught this in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

This is pure socialism, that one would take care of his brethren when they were in need and it would be reciprocated so that there would be an equality. The reason this is not preached or taught is that it cuts at the sinful heart of man. He is a greedy capitalist at best in his carnal nature. He says to himself, “I work hard so I deserve to have more.” We say to those who are weak or lack the talents to have abundance; “go out and earn your own way.” When the fact is they can’t and we are called to help them out.

John the greatest prophet ever spoke these words.

He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

Luke 3:11

The greatest of all—the Lord Jesus Christ taught socialism.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Luke 14:12-14

If what is being taught here is not socialism, what do you call it? Charity? Charity is socialism. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul was talking about taking up an offering to help out those in need. That is a social program. I know what is said here, “but they are not forced to do it.” Yes, that is true, but that makes it sociable. If they were forced it would be capitalism because someone would be capitalizing on an advantage or another’s weakness.

We love capitalism because it justifies our unwillingness to give to others our hard earned money. Even if we have little we love this idea so that we can hang onto the little we have.

In any church today there are those who have enough to do or have some very special things. They sit in the pew next to their working neighbor who cannot afford to go to the dentist and they consider it not their problem. If they do give they do it to those who can return the favor. This is not true Christianity.

Socialism is not ruining the word, it is capitalism. Businesses are making merchandise of the average person, by leveraging laws to gain profit off their backs. The average person votes for politicians (who themselves take advantage of being able to set their own salaries) to tax the corporation for social programs. Yes, this is greed! Taking advantage of a situation for your own selfish gain.

Socialism is people doing what is best for the group even if it cost them to do it.

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9

The real problem with socialism is that those who promote it usually do it without, in fact, many times despising God. It is only a Heavenly world view that can bring about true socialism. That why it is love God and then your neighbor as the greatest commandments.

The bottom line to this is, that man is sinful and our world is full of greed. People taking advantage of one another. No economic philosophy can fix this only a change in the heart of man will bring about a perfect world. Remember the scripture is clear that we are not to work to be rich, but to work for the good of others, the good of the whole and that is socialism. There is definitely a component of capitalism in this, but the goal is to do what is best for your neighbor—to be social.

(Postscript Added July 23, 2017)

I continually get people arguing over the words capitalism and socialism. I continually get people trying to prove capitalism is good. So understand this, I never said capitalism is always bad, I simply stated that it can be a channel of greed and showed some verse where it was forbidden.

The crux of the matter is this the Bible is clear that we are to share (if you don’t like the word socialism use another word, maybe neighborism) our wealth, which is a blessing of God. Stop all your arguing a read these verses again.

He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

Luke 3:11

For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Luke 14:12-14

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Ephesians 4:28

Either you are going to obey or justify. If you justify why don’t have to follow these commands you are going to do in principle what Jesus called “Corban“.

Posted in Life's Lessons.

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