- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Christianity and Capitalism

Posted by: Stuart Gort ( USA ) on November 15, 1999 at 11:34:02:

I'm reposting this from way down on the Anything Else page in the hopes that McSpotlight will deem it pertinent to the discussion of Christian support of capitalism. I believe there are several insights I can add to the discussion having a spent a great deal of time with the Bible.

My primary motivation in doing this is to offer what I honestly believe is the most objective view of who the biblical Jesus Christ is as a response to the often quoted biblical texts which appear in support of collectivist principles. These quotes often reveal an ignorance or, more insidiously, a denial of biblical context. Recognizing the disingenuous nature of those that would deny the central biblical message of God visiting and redeeming mankind while using the Bible to support their ideology, I strike at both collectivists and capitalists. There exists no humility, subjugation, reverence, or respect for God in someone who would borrow the ecclesiastical imperative carried with the claim of God's authorship. To subject God to their own agenda but deny His claim on their lives is folly of the worst sort. If one doesn't believe in Christ's deity, one should not otherwise attempt to borrow His credibility. Among the few texts which can be wrenched out of context to support collectivist ideas, there exist far too many claims Christ's deity to ignore.

The biblical Christ put no stock in the prospect of unregenerate mankind. We have no capacity to progress toward deity, utopia, nirvana, or even true self governance without God's leadership and direction in our lives. Christ's longing gaze was never directed to the seats of power in Rome or Judea. Christ invited people to examine their hearts and motivations so as to reveal their need for God - for Himself.

My post to Gideon follows;

"The charge of the sin of usury has been levied against capitalism by Gideon. Having some measure of biblical training he has suggested that usury is against God's will and that there is biblical text which condemns that practice. To bolster that claim he has used the example of Jesus turning over the moneylender's tables in the temple. No other biblical text has been cited to support the claim.

It should be quite obvious that I have a pro-capitalist/pro-Bible bent. I find that capitalism, as practiced by western countries, has created the finest average standard of living yet experienced by man. The depravity that exists within this capitalistic system is manifest to me but comes nowhere near a proper impetus to dismantle it and put in its place any collectivist system, which hasn't proved capable of tending to the needs of man. Still, it's quite a blow for me to think that a basic tenet of capitalism is a distinctly anti-biblical one. I've been studying the issue for a while now.

The first and easiest issue to dispatch is the example Gideon gives of Jesus in the temple. Gideon says that Christ overturned the moneylender's tables in the temple. There are actually three separate accounts of this episode in three different gospels - Matthew 21, Mark 11, and John 2. The Greek words are actually translated as moneychangers, however - not moneylenders. In the three separate accounts there are four instances of the words kollubistes and kermatistes. Both words are always translated as moneychangers. Both words have their derivatives in the words for two separate small Greek coins, the kollub and the kerma. Placing the suffix istes after a noun in the Greek denotes a generally masculine association with the word. More accurately, if not aesthetically, the words might be better translated coinmen or pennymen. At any rate, these men were cashiers and not moneylenders. I wouldn't be so sure of that except for the fact that there is a distinct Greek word for moneylender. That word is daneistes. It is based on the word daneizo which is a verb meaning to lend. Interestingly, the word is only used once in the entire New Testament and by Christ Himself when He speaks a parable in Luke 7. What is so interesting to me is that Christ uses the example of a man lending money to make a distinctly spiritual point with no reference to usury, interest, or capital gains being evil. This leaves only one other example in the New Testament of a mention of the issue of interest. It too is a parable of Christ and is given in two separate accounts - Matthew 25 and Luke 19. This is a most revealing account of the practice of interest in the culture of the day. The parable has a man giving three of his slaves each a varying amount of money with which to invest. Christ acknowledges that God awards talents at His discretion - in varying amounts. One man gives back a tenfold increase. Another man gives back a fivefold increase. The last man buries the money in the ground for fear of losing it and giving his master nothing. Throughout this parable there is no condemnation of the practice of usury. There is an admonition to the worthless slave that he should have at least put the money into the bank so the master could collect interest on it (Luke 19:23). The inclusion of such terms as "worthless slave" and "collect interest" could be taken out of context by pro-capitalists to bolster their ideology. As it is, the inclusion of these concepts only proves that lending money at interest was a common practice of the culture of that day. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any condemnation of the practice of lending money at interest. One must look to the Old Testament for that.

Utilizing Holman's Exhaustive Concordance of the New American Standard Bible, I've examined every single reference to the words interest, lending, and usury in the entire Old Testament. You have a case to make here, Gideon, but the impact of biblical decree on this issue should somewhat attenuate your rhetoric on this matter if you wish to study it all the way through to conclusion.

The entire scriptural record of the matter has its basis in the earliest Hebraic law. The basic references are Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36, and Deuteronomy 23:19-20. In Exodus and Leviticus the references forbid charging interest but only specifically to those who are poor. The only Old Testament verse that deals directly with the issue outside of that context is Deuteronomy 23:19 which states, "You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest." Curiously, the next verse specifically allows interest to be charge to foreigners. There are a few more passages of note on the issue. In Ezekiel 18 there is a strongly worded admonition against charging interest but that too is within the contest of oppressing the poor by charging interest on monies lent for the purposes of survival and sustenance. In Nehemiah 5 usury is abolished when men are found to have lent money to those who needed to buy food in the middle of a famine. Both these references use very strong language against the practice yet both deal directly within the context set by the Exodus and Leviticus - to protect the poor from oppression. The Nehemiah reference, Christ's allegorical accounts of the practice in parables, and the Deuteronomy 23 reference which allows interest charged to foreigners all allow that usury and interest could have been quite normal and acceptable practice for the Hebrew culture - except for certain circumstances. If you would still attempt to make the case that the Bible strictly forbids lending at interest and therefore renders capitalism immoral, then apply its edicts to every facet of life and read Deuteronomy 22:5. The very strong language there should dampen spirits at every gay rights parade."

Stuart Gort

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