Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. More Info
[Gary Petty] So can Jesus be classified as a socialist or a capitalist? Well, let’s face it, both systems are fatally flawed. Is it possible that there’s a third biblical economic system that in all honesty has never really been tried?
In preparing for this topic I spent a great deal of time reading online articles, blogs, watching videos from new sources about the ongoing debate on whether Jesus was a socialist or a capitalist. Both sides by the way use the Bible. I was surprised and sometimes both sides condemned the other side as being, well, very bad Christians. Socialism versus capitalism is no longer just a political debate. It’s actually become a religious minefield.
The Bible does contain a lot of information about taking care of the poor, the value of work, the right to own property, instructions on how to run a business, and even principles on how to manage your money. But are those teachings based on socialism or capitalism? Now before we look at some of the passages I want to actually look at a couple of parables that are used to support the teaching of socialism, and I found these used in many places, and another parable this used to teach capitalism. There’s something very important I want you to understand.
When Jesus walked the earth neither socialism nor capitalism existed as economic systems. They didn’t exist. So when interpreting Jesus we need to be aware that His teaching center on the religious, social and economic values of the kingdom of God. He instructed His followers on how to live by the values of God’s kingdom in a world that does not follow God’s ways and this still is the message of Jesus Christ to us today. Okay then. So can Jesus be classified as a socialist or a capitalist? Well let’s face it, both systems are fatally flawed. Is it possible that there’s a third biblical economic system that in all honesty has never really been tried?
Well in Jesus’s Olivet prophecy, He gives two parables. And these are used to support that He was a socialist and they are used to support that He was a capitalist, and I’ve read about it many articles. I’ve seen it many times on videos. So let’s look at what Jesus said in these two parables. They’re given back-to-back. And this is Matthew 25. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, what we have is that Jesus says that when He returns He’s going to separate people, sheep and goats. And there’s a criteria that He uses to make this judgment between righteous people and unrighteous people. And this is part of the criteria that He uses. He says that these people will have done something special to Him. They will have fed Him and taking care of Him. And He said to them, “When I was hungry, you gave me food, and I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me, and I was sick, and you visited me. And I was in prison, and you came to me.”
And the righteous people say, “We didn’t even know we were doing that. When did we do that?” And Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you in as much as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me.” And so there are those that use this to say Jesus, because of this consciousness He had of immoral instructions to take care of the poor, that this teaches that well Jesus was a socialist. But there’s a parable He gives right before this. And it’s used to teach where people say, to teach something the exact opposite. It’s the parable of the talents. And in this parable what we have is a master that’s going away and he brings his servants together. And he says, “I’m going to go away for a while.” So he gives one of them five talents and one of them two talents and one of them one talent. And he says, “Look, while I’m gone, I expect you to use this for my good.”
Now talents was a measurement of money. That’s what that means in English in the Old English that this was translated into. And so he gives them these talents and he leaves and he comes back and the one he gave 5 to said, “Oh, look, I produced more, here’s 10.” The one who had two said, “I produced more, here’s four.” The one who produced one though came to him. And he says to him, he says, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed, and I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground, and look, there you have what is yours.” And this master, this Lord, looks at him and says, “You wicked and lazy servant.” He actually takes the talent away from him and gives it to the man who had 10 talents. And then, and this is important, Jesus wants us to understand that this is a spiritual principle because He says “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” Okay well this one is used just like the other one was used to teach an economic-political system and say no that’s what Jesus was talking about, capitalism.
Well let’s look at the subject of these two parables. And I would have not picked these two parables to teach capitalism or socialism but they are used over and over again. Jesus introduced the parable of the talents with the kingdom of heaven is like…okay this is His subject. The kingdom of heaven is like… And the parable of the sheep and goats, He introduced that one with when the Son of Man comes in His glory. Both parables are given to teach the kingdom of God. They were not designed to teach modern economic systems that did not even exist at the time.
So what is Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God in these two parables? Well the parable the sheep and goats Jesus teaches His followers to show compassion on those who are sick, and hungry, and poor. Jesus tells His followers that it is their Christian responsibility to help those in need, in a very personal and hands-on way. Notice, “You visited me, you fed me,” this is very personal. Helping the destitute and elderly is a Christian lifestyle. In the parable of the talents we see that God gives different abilities and different opportunities to people to what? Serve Him. It’s a parable about stewardship of what God gives us. And He says we’re judged by what we accomplish with what He has given to us, and that means spiritually and physically. Every human being is different. We all have different talents and different abilities, but we all have value to God.
You know it’s interesting, when we study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ there are things that we learn about economics. First of all Jesus accepted that people could own property. And you see Him having no problem with that, people owned property. He also accepted that you can own a business, a personal business. In fact think about this, before His ministry Jesus was a carpenter, the owner of a small business. That’s how He made money. We also see that He taught that it was a moral responsibility to take care of the widows and the poor. And I want to stress this. This is a major point in His teachings.
Every person has a moral responsibility to take care of those who have less. He also taught that wealth and money could be a barrier to being in God’s kingdom. And that’s another major thrust of His teachings. Wealth and money can keep us from actually following God. And then He also said that He expected His followers they have a different set of values when it comes to greed, envy, and wealth. Just go read the gospels, see what Jesus actually taught and what He lived. You know Jesus strongly teaches against greed and the oppression of the poor. He also strongly teaches against envy. Do you know what envy is? It’s the discontent and resentment because somebody else has something I want. You see greed and envy are spiritual issues that infect people no matter what economic status they have.
It’s amazing, when you look at the life of Jesus Christ it’s amazing what you see. He had no moral conflict in owning a small business and making money from it. He also became an itinerant preacher that walked around from place to place with just the clothes on His back because He had work to do in teaching about the kingdom of God. He could be seen and you see it in the Bible, eating at a banquet with rich people, also spending time with lepers, and with sick, and destitute people. And you’ll see Him going into the temple and turning over the tables of the money changers. That’s a lot of different ways of approaching things isn’t. You know why?
In every one of these actions Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of God. His actions are an example of how those who accept the values of the kingdom of God live in a world that is not the kingdom of God. Now has God ever given an economic system to human beings? Well before we tackle that question let me tell you about today’s study guide. The first chapter in this study guide is very important because it’s talking about the value of money and wealth and what does it mean spiritually? And so I really encourage you, this will help you understand what Jesus taught about money and wealth. Get your free copy calling the toll free number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv where you can read it or download a copy for yourself.
Now some say that we can find a biblically ordained economic system in the book of Acts. And here’s where some go to talk about this in Acts 4. So Acts 4. And here’s what it says. Now this is talking about the Jerusalem church. The early Jerusalem church got together and this is how the church functioned. It says, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own. They had all things in common. And with great power, the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them nor was there anyone who among them who lacked. For all who were possessors of land or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and they distributed to each as according to his need.”
It’s obvious that this Christian community worked together in a unique way by sharing their wealth. It really is a wonderful example of unity and love. Now the question is, did the apostles of Jesus command this to be the economic model for all Christian communities? Now I want you to really think about something. This is not a model of how governments, civil governments, are to be run. It is not a model for an economic system. It’s about how a church community functioned. Did all church communities function this way? You know if you read through the rest of this what you find out is there was a man named Barnabas who brought the money from the selling of his property and gave it to the apostles and it was an encouragement to the church.
And then you find two other people, Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, they sold their property but the only brought part of it to the church. Now I want you to look at what they’re doing. They’re bringing it to the church. It’s an important understanding. They bring it to the church. And Peter gets upset with them. Now here’s why. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” So he didn’t give it all. He kept back part of it for himself. But notice what he says, “While what remained was it not your own, and after it was sold was it not in your own control. Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You’ve not lied to men, but to God.” Peter tells Ananias that, “It was your money. It was your property. You had the moral right to keep it or do with it whatever you wanted but you know what you did, you lied.” He condemned them for the sin of lying not for the sin of owning property.
Nowhere in the New Testament is the Jerusalem church used as a model for organization of future churches. In fact if you read the letters of Paul and James, they’re talking to congregations that aren’t living in the same communal way because they have certain problems they deal with. There’s a lot of instructions in Paul’s writings and in James’s letter that deals with the relationship between the rich and the poor in the church. The letters aren’t about a civil government, they’re about the church. There’s also a lot of instructions about the relationship between employers and employees. They had these kinds of issues in the early church. And remember the New Testament has no instructions on how to organize and run a civil government.
So if Acts 4 isn’t a required model for Christian churches, is there an economic system given by God and the Bible? Actually yes. God gave an economic system to the ancient Israelites in the Torah. It’s contained in the Bible. Now what I want to do is just take a few minutes to look at some of the foundational principles of how that ancient economic system functioned and see what we can learn today. So first of all, all Israelite families were given property. Now I want you to imagine that for a minute. Can you imagine an economic system in which all families are guaranteed property, that’s the basis of the system? And of course the commandment, “You shall not steal,” protects private property. The system given to the Israelites contain numerous laws on how private businesses were to work. They had to be honest in the way they treated their customers and there’s even instructions on how you’re to treat your employees. And under this system everyone had a moral responsibility to help the widows, the elderly, and the poor. Now all these principles, these three principles that we just talked about can be found in the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.
But there are some other elements of this economic system that are very unique. One is, farmers had to leave the corners of their field for the poor. Now think about that. Not only that if anything fell off the wagon, they had to leave it there for the poor but the poor actually had to come get it. They didn’t take it to them. They had a responsibility to come get what was dropped. But can you imagine you own a field and you have to leave part of the field for the poor? It’s also clear when you read through the Old Testament and the New Testament that laziness, that’s an unwillingness to work when you have the capacity to work, it’s just an unwillingness to work, is considered a moral offense. You know just look up the word lazy in the book of Proverbs and you’ll see how much laziness is considered a moral shortcoming.
Now another thing that that system had was the Jubilee. Now remember every family had land, economic security and family unity was tied to the land. So what would happen if a person because of just bad decisions or they were lazy and they lost their land, they had to sell it? Every 50 years the Jubilee was declared and 2 things happen. First of all all personal debts were forgiven. Can you imagine what would happen every 50 years if all credit card debt was wiped out? It’s a resetting of the cycle. It stops perpetual poverty. All farmland, now in the city it was all different, but all farmland had to go back to the original family and families were brought together again. Now think about what this means. Once again someone makes a bad decision, someone messes up really bad, they lose their land, they don’t take care of it, and that could trap people in poverty for hundreds of years. No every 50 years you went back and the people that own that land and worked it, they give it back to the original family.
Now another surprising aspect of the economic system God gave to ancient Israel was they couldn’t charge poor people interest on money they lent them. Wow no one’s ever done that. And also all Israelites were required by this economic system that there was what they called the tithing system in which money was given to the poor, wealth was given to the poor to help them. Now that didn’t mean that might raise them to the same standard, but they didn’t starve. Now as you can see the economic system given to ancient Israel is not like any economic system ever devised by human beings, right?
Now when Jesus returns to establish God’s kingdom on this earth He will set up a worldwide economic system similar to the one God gave to ancient Israel. Let’s face it you and I don’t live in that economic system, right? Christ hasn’t come back yet. So does the Bible give principles on how to manage money in today’s world? And yes it does. And I want to take some time to talk about a few principles, biblical principles, how to manage money in the system that you live in today and they are contained in detail in “Managing Your Finances.” Okay so we’re just going to look at a few of these. So what I encourage you to do is order your free copy. Just call the number on your screen, or go to beyondtoday.tv where you can download a copy for yourself.
So when Jesus returns He will establish a new worldwide economic system. Okay you and I don’t live in that. So can the Bible help us? And yes it can because there’s a number of important principles it teaches us today. So I’m going to talk about a couple of those. The first one is, get control of your money by setting up a budget. You’ll never get control of your money until you know where it’s going. How are you spending it? And inside this booklet, inside the study guide, are the means to help you set up a budget. Where’s your money going? You know what’s coming in, where is it going? It starts with tithing and charitable giving because those are principles right out of the Scripture.
But then you got to think about all these other things are involved here. I mean you’ve got your house, you’ve got your utilities. You’ve got, you know, you think like electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash. Sometimes you wouldn’t even think about doing these things. You have food, you have clothing, transportation, health care, I mean, all these things. I mean how much do you spend in recreation? At the end of the month if you’re $500 short every month and you’re spending $700 in recreation, you know you have a problem okay? This will help you get control of that.
Now the second thing is that you have to get control of your money by getting out of debt. And you know what that means, you have to forego immediate once to have future rewards. And there are many excellent biblically-based programs that can help you learn how to get control of debt, okay. And look into some of those because that’s a big problem we have today. Now the most important of the points that you’re going to see in here are these practical points. There’s also we have to make God’s priorities our priorities. You have to make God’s priorities your priorities. Jesus explains the ethical priorities of economics in the Sermon on the Mount. And what I’m going to do is I’m just going to read a couple of these verses, okay. So we’re going to look at the Sermon on the Mount and just read a couple verses. There’s more to it than this but this helps us begin to understand the ethical standards established by Jesus Christ because it’s a matter of priorities. It’s all a matter of priorities.
And here He says, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If the purpose of your life is to get things then it’s not a Christian purpose. Now is it wrong to have some things? No. But if that’s the purpose of your life you know, whoever has the most at the end wins, what does that mean? What do you win? You die. He goes on and He says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” You cannot serve God and money. Who do you serve, with our energy, with our love, with our life? If it’s money, well, we’re not being Christian. He says, “Wherefore do not worry, saying what shall we eat, what shall we drink, or what should we wear? For after all these things the nations seek, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” And then He gives the priority, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”
Now that’s just a few verses just plucked right out of the Sermon on the Mount. Think about those verses. Those are the priorities. And those priorities would include, yes you can own property. Yes you can run a business. Yes you can make money. If you don’t take care of the poor, if we don’t love one another, if we don’t worship God, it means nothing. It means nothing. You know I can’t help but think of Solomon. Solomon was the wealthiest of all the kings of ancient Israel. And I mean he had it all. He had silver, he had gold, he had the fanciest clothes, he had palaces, he had the best food. In fact he describes what he had. He said he had everything a human being could want. And he said you know what it was like in the end? Trying to hold on to the wind, it was like just trying to hold on to the wind. He said it was like grasping the wind. Because after his death, he knew someone else would get all of it.
Money and wealth can bring pleasure to life and there’s nothing wrong with that. But our goal must be the kingdom of God not accumulating things. And that’s why I really encourage you to order your free copy of “Managing Your Finances.” Call the number on your screen or simply go to beyondtoday.tv. You can order it, you can download it, you can read it right there online, but be sure and get your copy.
Since Jesus’s message was fundamentally the kingdom of God, how can we compare the economic system of socialism and capitalism with what Jesus will establish when He comes? Well the simplest definition of capitalism says that everything belongs to individuals or corporations, right? The simplest definition of socialism is that it is the responsibility of the state to control everything and attempt to create equality. The foundation of Christian economics is found in a Psalm written by Israel’s King David, where it says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” When Jesus sets up God’s kingdom on the earth, He claims ownership of everything, including us, including humanity. That’s the difference. And He will teach humanity stewardship of what God gives to every person. Here’s Jesus’s economic message, work hard, enjoy the life the way God has designed for it to be enjoyed, take care of the widows and poor, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
[Narrator] Call now to receive that free booklet offered on today’s program, “Managing Your Finances.” Many of Jesus’s parables had to do with the proper use of money. God’s word is filled with practical instruction about how we can better use the resources He has given us. You can get started budgeting with the included template which will help you track your expenses and move you toward your financial goals. Learn effective financial principles from your Bible. Order now, call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. When you order this free study aid we’ll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to “Beyond Today” magazine. “Beyond Today” magazine brings you understanding of today’s world and hope for the future. Six times a year you’ll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family. Call today to receive your free booklet, “Managing Your Finances,” and your free one-year subscription to “Beyond Today” magazine. 1888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv