I have often thought it was interesting that Christians didn’t seem to mind what kind of economic system we lived in “as long as there are Godly people in charge”, or words to that effect. I have wondered when I heard that, if the sentiment was formed based on the theory or the actual practice of such systems. I also wonder “in charge of what”? There is no one in charge of capitalism.

According to the Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary definition, Capitalism “is defined as a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government.” Decisions are based on what they estimate to be in the best interests of the community. It is separate from government, although it can be affected by government.

Socialism on the other hand according to Merriam is “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.” It does have people in control, it is actually tied very closely to government.  

The key difference between the two economic systems is of course who owns the property? Should individuals or governments have ownership? Is there ownership that one group would have, that the other should not and vice versa? Those may seem to be extra-Biblical questions, or questions that do not really have an answer in our study of the Bible, but is that possible?  If it is true, then it really does not matter what kind of an economic system we live under. In addition if it is true that the Bible does not speak to economics, it is silent on a major part of our lives, one that affects us in every way. It would seem odd that the Bible would not have any instruction in this area. I think it does.

The Bible makes clear from the very beginning that God owns the earth and He entrusts to man the stewardship of the earth. Is that any indication, or is that too general?

What about the parable of the owner of the vineyard in Matthew 20 (1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. …………8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’) Does this, along with the very obvious reference to salvation, also indicate that private ownership is a good thing, or is that incidental to the story? Does the owner of property really have the right to do whatever he wants to do with his own property?

What about the story of Acts 4 & 5 and the disciples selling their possessions and holding them in common (32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need……..Acts 5 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.  3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?) Does this indicate that socialism is the Biblical standard? Is this incidental to the story? Were the disciples required to sell all that they had? Could they have kept their property and been a member in good standing?

These are questions that we must ask and we must come up with solid answers because our world is shaped by the battle for free market capitalism versus socialism. Does it matter what kind of economic system we have? How does that affect our government? What role does the government legitimately play in economic systems? Is our society too complex for the instruction or examples from the Bible?

The Bible does say much about economics and it says a lot about our stewardship of possessions. It is pretty obvious as you read through the Bible that we own things, we make decisions about what we own and it does matter.

I would like to revisit this subject and would love to hear input and responses to some of these questions, but in the meantime, I would leave with this thought. I think the Bible is pretty clear that God does not intend us to be slaves, but to be stewards. If the government owns the means of production, we are no longer stewards of God’s creation, but wards of the state. Ask yourself if that is what you were designed for.