PJ Media

Jesus the Capitalist

Michael Moore has been bashing capitalism, its excesses, and its lack of concern for workers and their exploitation. A story that backs Moore up comes from a reliable source. It’s a story of naked capitalism ignoring the rights of workers and arbitration.

A farmer had some crops that needed to be harvested and he hired day laborers, agreeing to pay them $100 for working a 12-hour shift. The farmer was in a hurry to get his crops harvested, so he went out again two hours into the shift and hired more workers. He continued to look for laborers throughout the day, bringing in more laborers every hour. Finally, at seven o’clock, one hour before sunset, he brought in a dozen more workers to help finish the job.

He then lined the workers up to give them their pay and he paid first the workers who had only worked an hour. Those who stood, sweat dripping from their bodies from a 12-hour shift, smiled when they saw the one-hour hires get $100. They figured that meant they’d get paid extra. But to their horror, the farmer also paid them only $100.

They confronted the capitalist with the charges of favoritism and unjust discrimination. Rather than offering arbitration, the farmer responded, “I’m not doing you any wrong. Didn’t you agree to work for $100? Take your money and leave. I’ll pay the people who worked an hour the same as I paid you. Isn’t it lawful for me to do what I want with my own money?”

Who is this capitalist exploiter of workers who thinks he can pay people whatever he wants?

Most theologians will tell you this landowner represents none other than Christ himself. The names, currencies, and exact quotes have been changed, but the essence of the story Christ told in Matthew 20 hasn’t. It’s a helpful story to remember when Michael Moore is out telling us that capitalism is anti-Jesus.

Moore’s statement is one of two grave theological errors that liberals commonly make when recruiting religion to their cause. At best, he’s doing eisegesis, where, rather than trying to figure out what stance the Bible takes on an issue, the debater comes to the Bible with a point of view and then cherry-picks scripture to support that view, ripped from any context.

Thus, passages written to explain how individuals ought to govern their lives are taken to explain what government ought to make individuals do. Scriptures that explain how the church should take care of the poor are used to show how government ought to take care of the poor. Scriptures that show how the early church in Jerusalem entered into a voluntary association to share everything are used to explain why the government ought to force others to share. That Jesus warned of the danger of spiritual emptiness in reliance on riches is proof that the government ought to be able to play Robin Hood. Because Jesus told one specific rich young man that he should give all he had to the poor, redistribution of wealth should reign supreme.

However, most liberals don’t show any respect for the Bible in making the argument “what would Jesus redistribute?” Instead, two assumptions are made: 1) Jesus was a compassionate and reasonable person and 2) the positions of the left are compassionate and reasonable. Therefore, Jesus would agree with the left.

In the hands of such armchair theologians, Jesus is treated the same way fictional heroes such as Captain America and Superman are by the liberals who control the media. Captain America began his career as the most patriotic of heroes and ended it an uncertain liberal twit. Superman began as the paragon of virtue and was transformed into the type of guy who takes Lois Lane to the Fortress of Solitude for some hanky panky so nobody would feel challenged by a hero that was too virtuous for our age.

Jesus is no different to Moore and his ilk, just a figure who can be spun to fit the paradigm of the leftist elite. However, to achieve this end, Christianity must be deconstructed. The inconvenient words of the Christian scriptures must be ignored. The Old Testament must be ignored and it must be said that the apostle Paul was not inspired by God, but speaking out of turn when he said that those who refused to work should not eat. Vital aspects of the Christian faith such as salvation and the resurrection are de-emphasized in favor of social programs.

The result of this tinkering is a meaningless, irrelevant Christianity where faith is put not in the power of God, but the power of the state to force us to do the right thing or else. Thus, the liberal’s Jesus is not Holy God who came down to save man, but a nice guy who said some good things in hopes that we would realize our need for a powerful state to give us national health care.

If Jesus is merely a Superman the left can spin as a Middle Eastern Oprah with a beard, who cares if capitalism is anti-Jesus? I might as well declare capitalism anti-Babe Ruth and reconstruct the Bambino as someone who, given the poor circumstances of his birth, would reject capitalism. As the mass exodus from liberal churches shows, few care what an irrelevant Jesus recreated in the image of the modern man has to say. It doesn’t matter to most that a centurion standing at the death of this fictional Jesus would say, “Surely, this man was a nice guy with a small carbon footprint.”

The reason Moore and friends rarely cite the full body of scripture is that, read in context, there’s no justification for a socialist interpretation of the text. In Romans 13, Paul describes the function of government as “being a terror to evildoers” and warns that the state doesn’t bear the sword in vain. He never talks about the state as a provider.

In the most misunderstood passage of scripture, where the church had all things in common, a man sold his property but held back a portion of the funds. Note he was not condemned for holding back the funds, but for lying about how much he sold it for and pretending to have given it all. The apostle Peter declared, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?” (Acts 5)

The Old Testament is even more interesting because, according to scripture, God established the framework for a national government in ancient Israel. God could have invented socialism and called for the forced redistribution of wealth. He could have created a state that would meet the needs of all Israel. Instead, the Pentateuch creates no central state and charges village elders with enforcing the Biblical law, which required moral behavior and justice. The Bible did call for the people to give a tenth of all their increase to God; however, God never gave anyone the power to enforce it.

The only central government God ever had was the intermittent presence of judges, who would help deliver the nation from their enemies and then serve as a judge until their death. The people decided they wanted a king like all the other nations. Or as the liberals would have said, “No other nation in the industrialized world doesn’t have a king.”

God agreed to grant their request, but ordered Samuel to warn the people what a king would mean. 1 Samuel 8:17 sums up the point of the speech well: “You shall be his slaves.” And the Bible records king after king proving God right through their foolish, petty, and oftentimes evil and murderous reigns.

The Bible is clear about the folly of living a life focused solely on acquiring riches and the spiritual emptiness that results. However, it is also clear on the dangerous folly of looking to the state as a messiah. Those who seek to create an anti-capitalist, pro-statist Christianity imagine one error can be corrected by practicing another vigorously.