Bling Bling Culture, Part 4

District Fellowship News

January, February 2009

ASSUMPTION #3: Capitalism is a Biblical concept 

Capitalism def. an economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, communications, and transportation systems are privately owned and operated in a relatively competitive environment through the investment of capital to produce profit.

You may be thinking that certainly capitalism, capitalistic methods, free markets, large companies, stock markets, etc. must be the Biblical way to do business. After all, it is the system that is espoused as the American way and aren’t we (or weren’t we founded as) a country based on Christian principles. The truth of the matter is that the Bible doesn’t inherently support one system or another, there are Biblical rules that supersede manmade systems, and every manmade systems has it’s flaws, some more than others. If we take the Biblical guidelines and use them as the basis of a capitalistic economy then it can be an effective means of production and distribution. But it is not the system itself that makes it right. Without Godly principles capitalism is dominated by greed, deceit, and lack of compassion.

What is inherently missing from the capitalism of today is the other centeredness that God requires from his children. In the last month or so, you may have had the opportunity to see a variety of versions of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. In the story Ebenezer Scrooge follows his own extreme form of capitalism. He attempts to corner the market on a product and then charge the maximum his clients will pay. This maximizes his profits and allows him to reinvest it so his assets will grow. For him there is no price too exorbitant, no markup too high, no interest rate too unreasonable. He treats his employee almost like a piece of machinery, doing the least amount of maintenance he needs to do to keep it working. He pays little, expects much, and does not care about Mr Cratchit as a person with a family. The principle of stewardship does not exist in his life because everything is about him. Fortunately by the end of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge, by espousing more Christian ideals, becomes one who gives and cares instead of hoards.

When a Godly, moral person steps into a capitalistic economy there is a great opportunity for him or her to impact those around him/her with their ethics. Principles that describe the American ethic, such as hard work, fair wages, generosity, etc. all were laid down in God’s word long before the United States ever existed. As Christians employees, we are to work for our employer as if we were working for the Lord. Laziness, theft, deceit, or self-centered attempts to take what is someone else’s (whether position, or possession) are not part of a Christian’s work ethic. And as a Christian employer, we must treat those who work for us as brothers and sisters. They are not chattel to be used and tossed away. God has made us stewards of His resources and we need to use them wisely. I came across an interesting news item recently of the Peer Bearing Company in Waukegan, Illinois. The Spungen family sold their private company to a Swedish firm. Usually news of this kind brings fear and uncertainty to company employees. But these owners were different. They asked the new company to keep their workers employed, and then gave each employee a bonus from the sales profit splitting 6.6 million dollars among the 230 employees.  In a secular capitalistic system, this family had every right to walk away with all the proceeds. Whether Christian or not, they certainly used Biblical principles in how they treated their employees in this instance. Stewardship and other centeredness make a difference in how we treat one another.

Of course, you may have an economic system that you believe is better than capitalism. All manmade economic systems are inherently flawed unless those who use them base their behavior on Biblical principles. No matter what culture you find yourself in, live by the principles God laid down. In the bling, bling  culture of today, the I want, I need attitude doesn’t fit in with the servanthood and humility of God’s kingdom. So instead of showing off what you have, why not show off who you are by letting Jesus shine as the real “bling” in your life.