Jesus and Adam Smith

From American Vision:

What would Jesus have done if confronted with the new technology [of horseless carriages]? Would He have endorsed the mass production of the automobile when it was first introduced to the American public knowing that it was a polluter? Actually, Jesus would have said little. He would have allowed common sense and market forces to determine how the new technology would be used.

This troubles me. Jesus was not a Republican, much less a free-market fiscal conservative. Neither, of course, was Jesus a Democrat. Though He cared for the poor, it was more important that “the poor have good news preached to them” (Mt 11:4).

This doesn’t mean the Bible has nothing to say about economics. Far from it. But it does mean that we ought to be careful claiming Jesus for our causes. “You thought you that I was one like yourself” (Ps 50:20), God told Israel. Israel was wrong.

During my five years as a research assistant in the BJU Library I read thousands of articles, and I ran into a bunch of causes people had enlisted God for. I began keeping a “God told me to do it” file. Enjoy:Screen shot 2009-09-29 at 9.55.52 AM.png

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Jesus and Adam Smith”

  1. “This troubles me. Jesus was not a Republican, much less a free-market fiscal conservative”

    The essential difference between free market conservatism and any other kind of system is that free market “conservatism” believes in personal property. In socialism, there is no personal property–everything belongs to the state. There is nothing like this in the Scripture. In fact, in the millennium, every man will sit under “his own fig tree…” personal property, anyone? The reason it is important to make this distinction is that socialism does NOT care for the poor–look at the poor of the world in socialist countries compared to our own. One big difference: our poor people are obese. Name another country that has that problem 🙂

    Anyway, I would say that Jesus was a free market capitalist–in that he believed that there was no reason to take something (forcefully) from one person – aka extortion – and give it to another person. He believed in giving. Giving, by definition, must be without compulsion and of one’s own goods. Free-market ideals are the only ideals that make this possible.

  2. Are there not more options that free market fiscal conservatism and socialism? For instance, wasn’t mercantile capitalism (rather than free market capitalism) the prevalent model of previous centuries? Ought we to conclude that one current human-devised model is the model that is held by God himself?

    More specifically, while acknowledging the biblical approval of private property (and thus the unbiblical nature of socalism), is it right to conclude that a government may never tax its citizens to aid the poor among them.

    Deuteronomy 14:28-29 stipulates that a 10% tax was to be brought to the city gate (the seat of government) every three years for the benefit of the needy.

    The Old Testament law also mandated that a farmer was to leave the corners of his field unreaped so that the poor could reap them. This seems to be mandating aid to the poor.

    Of course, our nation is not bound by the Mosaic law, but if it was not wrong for God to mandate these things for Israel, can it be wrong for a nation today to do something analogous?

  3. Just a quibble, but in socialism there is private property. Communism, no, but socialism yes. In socialism you get to keep your stuff, but it feels like it belongs to the government.

    Trust me, I know this by experience.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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