Some of the passages in the Gospels that are used to support the idea of a Christian socialism are the same passages that are used to support replacement theology. This is because a number of those are used to relate to God's plan for
Economics. The Bible establishes the fact that money in and of itself is not evil. It is the love of money that is evil—1 Timothy 6:10. How are we going to define economics? The basic word for "economics" comes from the Greek word oikonomia [o)ikonomia] which is also where we get the Greek basis for the term "dispensation." According to the lexicon oikonomia refers to a manager of a household; the position, work, responsibility or arrangement of an administration, as of a house or of a property, either one's own or of another. It is a spiritual dispensation, a management or an economy. It has to do with the management of a household, a country, an estate, and the management of those resources that are in the house, in the estate or whatever. Thomas Sowell, quoting from Lionel Robins: "Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternate uses." Take, for example, time. If we spend an hour in the afternoon taking a nap what is the value of that nap? Well the value of that nap is relative to the value of other things you could accomplish during that hour. So economics is the study of the use of scarce resources—food, energy, etc.—whatever the resource may be and how we could utilize alternatives in place of that scarce resource.
Later on Sowell writes: "Economics is not about the financial faith of individuals; it is about the material wellbeing of society as a whole. It shows cause and effect relationships involving crisis [value], industry and commerce, work and pay [responsible labor], and the international balance of trade…" Trade has to do with the exchange of goods which is property "… all from the standpoint of how this affects the allocation of scarce resources in a way that raises or lowers the material standard of living of the population as a whole."
As we look at his expanded definition of Lionel Robins' short definition we notice that both of these definitions bring in the idea of how these finite resources are managed or administered. Whether the people in a given economy are going to be prosperous or whether they are going to be in poverty all depends on how those resources are managed. If the resources have to be managed, what does that tell us? It tells us that somebody, some group, some entity is managing how those resources are being allocated. It implies that there is someone, some group, some entity that has control or ownership over those resources. The implication that somebody has control over the resources implies ownership, control and ownership of those resources.
Whenever we talk about property right and ownership and about determining how certain resources are allocated we have brought in two critical elements: property rights and responsibility. That is fundamental to any discussion on economics, on management, on any sort of business—who is responsible and who has ownership of the resources. If we develop our thinking a little more we see that there are some questions that ought to come to our mind when we think about this basic definition of the use of resources. Who owns the resources in a given economy? How is ownership determined? Different economies are going to determine ownership in different ways, e.g. the
Another question we ought to address is the way in which ethics—right and wrong, justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness—relate to the allocation of resources. Often we hear politicians talk about the tax code in terms of "everybody needs to pay their fair share." But what does that fair share mean? As soon as we say that we imply a set of values in order to determine what fairness is. For some fairness is that everybody pays and equal percentage of their income for taxes. For others fairness is on a progressive scale so that if you have less you will pay a lower percentage and if you have more you will pay a higher percentage. But who is it that determines where those lines are? What is the basis for making an evaluation of where poverty is and where rich is? Rich used to be several million dollars; rich today has been lowered to a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Who among us has the right to make the decision as to what is an appropriate amount of income and what is inappropriate? What is it that gives anyone the right to say you have made so much money, you are classified as rich? Does anybody have that right? Because if they have that right they have the right to determine a lot of other things affecting the individual's freedom.
Another set of questions as we think about the idea of scarcity of resources. This implies that there is a scale of values related to the degree of scarcity. In
Question: Is value intrinsic or is it assigned? So then we have to ask the question: One what basis, then, do we assign value? In
The Bible is not an economic textbook but it does tell us true things that relate to these issues of economics. It says a lot about money, values, property. Property is a crucial element in relation to an economy; it is integral to how we think about economy. The freedom to own property and to dispose of that property as you will, without interference from government, is integral in experiencing freedom. If you don't have freedom to your property then you don't have freedom or liberty at all.
The Mosaic Law gives us much more detailed information and a divine perspective within a government framework—on labor, on the value of labor, on financial obligations, the ethics related to labor and how to treat servants, and the use of wealth. At the very core of the Mosaic Law's theology of money and value is property rights. In the Ten Commandments, Thou shalt not steal recognizes the right of property ownership and that it is wrong for someone to abrogate illegally property ownership and property rights. The New Testament doesn't contradict any of the things said in the Old Testament. It doesn't address them in the same way because the church is the focal point and the church isn't a national entity, it is a trans-national entity, and so the focus is different. But the principles that are seen in the New Testament are still consistent with those in the Old Testament.
Many of the parables relate to a property owner and a steward, and that the property owner (not the government) has the right to set wages and determine how much he will pay.
We often hear today that the problem with capitalism is that it is motivated by greed. There are a lot of people who want to better themselves and that may be classified as greed. There are some who just accumulate a lot because they value possessions and money and are going to be happier, more secure by what they have. That would be classified as Greed, and the Bible condemns greed. So whereas one person can be motivated by personal greed to amass great wealth another person can be motivated by a desire for social approbation, and his greed is not for money, for things that money can buy or for property; his greed is for social approbation and recognition. So the path that his greed takes is to try to legislate some of the property and the wealth of the one person to redistribute it to those who don't have—just as much an aspect of greed as the greediest capitalist. Greed doesn't have to be greed for money. It can be greed for recognition, for power, for approbation, and any number of different objects. Often materialism is camouflaged by some sort of socially justified position but who is to say that their greed is better than the greed of the CEO or the property owner.
Capitalism: It has a variety of definitions but generally it is defined as an economic system where the means of production—property, land, machinery—are privately owned, operated for profit from investment and in competitive markets. (There is no such thing as basically a free market economy. That is what we would strive for but it doesn't exist and hasn't really existed anywhere. The closest it came was maybe a few years after the
Communism: This is the other end of the spectrum. It is technically defined as a social and political economic movement that aims at the establishment of a classless and stateless communist society structured upon common ownership of production. This means nobody owns any property; the government own the property, the means of production, the factories. This destroys all competition and guarantees that people will quit trying hard. Communism tries to guarantee the results. When the government guarantees results it destroys incentive, any kind of desire to improve.
Socialism: The last train stop before you get to communism. It is an economic system in which the means of production are commonly owned or controlled cooperatively. The government either owns or controls the means of production. In a lot of situations the government doesn't own the companies but by legislation and regulation it controls the production. And the government through taxation is the only entity that comes out ahead. Modern socialism originated from 18th century intellectual and working class political movement that criticized the effects of industrialization on society.
Every one of these systems has to do with private property, the ownership of private property. The Democratic Socialists of