In short, yes!
It is unfortunate, but normal that we look for scripture to validate our previously held convictions. I have read lots of proof texting by proponents of free market capitalism to convincingly support all of the values and behaviors of market-driven economics. But, I always wonder (mostly to myself until now), are capitalists using scripture to justify consumerism and materialism? I have also read lots of proof texting by proponents of socialism to convincingly support the values and behaviors of compassion and social responsibly. And I equally wonder to myself, are socialists using scripture to justify entitlement and avoid personal responsibility?
I’m really tired of the conservative/liberal debate and the camps built around each one. Our current political context constantly pits one against the other. I am even more tired of Christians who say that to be one or the other is more “biblical.” I googled, “the Bible and capitalism” as well as “the Bible and socialism,” and was immediately directed to dozens of passages that seem to support each one. I read many of them and came to the same conclusion I started with. The Bible teaches both—prescriptive and descriptive.
The Bible teaches us to work hard and take personal responsibility for our actions and our families. It teaches us not to be lazy and to enjoy the work of our hands. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth is wrong, but that the love of it is.
The Bible also teaches us to look after the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. It teaches us to share. It also teaches us not to judge whether we think people are deserving of our generosity or if they are truly worthy of help. It teaches us to give until it hurts and to constantly be moving toward greater generosity. The Bible also teaches that our possessions are not our own and that we are only stewards of what belongs to God. It teaches that to whom much is given, much is required. In fact, the Bible teaches capitalism as the means of our generosity.
The Bible also teaches that the extremes of both are wrong: cronyism on one extreme and communism on the other. However, most of the people who are arguing for the biblical defense of either aren’t typically supporting the extreme. I would love to hear more leaders teach that the Bible supports both rather than try to biblically delegitimize the other. I would love to hear people not claim that capitalism or socialism is more biblical.
When God’s people combine the work of their hands with the world’s most pressing needs, the Church could change the world.
Dave Blundell / Rev. Dave Blundell is the Executive Director of Hungry For Life International. Dave holds an M.A. in Leadership and is the author of Professionally Religious: The Spiritual Poverty of Spiritual Leaders.