Is Jesus the Ultimate Capitalist?

Is Jesus the Ultimate Capitalist? September 5, 2020
Image credit: pixabay.com

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:

Image credit: screenshot from twitter.com

First Tweet:

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.

Second Tweet:

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

In response to the second tweet regarding understanding the basic difference between justice and grace, this particular passage comes to mind:
 
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” — Matthew 18:23-35 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,

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” — Matthew 18:21-22 RSV
With that in mind, if Jesus were truly the ultimate capitalist, He would be more aligned with the behavior of the unjust servant who would rather see their debtor rot in prison than to forgive what is owed. Truly, if the author finds this controversial, then he misunderstands the basic biblical teaching that being a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
About Rene Albert
I'm Rene Albert. I am a husband to a beautiful wife and a father of three children. I'm also a licensed carpenter and construction manager as part of my full-time work. When I'm not busy meeting construction deadlines, changing diapers and chasing little hooligans around the house, I write essays about Catholicism, mere Christian theology and western politics and culture, as well as how they all affect each other. Due to working a full time job in construction, I usually only post two articles per week on average. My goal is to eventually become a full-time writer and possibly start up a podcast or Youtube channel. My writing is a labor of love, so if you enjoy my work and feel called to support me on Patreon, I would be very much appreciative! Pax vobiscum! You can read more about the author here.

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