Capitalism and the Bible

In our Worldviews class this semester we went through a section on economics and the different systems… not exactly my cup of tea, but not the worst subject ever.

Our assignment was to take one of the economic theories and write a 5 paragraph paper comparing it to the Bible. I picked Capitalism…. please excuse any errors due to my copy/paste from a “.doc” to wordpress =)

Capitalism: An Excellent System According to the Bible

              Economics is a thriving study today as people try to find solutions to problems such as debt, poverty, and finances. It is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of resources. Since economics is a broad study, and individuals have varying opinions, numerous theories of the most efficient system have developed over the centuries. After the fall of feudalism, capitalism became popular. It is the economic theory with people having private ownership of resources rather than governments having ownership. From the foundation of the United States, capitalism has been the main economic theory practiced. Unfortunately, however, today America is rapidly drifting away from its principles and mixing in socialistic ideals. We must realize this danger and fight for the preservation of capitalism as the most efficient and free system. Capitalism is a successful system of economics because it is based on a Biblical view of man and is the framework in which Christian values flourish.

Capitalism is based on a Biblical view of man’s fallen nature. The Bible teaches that man is depraved as a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The Fall left man consumed with satisfying his own wants. In Mark 7:21-22, a gruesome picture is presented of man’s true nature, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Each person is warped and therefore, his nature is corrupted. Because of this sinful nature, man is obsessed with himself. II Timothy 3:2 calls men “lovers of self” and “lovers of money.” Because fallen man is naturally dissatisfied with what he has and is always desiring more, God commands Christians, as new creations, to be careful. Luke 12:15 states, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Man is greedy because he is selfish, absorbed in himself. Capitalism utilizes these characteristics as motivation. It takes man’s greediness and channels it into the pursuit of wealth. If a person desires an item, work must be done in order to receive it. There will always be people working to fill endless cravings. As a byproduct of their work, the market economy will be benefited and stabilized. Capitalism also takes man’s selfishness and uses the pursuit of self-interest to awaken competition. Adam Smith, a classical economist, wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” (Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith, Book 1, Chapter 2, italics added) The capitalistic system realizes that man is looking out for his own affairs, wanting the best for himself. Therefore, it provides a framework that lets competition thrive, bringing forth quality products, numerous customers, large profit, a successful economy, and a booming industry.

Capitalism is based on a Biblical view of industry. The Bible supports hard work and making wise use of time. From man’s beginning at Creation, his life was designed to be useful. When God created Adam he told him to “subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Genesis 2:15 says, “God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” In man’s nature, there is something that was created to work. There is satisfaction in accomplishment. Man is created and commanded to work, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) God knows that work is necessary and not only commands but commends hard work. Proverbs 10:4 states, “A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Work is essential to a successful economy, and capitalism recognizes this. This system doesn’t limit industry, instead it opens the door. Laissez-faire, keeping government out of the free market, is the part of capitalism that promotes industry. Since the government is not in control, work and industry are necessary for all. Capitalism also rewards hard work with profit. Because capitalistic economics forces people to work for a living, it is a successful system which allows people to freely conduct their affairs.

Capitalism, while not based on a Biblical view of helping others, allows Christian values to thrive. While the Bible lays out some basic principles for wise living, it teaches that wealth and materials are not the purpose of life. God is a God of compassion. We, as Christians, are to reflect His character, by using our resources to help others in need, not merely for fulfilling our pleasures. “Blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” (Proverbs 14:21) The Lord knows that there will always be needy people. Instead of charging governments to take care of these people, He lays this duty on Christians. The Bible gives an eternal focus to economics, a purpose beyond man himself. Matthew 6:19-21 states, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Christians realize that one’s purpose in life goes beyond this world. Thus, they live with an eternal perspective. There is more to life than riches and wealth. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:16) In Biblical Christianity, people are to realize that life is short and to minister to people’s needs, recognizing what God has given Christians eternally in Christ. While capitalism is not aligned with this purpose, it makes it possible for Christians to live their faith freely. Capitalism allows citizens to choose how they spend their resources; there is not a government or single authority dictating how a person uses his discretionary money. This allows Christians to give money to their churches, to help others, and to support organizations of their choice. By permitting its citizens the freedom of choice in how they use their money, capitalism has built a good stable economy. All of this permits Christians to wisely invest their money in good causes and in others’ lives.

              Capitalism is a successful system because it allows Christianity to flourish. While Christianity can function in any economic system, even under persecution, capitalism creates the best and most friendly system for Christian values and thus is worth defending in America. The Biblical view of man is that he was created for work, but his fallen nature is greedy and selfish; capitalism is successful because it uses this view to its advantage. A capitalistic economy permits Christians to use their finances for the kingdom of God, which includes helping others. Christians should realize and appreciate the freedom capitalism has given them for living out their faith and should fight to keep it operating in America.