Was Jesus a capitalist? I think it is foolish to say that Jesus was a capitalist because he is so much more. He is the resurrected Lord and King; the very center of world history and the Father’s interaction with humanity. However, the New Testament does indicate that Jesus taught capitalist concepts when he walked the earth.
Jesus told a very practical and easy to understand parable about a master who entrusted his three servants with various amounts of wealth in Mathew 25:14-30. One was trusted with five talents, the second with two talents and the third with one talent. The master told them to take the money and conduct business while he was away on a trip. Jesus explained, “the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents” (v 16). The second servant conducted business and turned his two talents in to four talents. The last servant did not obey and took his talent and hid it.
Upon the return of the master he asked each to give an account of their business transactions and returns. The first and second servants were celebrated and rewarded but the third was reprimanded by the master for his laziness since he hid the money and did not even put in the bank to earn interest (v 26).
Harold Eberle’s book Compassionate Capitalism: A Judeo-Christian Value points out several capitalistic principles in this parable.
- First the slaves were put in charge of capital, which was separate from themselves.
- They were told to do business and invest the capital.
- Putting money in the bank to earn interest was put in a positive light, though not as positive as investing through business and trade.
- Jesus expressed the Hebrew understanding of human nature: there are wise people and foolish people, there are hard working people and there are lazy people. Everyone should be rewarded accordingly.
- Jesus explained that those who traded their talents wisely and diligently should rightly be given more, while the talent of the lazy man should be taken away (v 29).
So we have connected what Jesus was teaching in the New Testament times to what is called the principles of capitalism today. It is a historic fact that the principles of capitalism are a part of the Judeo-Christian worldview. That means it was embraced as from God by the Jews in the Old Testament and embraced by Christians in the New Testament. Notice I am talking about the “principles” of capitalism and not necessarily capitalism as we see it today, which as I have noted can be corrupted by greed.
Why spend so much time on this? So the Christian today can know with confidence that not only is it Biblical, but also it is God’s desire to bring a sense of prosperity to their life and finances.