(Have you noticed how calling someone a socialist is the latest slam?)
I’m much more of a theologian than an economist, and while one could make a case for Jesus being a capitalist (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus said quite a few things that make him sound more like a socialist:
- ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
- ‘And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.’
- ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’
- ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’
Jesus said more about money than any other social issue. 16 of Jesus’ 38 parables are about money. 288 verses in the Gospels are about money.
Capitalism in a nutshell = private property, wealth accumulation, paid labor, free exchange of goods and services, a price system, and competitive markets. In a perfect form of capitalism, everybody has the chance to work hard and build wealth. But capitalism can go awry when – for example – pay ratio between the CEO of a company (like Mattel) and the average worker of the same company is – wait for it – 4987 to 1. I believe this is a sin.
According to this article, the CEO of Marathon Petroleum was paid 935 times more pay than the average employee in 2017. “One of Marathon’s gas station workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as (the CEO) grabbed in just one year.” Again, I believe this is a sin.
Socialism in a nutshell = sharing wealth for the common good (and I admit that this is an extraordinarily simplistic definition.)
But my point is that both political sides increasingly demonize the other over economic theories and “socialist” has become the epithet of choice among some political leaders these days.
Offer health care to all? Socialism!
Care for refugees fleeing violence? Socialism!
Providing affordable housing and a livable wage? Socialism!
And yet, what does Jesus command us to do? I believe we are called to work hard and be responsible with our resources. And I also believe we are called to offer a safety net to those who need some assistance. We are called to look out for those without the advantages we have. We are called to give everyone an equal opportunity to thrive.
So, call me a socialist if it means I’m following Jesus. I’m frankly not great at it, but – because of what I’ve been given – I have no option but to try.
And, as I recall, Reformed theology tells us that nothing we seem to own is truly “ours” anyway. We are always only stewards of what we have received, commanded to use “our” material wealth for the good of others and to build up the Kingdom.
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