Despite the best efforts of liberals, including liberal “evangelicals” like Jim Wallis, to turn Jesus into a flaming socialist, his own words tell a different story. In fact, the stories that Jesus told could have only come from a capitalist’s capitalist. Jesus was, in fact, a capitalist to the core.
For instance, in one of his most famous stories, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus commits a number of grievous and politically wicked sins according to the worldview of progressives, who try to recast Jesus in their own image as the Karl Marx of Christendom.
A talent was not an inconsiderable amount of money. In fact, one talent represented about twenty years of wages for the average laborer, let’s say around $600,000. So the first employee is being handed a cool $3 million to invest. In other words, the hero of Jesus’ story is a rich, rich guy. The horror! The humanity!
In Jesus’ story, this rich businessman called his servants together and “entrusted to them his property.” Hold it right there! It was his own property! He owned the means of production – it did not belong to the village or the government! The capital used in economic exchange was totally, entirely in private hands. And what he did with his wealth was clearly nobody’s business but his own. He, and not some government bureaucrat, decided who would be entrusted with his economic resources.
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How can all this be? This makes the hero in Jesus’ tale a criminal in the fevered imagination of social liberals, guilty of greed and exploitation, and of grave offenses against an enlightened social order.
Further, the businessman distributed the talents “to each according to his ability.” Egregious sin number two, for here Jesus directly, flagrantly, flatly and unambiguously rejects the fundamental tenet of liberalism.
According to liberals, Jesus should have had this man distribute his resources “to each according to his need.” He should not be entrusting money to people based on ability, but rather should be extracting it from them based on ability. After all, in liberal land, the rule is supposed to be “from each according to his ability.” Jesus turns that completely on its head by giving “to each according to his ability.” You could look it up. Perhaps Rev. Wallis and others need a remedial grammar lesson on prepositions as well as the Bible.
Even worse, the business enterprise in Jesus’ story is a meritocracy from start to finish. Responsibility is awarded based on ability, not on some kind of ethnic or economic quota system. And promotion and pay raises likewise are based squarely on achievement. The man with five talents earns five more, and is given more responsibility and authority as a result. Likewise with the servant who took two talents and turned it into two more.
In other words, Jesus shows zero concern for income inequality. In fact, in his story the hero actually makes income inequality worse, not better. The guy at the top went from a portfolio of $3 million to well over $6.6 million, while the sluggard at the bottom went from $600,000 to zero.
There is not a breath here in this story of the equality of outcome as any kind of operating principle. In fact, quite the reverse. Jesus had no intention of having everyone wind up at the same level of income, authority or responsibility. This businessman believed in equality of opportunity but not in equality of result. Outcome was not dictated by government regulation but rather determined by individual initiative and skill.
Accountability in this story does not rest with some government agency. Rather it remains in private hands, with the entrepreneur who called his servants together upon his return and “settled accounts.”
Jesus’ businessman would surely agree with the Founders who said that one of our unalienable rights is the “pursuit of happiness.” Note that nowhere did they say that any of us has an unalienable right to the achievement or possession of happiness, only to its pursuit. The promise of America is the freedom to chase your dreams. There is no guarantee that you will catch them. That’s up to you, with God’s help.
Government, in the view of the Founders as well as the New Testament, is there to create a stable and just society in which each of us, with minimal bureaucratic interference, can pursue happiness based on ability, hard work, good judgment, perseverance, education, training and ambition, all of which will vary significantly from one individual to the next.
And last but not least in Jesus’ story, when the master returns and finds that one of his servants has buried the money in his backyard rather than investing it, he calls him “wicked and slothful.” He does not get food stamps and unemployment benefits. And rather than taking money from the productive workers and giving it out of phony compassion to this man in the form of welfare, he takes the one talent the indolent worker has and awards it to the most productive member of his team.
Jesus’ businessman had no intention of rewarding or subsidizing irresponsibility. The lazy servant had no right to anything he wasn’t willing to work for.
What Jesus taught is that the redistribution of wealth is to be entirely voluntary, motivated by personal generosity and compassion and directed to the worthy poor. There’s no hint in Christianity of any kind of support for the involuntary transfer of wealth through government coercion.
So let’s sum up. In this story, capital is in private hands. The owner of the capital is free to invest it as he chooses, and to entrust his private resources to anyone he wishes. Economic gain comes through investment, risk-taking and smart choices. The enterprise is based on ability and there is no quota system of any kind in place. Achievement rather than mere effort is rewarded. Accountability rests in the hands of private enterprise rather than in the hands of government. Laziness is punished rather than rewarded, and resources are not involuntarily transferred from the producers to the non-producers but the other way round.
Bottom line: Jesus, as much as liberals hate to admit it, had capitalism in his DNA.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio. Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point” )
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.