Is Wealth Redistribution Biblical?

Someone recently commented that I am optimistic about the power of capitalism to create a “just” economy. Do I believe in capitalism to create a just economy? Not necessarily. I see it as the best opportunity people have to advance that is based on Biblical principles, especially as compared to socialism and communism.

Read the following definition of capitalism from Harold Eberle: “When we say capitalism we are referring to an economic system that allows people to own personal property and benefit from their own labor, wisdom, education and experience. It is based on the understanding that an individual must be responsible for his or her own success. People should be able to use what they have accumulated – their capital – and have it produce more wealth for them. This means that a person who invented a tool should be able to use that tool to produce wealth…Capitalism is the economic system which has allowed individuals to be creative (in the image of God) and industrious, thus producing the abundance we see in the modern Western world today. It has allowed the human spirit freedom to release its potential, resulting in the advancement of society in almost every area, including agriculture, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, communication and technology.”

Advocates of wealth redistribution refer to Acts 2-5 to support their position, where early Christians sold their property to meet one another’s needs. But such sharing did not eliminate private property as socialist favor and was entirely voluntary. Early believers contributed their goods freely, without coercion, voluntarily. Elsewhere in Scripture we see that Christians are even instructed to give in just this manner, freely, for ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). There is plenty of indication that private property rights were still in effect (remember Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira). This is neither communism (abolition of private property) nor socialism (state ownership and regulation of the means of production).

Proponents of wealth redistribution are wrong to argue that economic inequality is evil in itself. God hates injustice and oppression but not mere inequality. It is not true to say that all inequality is the result of injustice. Jesus spoke of giving different rewards to people based on their efforts. He also taught a high level of compassion for the needy. But there does not seem to be any justification in Scripture for governments seeking to attempt to equalize income or property between rich and poor, or to take from all the rich.

I have noted in these blogs the abuses of capitalism, however I have found it to be more Biblical than socialism or communism. The Biblical form of capitalism goes hand-in-hand with compassionate social values, including the care for widows, the elderly and orphans. God also instilled certain restrictions on capitalism to protect people from abuses and oppression. Capitalism must be governed wisely and incorporate compassion.

When people are exploited so that someone else can make a profit, that’s wrong, and we have grave problems with human trafficking and a good deal of sweatshop labor that goes on around the world. What about racially based slavery like the United States saw up unto its Civil War? More on that next week…

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