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.