Monday, April 24, 2017

Money, Capitalism, and Morality

Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.
- John Wesley

Capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.
-St Bono of U2

Jesus’ Parable of the Talents A man is headed out of town for an extended journey. He calls his three servants together and gives one of them $5,000, another $2,000, and the third $1,000.  When he returns, he calls the servants for a confab and asks them about his return on investment (ROI). The guy who received 5 grand had doubled his master’s money. The master told him that, from now on, they would be partners. The guy who had received 2 grand had also doubled his master’s investment and, therefore, was promoted to being a partner. However, the guy who was given 1 grand, being risk averse, decided to bury the money so that he would still have it when the master returned. His master told him that, at the very least, he should have put the money in a savings account where he would have had some ROI. This guy was fired.

The moral of the story: The God who gave you your gifts, talents, capacities, and opportunities expects a ROI.

Your Money
It is telling that Jesus used money as a means for conveying his message. There is nothing here about giving all your money to the poor, and nothing about sacrificing your wealth for the good of society and being rewarded in heaven. On the contrary, the two men who doubled their master's money were rewarded in-this-life, while the man with no ROI for his boss’ money is fired.

Money is a symbol of productivity. Money represents your labor, your talents, your skills, your time, your faithfulness, and your aptitude for decision-making. In a free society, where men and women of good will exchange their best efforts in mutual self-interest, your wealth is based on the degree of your productivity, how well you manage your resources, and upon the value of what you have to offer in the marketplace.

One of the reasons I believe a free market economy – capitalism – is so critical is that it gives us optimal freedom for being good stewards.

Capitalism respects your right of ownership. “You shall not steal,” says God. Socialism, believing in its own omniscience and omnipotence, does not regard this law as having any application to the state.

Capitalism respects your individuality and the inalienable rights with which you were born. Socialists only respect the will of the state, the will of the ruling elites. As they see it, life and death (both literally and metaphorically) are not in the hands of God, but, rather, are in the hands of the Omniscient State.

Capitalism, rightly understood, supports human dignity: to wit, Yes. You. Can. All other systems treat the individual as an idiot, a slave of the state, or a victim who is incapable of making his own way. Ever. How in the world people think that treating individuals in such a demeaning manner as evidence of compassion or respect is beyond baffling.

Capitalism allows you to enjoy the rewards of your labor, as well as to learn from your failures. Socialism decides who best deserves the rewards you’ve earned, and whether or not you will be allowed to succeed or fail.

In other words, socialism interferes with your stewardship before God.

As opposed to all other economic systems, capitalism allows you to make as much money as you are able for your own sake, for your family’s sake, for love’s sake.

It’s this last attribute - for love’s sake - that makes all the difference in the world between being consumed by money and possessions or by love: whether the blessings that come our way are being stewarded as blessings from God or being used to degrade our selves and others: whether we are pursuing our own selfish ends or a life well-lived, which includes pursuing virtue’s such as love, goodness, and justice. *  

Freedom comes with rights and duties. Our nation’s founders never envisioned democracy as a morality-free zone, where, exchanging liberty for licentiousness, everyone runs around doing whatever is right in his own eyes. They understood that, without a moral people, democracy would degenerate into anarchy or tyranny. The same goes for free markets. If we remove love for God and others from the marketplace and our individual economic pursuits, then all we will be left with is not a marketplace but a den of thieves.

* Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. - Proverbs 31: 8,9 

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. - Proverbs 22:22-23

If you love me, keep my commands. – Jesus, John 14:15 This includes not making money an idol (e.g., living for self-aggrandizement), no bearing of false-witness regarding your product/skills/ competition, no stealing or cheating, no coveting, as well as honoring –protecting, caring for - the family.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? – I John 3: 16,17

(All passages taken from NIV)

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2017

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