Today we continue and conclude our discussion on the merits of Christianity and socialism, discussing a concept that is also often brought up in the bible. I made this clear in my last post on Christian liberalism and the arguments on taxation, but it bears repeating. I do not believe the Christian faith or the scriptures necessarily dictate the Christian take one specific political stance. I hope to point out for those who often to turn to scripture as the ultimate justification for all things “Christian progressive” that there is more than one side to the issue. For the sake of a fun and friendly discussion, let’s start with commonly discussed parable, especially when it comes to the arguments for and against Christianity and socialism, the Parable of the Talents.
The Parable of the Talents
One parable mentioned in my last post was the Parable of the Talents, a parable there has been much discussion on. As I said before, this parable was a lesson in many ways, a lesson on fiscal responsibility. The master took a handful of his servants together and gave them each a certain amount of money. To one servant he gave 10 talents, to another he gave, to another 2, and to the final he servant he presented only one talent. The bible tells us the wise master distributed his resources to his servants not equally and fairly, but to each according to their ability. We also find that when every servant came back with a return on their investment except for the servant with one talent, he lost what little he had. Not only did the master take the servant’s only talent, but he gave it to the one to whom he had entrusted 10. We can learn a few things here.
First, we see a very harsh reality, but one this parable shows us plainly. If you don’t use what limited resources you have wisely, you will lose them. Second, we see that the funds are distributed not according to fairness or equality. Instead, the money is distributed according to each individual’s ability to use it effectively and to turn a profit. The master could have given the remaining talent to the servant with only 2 or 5 talents, wouldn’t that be more fair? Instead, he gave it to the one with 10. In doing he so, he stuck to his original principle and distributed his resources according to the ability of the individual, not who he felt would need it most.
The Parable of The Workers in The Vineyard
Found in Matthew Chapter 20, starting in verse 14, this parable is often used by Christian liberals as an argument for income equality. According to the story, an individual landowner went out to high laborers for his field on a busy day. From one time of day to the next, he kept recruiting idle workers, offering them each a denarius for a day’s work. Having offered everyone the same wage, some people worked harder and longer than others, even as little as 2 hours compared to a full day’s work, still earning the same salary. The Christian progressive will often use this as an argument for egalitarian wage systems. Some will say that managers and executives shouldn’t be allowed to make more money despite the fact they do more work, more advanced work, and/or more valuable work in terms of their overall contributions. Everyone works hard. Everyone should take home the same amount of money as each person offers their own contribution to the success of the company. However, in some ways, this parable may actually run counter to the principle.
First, Christian liberals ignore the reason the master gives once he is approached by several disgruntled workers. They want to know why they’re being paid the same amount of money as people who only did a fraction of the work. The master does not respond with a sentimental speech about how everyone needs money to support their families, or how each worker represents a precious life, or even how every Israelite deserves to earn a livable wage. All the way down to verse 15 the master simply responds (and I paraphrase but encourage you to check the passage for yourself)
“It’s my money I can do what I want with it.” and reminds them of the contractual obligations they agreed to before accepting the assignment. This would seem to counter the progressive view that everyone should be paid the same. Instead, it supports the free-market view that everyone has the right to use their own property, even money, however they please. It also dictates, however, that if workers are unsatisfied with these conditions, they are free to work elsewhere.
Here we see two individuals making very different choices with their money. One master uses his money generously by paying all of his workers equally, no matter how much work they actually do. The other uses his money wisely, by only entrusting it those he knows will use it well. Examing these two parables together, we see the bible seems to support a particular free-market concept by making one thing clear. However you use your money, you can use it however you choose. No one has the right by force to dictate otherwise.
The very last verse of this parable relates this parable to the Kingdom of Heaven in which “the first shall be last”. This seems to make clear that this parable had nothing to do with economic structures at all, but spiritual ones. All of us, ultimately, no matter how late in life, we come to Christ or how many marvelous things we do for Him on earth will ultimately receive the same gift. All of us will spend an eternity with Him by His grace, and His grace alone lest any of us should boast.
This seems to support further my belief that Jesus’s message on earth was not a political one but a spiritual one. The more I’ve read the New Testament, the more the bible has seemed to make this clear. So as fun as these discussions are and have been, from all of this, I can only conclude that Jesus would never have involved Himself in them.