Today we offer our second-weekly “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this Friday feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you might have about practical issues that you face.
If you have questions or comments about this response, please leave a comment on the post. Please also submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by leaving a comment or contacting us at
Today’s thought-provoking question comes from Joe S., who has been enjoying some light bedtime reading: Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and William T. Cavanaugh’s Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire . He writes: “How do you think capitalism and freedom fit in the light of what Jesus taught? I’m not so sure they are as aligned as some think.”
Like Joe, I have considered what Jesus (and the Scriptures in general) have to say about capitalism and freedom; this is especially so because of my background in business. Here are a few thoughts in answer to Joe’s question.
The Bible does not explicitly endorse capitalism, socialism, communism, or any other particular economic system for our time. The Mosaic Covenant contained economic regulations for the Hebrews (for a particularly interesting one, consider the Year of Jubilee, described in Leviticus 25 and 27), but they are no longer binding (Galatians 3:24–25; Hebrews 8:6). Some have noted that Acts 2:44–47 depicts Christians living in a sort of commune, but this arrangement was self-imposed by the Christians; it was not directed by the Roman government.
Personally, I think capitalism does a good job of accounting for and capitalizing on human self-interest. I also believe that capitalism provides freedom that is consistent with the God-given dignity and dominion of man (Genesis 1:26–30). Furthermore, capitalism requires and promotes personal accountability, which is certainly biblical (2 Thessalonians 3:10–12).
However, capitalism does allow people made in the image of God to fall through the cracks. It isn’t intrinsically as “protective” as other economic systems are. Capitalism enables individuals to neglect the poor, though the Bible clearly supports caring for the poor (Matthew 25:34–40; Mark 10:21; whether the government should compel such care is debatable). Capitalism can also make it easier for the rich to oppress the poor, which the Bible clearly speaks against (James 5:1–6).
Does the Bible “support” capitalism and personal freedom? I would argue that capitalism upholds some biblical values, but it is not perfect. I am glad for the personal freedoms that capitalism provides, and I find these freedoms largely consistent with biblical teaching. May God grant all of us the grace to use these freedoms honorably.
What do you think?
— Beau Stanley
(EDITOR’S NOTE–Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Thinkstock).