Bryan Fischer
May 17, 2010
Jesus was a capitalist
By Bryan Fischer

Despite the best efforts of 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.

For instance, in one of his most famous parables, the parable of the talents, Jesus commits a number of politically incorrect sins according to the worldview of Jim Wallis, who unfortunately is trying to recast Jesus in his own image as the Karl Marx of Christendom.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus refers to a man who 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 community at large! The capital used in economic exchange was in private hands! And what he does with his wealth is clearly nobody's business but his own.

How can this be? This all makes the hero in Jesus' tale a criminal in Wallis' fevered imagination, 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." Sin number two. According to Wallis, 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 Wallis' world it is "from each according to his ability." Jesus turns that completely on its head by giving "to each according to his ability." Perhaps Rev. Wallis needs a remedial grammar lesson on prepositions.

Even worse, the enterprise run by the main figure 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 likewise is based squarely on achievement. The man with five talents earned five more, and was given more responsibility and authority as a result. Likewise with the servant who took two talents and turned it into two more.

There is not a breath here in this story of the importance of equality of outcome. 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 inalienable rights is the "pursuit of happiness." Notice that nowhere did they guarantee the achievement of happiness. The political structure, in their view, is there to create circumstances under which each of us, with minimal government 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, when the master returns and finds that one of his servants has buried the money in his back yard rather than investing it, he calls him "wicked and slothful." And rather than taking money from the productive workers and giving it out of compassion to this man in the form of welfare, he takes the one talent he buried and awarded 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.

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 chooses. 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 Wallis will hate to admit it, had capitalism in his DNA.

© Bryan Fischer

 

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