As we face a national election, the debate rages as to what is the best economic system, capitalism or socialism.
Webster defines ‘Capitalism’ as: “An economic system in which capital and capitalists play the principal part; specifically, distribution and exchange of goods, and the operation of the system itself, are effected by private enterprise, and control under competitive conditions.”
‘Socialism’ is defined as: “An economic and political theory of social organization based on collective or governmental ownership and democratic management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods, also a policy or practice based on this theory.”
Which of these two systems do you think is more just and equitable? Which is most like the Biblical tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet“?
Obviously, capitalism creates a class system: the “haves” and the “have-nots”; that is: (1) those owning the capital, and (2), those with little or no capital. This system, without some mitigating power, naturally leads to injustices, inequality, and virtual slavery. This appears to have happened in the USA when the wealth has become more and more concentrated in the “top one percent” now taking the profits and failing to fairly distribute the wealth.
This creates great unrest in and among the poor and working class of people and has, throughout history, become the source of great rebellions, with much suffering and bloodshed. When men and women are denied the means of livelihood for themselves and their families, they will rebel. This is a fact of history.
So is socialism a better way? Should the government own the resources and should distribution of wealth depend upon the democratic vote? Under this system, the masses of people, suffering inequity and injustice, grow to the point that they can vote for their own welfare and interests. This, too, without some mitigating power, leads to abuse of the system by those who want a free ride without the requirements and incentives to work, to discipline themselves, and to contribute to the wealth of the land. It leads to the suicide and end of a democracy.
Those who oppose the “welfare system” accuse the poor and working class as “having their hands in the pockets” of the rich; that is, stealing from them. The working class, on the other hand, say that the capitalists have had their hands into the very lives of the workers, paying them unfair wages and passing unfair economic laws. They say that the capitalists have made their wealth largely from the labor of the poor.
What is the Biblical system? It clearly teaches that the rich men should consider and pay a fair wage: James chapter five is a scathing condemnation of unfair labor practices. Jesus taught compassion and charity for the poor, as well as legal rights. As Christians, we should see the poor, the slave, and the disenfranchised as our brothers and sisters in Christ, as in Paul’s letter to Philemon.
To the servants Paul writes: “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice as menpleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God,” Colossians 3:22.
To the masters, he says: “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven,” Colossians 4:1.
Christianity is “the mitigating power” that makes an economic system work. It delivers us from greed and covetousness. Without it, any system will fall under its own weight. Christ was born to give us power to be our brothers’ keeper with love and compassion.
This verse from the song: “O Holy Night” expresses the Christian viewpoint:
“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His Name all oppression will cease.”
As in all questions of profound human relationships: Jesus is the answer.