Last week I shared (just) the financial elements of the Parable of the Talents, which Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like.”
He outlined a boss having a multi-faceted business with employees of varying degrees of ability, expecting them to show up for work and work according to their potential: Take risk for the chance of greater reward, work hard with integrity and accountability, or get fired. The 1 wicked and lazy employee suffered the consequences of his attitude that thought evil of his boss, and ended up in poverty and anguish. For whatever evil he thought of his boss, it clearly wasn’t the truth as seen in the fair and honorable way the boss treated the other 2 – showing how some always blame others, and attitude determines altitude.
The Parable of the Talents, at least the money part, is capitalist - a privately held business in business for the purpose of making money that stayed in private control, with the rewards going to the most industrious risk takers. That it made sense to the original first century Jewish audience confirms Jewish culture as given by God and shared last week, was largely capitalist - which gives us a view into the Millennial age and how the earth will be governed. But then again…
Capitalism with limits – national debt cancellation
“At the end of every 7 years you must cancel all debts. This is how it is done: Every creditor that has loaned money to any Israelite shall cancel the debt. Of a foreigner you may continue to collect, but not of an Israelite for it is the Lord’s release.” Deuteronomy 15:1-3
Accordingly, properties which had a mortgage were valued at a prorated amount according to the time left to the 7th year: “When the years are many until the year of release, you increase the price. When the years are few, you decrease the price because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of one another, but fear your God.” Leviticus 25:15-17
And when it came to the Year of Jubilee, which came every 50 years, all property returned to its original family: “Count off 7 years of Years of Release (49 years), and on every 50th year you will return property to each original family….” Leviticus 25: 7-17.
Here we see capitalism with limits
By canceling debts every 7 years and in the 50th year also requiring giving back real estate to the original families that owned it before, God put limits on how much wealth 1 person and 1 family could accumulate.
There would be those more skilled in business and would gain wealth in each 7 year cycle, and those with less skill who wouldn’t increase as much, as seen in the Parable of the Talents. There would have been those who had saved cash during those 7 and 50 year cycles and could pass that down, and there would be those who never saved cash. As Jesus observed, there were still poor people. (Matthew 26:11)
His ingenuous system of putting limits to capitalism caused the standard of living for every Israelite to increase in comparison to the surrounding nations - they could still charge interest on long term loans to Gentiles, thus wealth was transferred into Israel from those not in covenant with God to those in covenant with God. The wealth of the wicked was transferred through business transactions and interest paid.
(This is why it can sometimes be God’s will for a person to file for bankruptcy under one or more of the provisions in the laws for such cases. God invented the idea and wrote it into Israeli federal law.)
Think of the world’s richest people and every bank. What if nation-wide, all debts were canceled? Every home mortgage, every car loan, every credit card? Further, what if the home you grew up in but was sold nearly 50 years ago, would come back into your family in another 10 years? You would have the option of selling it (again) to who lives there now, or you could receive it back. What an amazing system for limiting personal wealth, and building into a nation automatic buying and selling and the giving and receiving of loans, always generating new deals, new fees, new mortgages every 7 and 50 years. Capitalism with limits.
What about the New Testament and their giving to one another?
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. No one claimed any of their possessions was their own, but they shared all they had…Neither was there any among them that suffered lack, for from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, and brought the money from the sales to the apostles for distribution to those in need.” Acts 4:32, 34
Lest we incorrectly interpret that as if they lived in a giant commune, we understand the individual freedom in their giving, for Peter said to Ananias: “…While you owned the land didn’t it belong to you to do with as you pleased? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal to do with as you pleased?” Acts 5:4
And Acts 2:46: “…they went from house to house breaking bread in gladness and with singleness of heart.” This shows they kept their own homes, though some sold extra properties as seen above.
Acts says ‘no one claimed any of their possessions was their own’, meaning they were such huge givers they were all willing to give anything they had to a neighbor in need – it didn’t say their possessions weren’t their own, it says they didn’t claim anything as their own. Big difference. I can think of many people today who have that same generosity in their heart as proven by their generosity as a way of life.
That rules out communism in the early church – communism is when the state owns everything and distributes to all as needed. It is capitalism with all the Jewish context seen above and last week, but glued together by a lifestyle of love that prompted a lifestyle of giving. The body cared for the body.
This is why Paul wrote: “Work that you may have something to give to others.”and “Let those rich in this world be givers, and always ready to give to those in need.” Ephesians 4:28 & I Timothy 6:17-19
Furthermore, the priority was to make sure all needs are met in the body of Christ first, and then after believers have their needs met, outward to the unsaved: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, but especially to the household of God.” Galatians 6:10
Our responsibility to care for one another, not government
Money is here on the earth and the responsibility for how we use it is ours alone, as seen in the 10 Commandments and the Parable of the Talents. God isn’t your business partner, and any leading or direction He gives will follow these outlined principles of risk/reward, integrity and accountability.
Therefore it is the same for having a giving heart – Christ is in you so it is up to you and Him to decide: “Let each person lay aside something for giving according to how God blessed him that week.” Christ is in you, get with Him and figure it out. I Corinthians 16:2
And note that giving to those in need was selective, based on the character of the person receiving, demonstrated by a lifestyle of active Christian faith: “When considering widows (those with no family to support them), don’t give to them unless they are busy working in ministry serving others.” I Timothy 5:9-11
(Which gives us understanding of the Acts 6 policy of providing support to the widows – it wasn’t a free handout, they were expected to have been and continue to be busy serving others)
It is clear from these passages the responsibility of caring for believers in need fell to the body of Christ, not to government, not to organized charities – but the body takes care of the body.
As I said at the start, this series is a collection of a few random thoughts – these first 2 about God’s kingdom and the extent of a government’s role in the care and feeding of a nation’s citizens. I’ve shared enough to see the kingdom as outlined in the Parable of the Talents is capitalist with a cap on the capital, and that caring for those in need falls first not upon governmental, not to a social agency, but first to believers caring for believers.
I’ll leave it at that – My intent was to define where God stands on Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism as governments all over the world grapple with how much government should extend itself.
Next week, random thoughts about…abortion.
Until then, blessings,