A couple of tweets I recently stumbled across comes from a man who is a self-proclaimed Christian advocate for reason, individualism and capitalism. It reads as follows:
God’s justice is relentlessly merit-based. Jesus is the ultimate Capitalist, and He would rather see you burn in Hell than give you what you need, unless you confess that you don’t deserve what you need from Him. If you hate Capitalism, you very likely will hate Christ.
If this is controversial to you, then you have not properly understood the basic difference between justice and grace.
You can find the link to the original thread here.
There’s a fair bit to unpack here. First, the biblical understanding of the word ‘merit‘ varies among Christians of different denominations and traditions. But the biggest error in this tweet is the author’s misunderstanding between temporal justice and divine justice.
Second, capitalism is a man-made economic and political system that was invented only in recent history. It’s a system in which a nation’s means of production and trade are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the governing state. Its foundations can be traced back to agrarianism in late medieval England and developed through the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe and early North America. To compare Jesus (who existed as an ancient Jewish carpenter in first-century Palestine) as a Western European or North American capitalist would be a historically and geographically inaccurate descriptor of who He is as God of creation. While capitalism certainly has provided for opportunities for personal success, it is a broken, man-made machine that is oiled by greed and usury. A far cry from being remotely comparable to a deity who embodies perfect goodness and justice.
Thirdly, the phrase, “He would rather see you burn in Hell than give you what you need, unless you confess that you don’t deserve what you need from Him,” is a gross misrepresentation of what the love of Christ is about. Some key passages in Scripture ought to affirm this:
“The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9 RSV
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” — Ezekiel 18:23 RSV
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” — 1 Timothy 2:1-4 RSV
Fourthly, the phrase, “…unless you confess that you don’t deserve what you need from Him,” is a dishonest exegesis of Scripture. If we are called to imitate Christ, coercing someone to confess that they don’t deserve a decent, livable wage or food to eat when they are starving, needy or in distress is an awful representation of a loving and caring God. Confessing that someone doesn’t deserve what they need from them in a temporal sense is not a litmus test for whether a person ought to receive what they need. Such passages that suggest otherwise read as follows:
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” — Matthew 7:7-8 RSV
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.” — Proverbs 3:27-28 RSV
“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you.” — Deuteronomy 24:14-15 RSV
Some would suggest that this passage actually proves the author’s point regarding how Jesus (represented by the king in the parable) wishes to settle with his servants. Realistically, capitalism has enabled insurance companies to charge a premium or a copay for ‘accident forgiveness.’ I recall back when someone broke into my car by smashing the rear window, the copay was so expensive that it was far less of a hassle to pay out of pocket. Insurance companies (in my own experience) can also threaten to cancel policies with their clients if they have too many accidents on their record. Additionally, this passage is preceded by this verse,