God's economics

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 14, 2012

Reading this bit of stupidity today made my blood boil.

Americans often tell pollsters they yearn for a return to the Christian principles on which the U.S. was founded. If so, they should take a closer look at the Romney-Ryan ticket. Jesus’s teachings regarding wealth are nowhere to be found in Paul Ryan’s budget proposals.

As near as we can tell, Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of “if you have two coats, give one to the man who has none”) and 100% (if you want to get into heaven, be poor). Mostly, he suggested giving all your money up for the benefit of others. And Jesus made no distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor; his love and generosity applied to all.

The level of Biblical illiteracy on the part of Erika Cristakis is nothing short of Biblical. Jesus commands his followers to give 10 percent of their income to God, but according to Christakis, the Christian is commanded to give at least five times as much to the state. I challenge even the most left-wing, social justice type scholar to back up her analysis. Let's leave aside the obvious context of both of Jesus’s remarks that Christakis quotes involve personal charity and not government demands backed by the threat of imprisonment.

On last night's "O'Reilly Factor" Sister Simone Campbell of Catholic social justice organization Network, scoffed at the idea that raising taxes could have an adverse affect on the economy or private donations to her organization.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. If you raise taxes, what if that makes the economy worse. What if unemployment goes up --

CAMPBELL: It won't.

O'REILLY: It has in the past. It's constricted investment.

Christakis, Simone and many others on the Christian and secular left are correct that Jesus talks alot about how his followers should help the poor. Jesus never says that his followers should take from those who don't follow him to support the poor, which is the essence of what taxation is. Christians--unlike Muslims--are not directed to take political power and use the power of the state to enforce certain decrees. They are to give charity themselves, not to force charity upon others, which isn't really charity at all.

But all of this does prompt a question: What are God's economics?

I've heard more than one person on the Christian left dismiss the possibility that capitalism might be the economic system that God suggests, despite a seeming endorsement in Proverbs 31. Instead, there is a lot of focus on how the early church lived with members pooling their resources and giving to each according to his or her need (Acts 2:42-47).

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This is certainly a model of how a Christian community should work. But do you see anything about the government in there? They gave directly to those who had need. They didn't give 50 percent of their wealth to the government to distribute. They didn't give to  the government and then point the needy to the local welfare office.

The same liberal left that scoffs and screams "theocracy" when those on the right talk about talk about America being a Christian nation behave as though the government is the church. The same ones that mindlessly chant about the separation of church and state, demand 50 percent tithes so the state can provide charity on behalf of the citizens--both Christian and non-Christian. The early church was small-c communist, so good Christians should at the very least support socialism, if not communism.

But this is where shallow Biblical analysis turns into even worse economic analysis. The social justice/socialist/Marxist left would do well to ignore all the principles and details of every economic system for just a moment and focus on one thing: the poor. Helping the poor was all Jesus was about (he was about a lot more, but for the social justice-types only the poor really matter).

What system makes the fewest people poor?

The obvious economic system is capitalism. The poor in the United States seldom go hungry, they have smartphones, multiple television sets, refrigerators, air conditioning. The poor of the world's most capitalist nation are the least poor of any in history. Soviet or Chinese communism? Many more poor. European socialism? More poor and high chronic unemployment, not to mention unsustainable.

Would God choose capitalism? In a perfect world, certainly not. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen world. A world with evil people. A world with selfish people. In this world, that selfishness, in the form of an individual pursing their self-interest, combined with capitalism makes everyone better off than they would  be without it. Evil gets punished collectively through the law (against fraud, etc.) and the marketplace where a business that doesn't treat its customers right goes out of business.

What should Christians do? Support capitalism and free market principles  as the best way to improve the lives of the poor around the world. Keep your focus on the poor, not on any particular -ism.

2 comments on “God's economics”

  1. Really great comments. So much of 'social issues' are wasted on talking about the government's activities as well. Our society sees carelessness, greed, entitlement and callousness toward the suffering of others. A better society would have fewer problems through the work of individuals to individuals and that's much closer to the Christian message.

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Actually, no serious person is sure what the conservative majority will do here. That's common in these politically charged cases. Meanwhile, literally nobody doubts what the *Democrat-appointed* justices will do. So who is "deeply partisan" again? https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/01/supreme-court-abortion-argument-roe-dead/

Doing some research and checked out @TheDispatchFC front page. It turns out the answer to every single one of these is "No." But one doesn't have that simple explanation on the main page. Why?

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