Jesus the Economist?

Jesus the Economist? November 22, 2022

Did Jesus come to certify some economy as perfect? He spent most of his time among the poor and he didn’t hand out money. He stood up for the Jewish idea of fairness and honesty in business (Deuteronomy 25:14-16). He didn’t demand the cheating tax collector be thrown in jail. In fact after meeting Jesus the tax collector decided his ways were bad and gave people refunds greater than the amount collected (Luke 19:1-10).

He said that people who were given money to invest should be reprimanded when they failed to get profit (Matthew 25:27). He threw the money changers out of Temple (Matthew 21:12). To the rich man he said that all that remained for him to do was give all his money to the poor (Matthew 19:21-24). But he said the poor are often with us so we should splurge a little occasionally (Matthew 26:11).

So what do you think? Confused?

Jesus Calls the Tax Collector image, Public Domain, Contributors: Giovanni Antonio Pordenone (1484?-1539); Franz Hanfstaengl (1804–1877); S Wiedenbauer, on Look and Learn
Jesus Calls the Tax Collector image, Public Domain, Contributors: Giovanni Antonio Pordenone (1484?-1539); Franz Hanfstaengl (1804–1877); S Wiedenbauer, on Look and Learn

Jesus’ purpose

Jesus never mentioned he had any purpose regarding economics and a thousand other things. He simply called us to follow him, and in that he meant to act with love toward all others as He did. He left it to us to emulate him in every field of human endeavor.

He spoke of love of “all” others. “All” is a big word – it doesn’t leave anyone out. He spoke of peace on earth and goodwill toward all others. He spoke of a kingdom of those who follow God, here and now. He spoke of Good News.

While Jesus mentioned economic examples, in not one did he mention some future perfect economic system. It’s up to us to decide what is fair – to love all.

Reality of Economic Systems

Economic systems of today don’t occur in nature. They are completely manmade systems. Our hand is on the wheel to design whatever kind of system we want.

The economic system in Jesus’ time was agrarian. That is agriculture and craft-services. Capitalism wasn’t even a footnote. Even the larger system of ancient Rome was agrarian.

One of the systems we tried worked very poorly: Feudalism.

Feudal systems came later and made a few people (lords) very wealthy while leaving everyone else very poor (serfs) in order to support the wealthy. There were a number of ways this worked but in general landholders provided land to tenants in exchange for their loyalty.

In some countries, such as the Netherlands, if a landowner had more than a certain number of tenant properties, they had to raise an army to protect them. Tenants, and to which landowner they were under protection, were identified by flags flying over their residences.

Tenants usually traded goods and services for more goods and services, so money was always in short supply. Taxes were often heavy so Robin Hoods were popular characters in fiction.

Pure Socialism works very poorly. Countries that have tried it have found that they remain uniformly poor while only a few leaders reap the benefits and live in luxury. Most countries that have tried Pure Socialism have added Capitalism ideas and methods to their economy.

According to the World Bank, Vietnam was once one of the poorest countries in Eastern Asia. It added Capitalism ideas and is now the economic powerhouse of Far East Asia.

The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), severely restricts freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement, and religion, unlike in the US where only certain groups want to do that.

Pure Capitalism works poorly despite many cries for “pure” capitalism (Laissez-faire in which markets are completely unregulated). As the US industrialized in the 1800s it created high employment compared to Europe but working conditions often brought sickness and death as wealthy industrialists worked people to death to fatten their bank accounts. There are many such reasons why markets and business are regulated.

One company ate another in a “there can only be one” race for market dominance. Regulation became not only necessary to keep people from working for nothing and ending up dead, but to prevent businesses from cannibalizing, the snake eating its own tale. The impact on the environment was another horror story. Customer service becomes nonexistent. Prices go through the roof because of company and stock market greed while wages plunge to poverty level.

Currently we have a problem of the Middle Economic Class in the US and some other countries of hollowing out. Some of the people with better incomes have moved upward in wealth. The bulk of the Middle Economic Class has moved downward. The reason is because stock market investors require companies to raise their stock price every quarter through keeping employment low, costs (wages) low, and consumer prices high.

Once in again to control markets and keep prices down, in what is called “Merger Mania,” companies are consuming other companies and put them out of business – that is, the snake is eating its tale. This transfers consumer free income (disposable income) to the stock market where it does nothing except make investors wealthier. It doesn’t go back into the economy. Companies could borrow from banks which is better for the economy and better for their bottom line.

A good accounting of the successes and failures of economic systems is given by Joseph Stanislaw in his book The Commanding Heights.

Capitalism 2.0

We can argue economic theories forever. It changes nothing. We need to keep the good aspects of Capitalism and regulate the bad aspects. Capitalism rewards individual initiative. Competition drives new product development and keeps prices down.

But capitalism needs to be tied to how it improves jobs, wages, consumers, and the environment, not how it creates wealthy oligarchs who gain so much economic power they control Congress. And currently capitalism has none of those features. The only directive capitalism, companies, and investors have is to make as much money as fast as possible.

False Narratives pushed by some

Some push the false notions that “spreading the wealth will make everyone uniformly poor,” like that was the only solution people were thinking of. They ride with this flag prominently displayed like it was absolute truth that they take great pride in and will fight to maintain.

If you were talking about giving from your personal budget, this would be true. But the economy doesn’t work like this.

The opposite is true. You don’t “spread the wealth.” You put mechanisms in place that take a little money from the economy to make more money available to all, not out of thin air but in places it won’t cause a problem, and this makes incomes better for everyone from those in poverty to the middle class to investors. This supports individuals and families and we’re all better off.

Spending into the economy has multipliers that make the economy better for everyone.

EITC is one way taxes do this. Yes we all pay a little so that money is given to people to keep them just above the poverty level. But currently the taxes people pay are at a low level so the money is barely missed by any individual taxpayer.

Another way I’ve suggested is to tax each stock market transaction by a few pennies – not an amount that investors are going to miss, but the overall amount is huge and would resolve many intransient problems. The revenue generated would be given to raise the wages of the poor, most likely through companies.

Raising the minimum wage so that everyone can support a family by working one job is another way.

More money going into the economy is multiplied in the economy by a factor of at least 2.8 so that it benefits business, service (the US is a service economy), and eventually impacts wages. Bank loans multiply deposits an additional 5x or so through loans. It’s the way the economy works. The more money goes in the better it is for everyone including business.

If you give most people the opportunity to work and support themselves and their family, they will. Only a small number of people want others to support them. This is not turning the government into a charity that we have to support, it helps us all. But our scrooge attitude definitely hurts us all.


“It’s just business,” we say. But if we create a system in which people get wealthy by taking money from others so that they are poor or can’t make a living, what have we really created?  Does it honor God or just honor selfishness and greed?

“… and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” – Ephesians 4:24 (NASB)


The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. God is love. We’re asked to be like God.


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If I’ve challenged your thinking, I’ve done my job.


Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.

– Dorian

About Dorian Scott Cole
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