Is it true that Christianity condems capitalism or is it a myth?

Posted: September 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s sort of a myth. While the Bible does not actually “endorse” any economic system, there are laws and practices which, if it were possible to implement today, would absolutely horrify conservatives and libertarians. Land, for example, belonged to God; the first fruits of anyone’s labor/income was to be given to God via the priests (the “church”). This was a law, not a suggestion. Landowners were forbidden to reap the corners of their fields or to go over their harvest a second time; all grain that remained–the gleanings– was to be left for the poor to harvest (this is how Ruth, a foreign/alien widow, met Boaz and became an ancestor of Jesus Christ). The people were strongly encouraged to give to the poor, especially widows and orphans: “There should be no poor among you” IF the people followed the law. This is echoed in Jesus’ commanding rich people to sell all they owned and give to the poor. What would truly horrify conservatives, especially the Ayn Rand acolytes like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, would be the commands concerning Sabbath Years and Jubilees.

Leviticus 25 ordains a sabbath year, one in every seven (Lev. 25:1-7), and a jubilee year, one in every fifty (Lev. 25:8-17), to sanctify Israel’s internal economy. In the sabbath year, each field was to lie fallow, which appears to be a sound agricultural practice. The year of jubilee was much more radical. Every fiftieth year, all leased or mortgaged lands were to be returned to their original owners, and all slaves and bonded laborers were to be freed (Lev. 25:10). This naturally posed difficulties in banking and land transactions, and special provisions were designed to ameliorate them (Lev. 25:15-16), which we will explore in a moment. The underlying intent is the same as seen in the law of gleaning (Lev. 19:9-10), to ensure that everyone had access to the means of production, whether the family farm or simply the fruits of their own labor. It is not fully known whether Israel actually observed the jubilee year or the antislavery provisions associated with it (e.g., Lev. 25:25-28, 39-41) on a wide-scale basis. Regardless, the sheer detail of Leviticus 25 strongly suggests that we treat the laws as something that Israel either did or should have implemented. Rather than see the jubilee year as a utopian literary fiction, it seems better to believe that its widespread neglect occurred not because the jubilee was unfeasible, but because the wealthy were unwilling to accept the social and economic implications that would have been costly and disruptive to them.

The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Image result for year of jubilee

The Biblical paradigm was also one of large and extended families. Widows and orphans (a child without a father, not just a child without both parents) were to be taken in by the nearest relatives, the older son if possible. Unlike the surrounding cultures, if a man had no sons, property was passed to the daughters. Property, in other words, was to remain with the family, which could be quite large and extended.

The early church practiced a form of “voluntary communism”, but the extent of participation was left up to the individual believer. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) were struck dead, not for neglecting to give all the proceeds of a land sale to the church, but for lying about it, claiming to have done so when they actually had only given a portion.

Fyi: One per cent of US households hold 35% of the country’s wealth. Total household and non-profit net worth in 2016 was $93 trillion. So that top 1% holds approximately $32,550,000,000,000. $32.55 trillion. Ten percent of that would be $3.255 trillion. I realize that net worth is not income, but it’s telling that if that 1% paid just 10% of their wealth in taxes, the national debt–as it stands now($15.3 trillion)–would be wiped out in just 5 years.

The Bible addresses personal financial behavior quite often as well. There are injunctions against “get rich quick schemes”, taking bribes, cheating in finances (false measures, unequal weights and balances, were an abomination to God, on the level with bestiality and sodomy), etc., and, of course, commands to be generous, to give to the poor.


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