To learn biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.
I read your column about socialism and the Bible. Perhaps I don't quite understand articles like these as I should, but is capitalism a form of government or an economic system? Or are the two so intertwined in American thought that we think of them as one and the same? Are we afraid of losing our economic system or our political system or both? The conversation seems to revolve around the amount of government control over monetary issues in our lives. Do you consider that a political or an economic debate? Sometimes I think we forget our sinfulness and the potential failure of any system and that general biblical principals can (and I would argue, should) be applied to any governmental/economic system we live in. Thank you for listening and thank you for your reply.
Thank you so much for a great question and one without a shrill tone attached to it.
My recent column at The Christian Post sparked some very vigorous debate, some of it over the top, some of it thoughtful, but all of it a sign that in light of current events, we should come together to consider a biblical perspective on economics.
Governments and economic philosophies are separate but intertwined. Governments exist to uphold the economic philosophy of a nation, to create laws, protections and policies that support the economic, political, cultural and structural choices of a people. Capitalism, socialism, and communism — these economic philosophies become reality when governments make laws to carry these ideas forward, and it's a good idea for a nation to consider if they want to go where those ideas will take them.
My own concerns with socialism have been fine tuned as I've traveled around the world for the past 15 years, visiting nations often in economic collapse, where people are truly suffering. In an American context, some of these hardships are not as well known, but I appreciate that so many have taken time to think about this lately, given the ongoing presidential primaries where socialism is in the headlines.
Capitalism is based upon free enterprise, the empowerment of the individual to operate in a just society, make choices of where and how to invest capital and to reap a just reward for their labors. Thus a democracy is established to ensure that free enterprise is protected and the people can flourish.
Socialism and/or communism by definition are economic philosophies that embrace centralized control of resources with the idea that wealth is redistributed by political leadership not based upon merit or achievement or personal rewards but based upon a government's definition of what is "fair." Sadly, in actual practice, governments often think it is "fair" to take from political adversaries or those who don't support them to give to their own constituencies or even to keep the resources for themselves.
Socialist structures can become a means of coercion that provides a way to take from the producers and give to the non-producers. And usually those whose resources are taken are first attacked, denounced and defamed as unworthy and flawed.
Another of my concerns with socialism is the way it separates work from reward. God always intended us to work. Consider that in a perfect world — a world without sin — God gave men and women work. Genesis 2:15 noted, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."
Work is not a punishment or a failure of imagination. It is one of our primary purposes here on Earth. God sent a message to Asa, when he was told he needed to lead the people of Judah, in 2 Chron. 15:7: "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." And consider Proverbs 12:11, "Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense."
The Bible is clear that we must work as unto the Lord, if we are able, and with the rewards we earn, we should be generous with those less fortunate. But a socialistic structure turns that on its head. Those who work and achieve can be demonized as unworthy; those who contribute nothing can be rewarded for merely being associated with those who have power.
Many well meaning Christians tend to confuse the role of the church and the role of government when they advocate for socialism as a means to serve the poor. Serving the poor is a right, responsibility and joy of the individual and the Church. Governments are responsible for protecting individual rights to allow the people to flourish. It is from their flourishing that poverty is eliminated and for those who cannot work, charity is needed from individuals and the Church.
I reached out to my friend and noted economist, Jerry Bowyer, for his help with my reply. He added, "Christians who have fallen prey to socialist ideas tend to fall for the lie that the love of money is to be equated with free-markets. In other words, anyone who prefers free markets is deemed to be implicitly endorsing the love of money. Freedom=Greed. This is a lie, a dangerous one."
Jerry also added this important insight: "Every system of political economy (which is what we call the study of the proper relationship between the state and the economy) involves money. Capitalist countries have money: socialist countries have money. Both systems have rich people. Both systems have poor people. The difference is that under socialism, it is the politically connected who become rich."
It is entirely appropriate for politicians to declare their economic philosophy so that voters understand what is at stake. Elected leaders will govern according to their philosophies just as individuals are controlled by their own ideas about money and how to use it. It's important to ask questions of those who want to lead us about where they want to take the country. Elections do have consequences.
On an individual level, do you know what value you put on money and resources? You're right that sinful attitudes and ideas impact us all, but many are ignorant of their beliefs and how those align with God's Word. Crown has a free assessment — a MoneyLife Indicator — which can help you think about how to connect your values with your actions when it comes to money.
As we all consider and pray about who should lead our country next and ask tough questions of them, we should also be praying about our own lives and how God wants us to handle our resources. As it says in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
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