by Alex Tabarrok
on September 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm
in Economics, Religion
Francisco’s speech can be “reconciled” with the Biblical verse by noting
that they both see the attitude toward money as a matter of values. The
real question is how those values are derived and measured. The Bible
says to find your values by prayer and reading the Bible and listening to
the voice of God, whatever that means. Francisco says to determine what’s
right by using your rational intelligence. I don’t have to ask myself
twice which answer appeals to me more and which has produced more savage
and tyrannical behavior over the centuries.
In the bible the words love and hate are often used to mean in a relative. Thus the passage:
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother…he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
What it means is that one should not put even father, and mother relatively higher than God. If your father or mother wants you do immoral things you should put God first. (note:Luke the writer wrote elsewhere to love your parents and he was not stupid.)
So the passage that talks about the love of money is a warning against putting money above God and or morality. E.g. doing immoral things to get money.
We do know that Christians can’t be socialists (nor should Jews be).
Thou shalt not covet.
Thou shalt not steal.
That’s socialism conclusively ruled out by the big boy himself.
“Left-leaning evangelical activists such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo
criticize the capitalist system and argue that in a nation as wealthy as
America the government can and should take care of the poor. These arguments
resound with Millenials–whose values reflect as much care for child soldiers
in Uganda as for unborn infants in their own hometowns”
These individuals may identify themselves as evangelical, and therefore Christian, but I don’t think they are either. Although I am not an evangelical, I understand Evangelicals ascribe to “sola scriptura†. Using the Bible as a guide, one can find plenty of support in the Bible for the idea of concern for the poor and the need to mitigate physical want. However, in every Biblical account concerned with poverty, I see the injunction for INDIVIDUAL action. YOU are supposed to alleviate poverty, not advocate for the state to do so.
Indeed in the most notable incident where Christ was approached with a question about government and taxes; he deferred on taking a position- saying “who’s head is on the coin..† There isn’t a single verse that indicates that poverty should be the concern of government.
This sounds like recycled “liberation theology† to me.
Then again, “sola scriptura† doesn’t provide for doctrinal agreement envisioned by its author; as we now have over 30,000 Christian denominations all claiming the Bible as their source of authority, but in absolute disagreement on a variety of matters.
The passage cannot be about capitalism. Capitalism as we understand it did not exist in the first century. I expect that there was not even a word for it in hebrew, greek or aramaic.
However the bible is quite emphatic about property rights, the rule of law, and the individual duty to help the poor.
The Three servants parable where Jesus put the capitalist that fund goods production and , lower but only a little , the financial capitalist as model of how to gain Heaven prove you can. He was a keynesian anyway, the hell is for the one who put the money under the mattress
Thomas Aquinas defended a market price for some goods, those with uncertain information, as just price
Suarez,the Regicide,and Vittoria defended markets price as just price ,always. Molina defended price discrimination. Mariana was the first monetarist. He blamed government for inflation.Mercado saw state intervention like to high taxes as sin. They were all jesuist priest
Baptism is not a degree in economics.
I don’t know much about the current understanding of usury in Christianity, but that always seemed to be the most difficult teaching to square with modern capitalism. Is there a good explanation of how Christians can support a system that relies on loaning money at interest?
The Catholic Church is often critical of
capitalism and its excesses. Franciscans embrace
poverty, and Mother Theresa worked among the
poorest of the poor, but I believe a fair
proportion of her contributions came from
prosperous members of capitalist societies.
Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, was on
the evangelical side of Christianity allied to
capitalism, and interpreted the parable of the
Good Samaritan to mean in part that the man
who did not pass by on the other side without
relieving distress could not have done so
unless he had the means. And that,
she said, requires the operation of capitalist
(or free) markets.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find Jesus teaching:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
This sounds much more like Adam Smith than Karl Marx to me. And Smith was a ‘good Calvinist’. I think that, in and of itself, deserves substantial consideration. Preferences, free markets, property, and finance are all touched upon. And this was merely a metaphor, if you look at the context of what was being taught.
Capitalism is just a metaphor.
P.S. I LOVED the Haldane/Lewis link; thanks so much!
Why do we pay accountants more than clergy? Because when it’s time to render unto Caesar, I need an accountant to help me navigate Satan’s most diabolical invention, aka the tax code. I don’t need clergy; at such times, I can take the Lord’s name in vain all by myself.
tom, this article from the Economist reminded me of your comment above:
Proverbs 22:26-27 “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.”
Psalms 37:21 “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously”
If it was a sin to borrow and become indebted, Jesus wouldn’t have said, “Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt 5:42) or “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt 6:12)
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