The problem of Global Capitalism


 

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

I think Pope Francis has been, for the most part, like a breath of fresh air.  But I think he missed the point on this one.

From an article in the New York Times, we read –

His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Notice – in the picture above, it has emphasized both greed and capitalism.
Notice – in the Pope’s statement, he also used both greed and capitalism.

But where’s the real problem?
Is it capitalism?  Or is it greed?

Guess how many times capitalism shows up in the Bible.  Of course – the answer is zero.

Guess how many times greed shows up in the Bible.  In the NIV – it’s twelve times.

  • twice in the Old Testament –
    • Isaiah – 
      Isa 57:17 I was enraged by his sinful greed;
      I punished him, and hid my face in anger,
      yet he kept on in his willful ways.
      Isa 57:18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
      I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
      Isa 57:19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
      Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
      says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”
      Isa 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
      which cannot rest,
      whose waves cast up mire and mud.
      Isa 57:21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
    • Ezekiel – 
      Eze 16:23 “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign LORD. In addition to all your other wickedness, 24 you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square. 25 At the head of every street you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, offering your body with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. 26 You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and provoked me to anger with your increasing promiscuity. 27 So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct.
  • four times by Jesus –
    • Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
    • Mk 7:20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ”
    • Lk 11:39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
    • Lk 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
      Lk 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • and the other six are in various letters, recounting what Jesus said during His time on earth.

I would hope we’ve seen enough of both capitalism, socialism, communism, and various other “-isms” to know that the problem isn’t capitalism.  No – the problem is greed.  And generally – the greed problem comes down to power and or money.  More likely “and” than “or”.  

The problem of greed?

So – what’s wrong with greed?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote –

Love of Money

1Ti 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Paul’s Charge to Timothy

1Ti 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Let’s look at part of that first paragraph –

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

And this then is the problem with all of the “-isms”.  The people who end up being the leaders of whatever “-ism” happens to be in power are the ones who want to be rich.  Or – in these days – the ones who are already rich and want to be even more rich.  And that’s why no “-ism” will work.  The problem isn’t the “-ism” – the problem is the people.  The problem is us.

The problem is the lack of something from the second paragraph –

1Ti 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Someone who did as Paul was instructing Timothy could never be in power in today’s world.  I can’t speak for times past – I wasn’t there.  But I’m here today.  And it’s just not going to happen.

Why not?

Let’s look at something else Jesus said –

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Uh Oh.  That sounds like a problem.  Add to that the increasing hatred that far too many people have for those who follow Jesus – and the likelihood of a true man of God becoming a leader today is pretty much Slim and None.  And Slim’s not home.  In other words – zero.

Let’s look at Jesus’ statement in context –

Treasures in Heaven

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

There it is.  The real problem.  
Without a belief in God – there’s no Heaven.  
And without Heaven – there’s no hope for a future – a long term future – an eternal future.
And with no hope for an eternal future – and an uncertain hope for the near future – the only thin left is today.
And if today is the only hope – then it’s get what you can today – for there may be no tomorrow.  
In other words – there is no hope.

In this mode – our hearts – and therefore our treasures – will be right here on earth.
Very short term.
For there’s nothing else.
Or so we convince ourselves.

But what if there is more?
What if Jesus is right?
What if the treasures in Heaven are the “real” treasures?
Then the more God-like we are – the more Heavenly “treasures” we will have.

The thing is – those treasures aren’t for us.  They’re for Him.
After all, we read in Revelation –

Rev 4:9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
Rev 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

So we see that our “treasures” that we’ve been “working” for –
the crowns that we will receive –
we give back to Him.
Because they were never ours to begin with.
As a Christian – we don’t do the things that we do for our own glory.  (in fact – if we do – then we need to question our beliefs and our faith.)  We do what we do because we have signed up for God’s glory.  The rewards are His – because it’s only with Him and through Him that we can do what we do.  I could never write this without Him.  I know that.  And I have no problem saying it.  Or writing it.  If what I write is true and good – it’s from Him.  If what I write isn’t good – then it’s because I didn’t listen – to Him.  And if I even feel like I’m not getting it – I stop writing and come back later.
So I have no problem giving Him my treasures – my crowns – His treasures – His crowns.  
It’s enough to know that the One who created literally everything cares about me.

Conclusion

So don’t blame the “-ism”.  Blame the real problem.

Don’t even blame the money.  Blame the real problem.

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Blame the real problem – not serving God.

I once had an economics class, where the professor said that greed was good.  But then he clarified what he meant by “greed”.  
He didn’t mean the short term greed that we went over earlier.  
He meant a longer term greed.  Like maybe many years out in advance.  Long enough that people at the top would actually care about everyone else, because they’d realize that the short term greed they had been following would eventually lead to less money and power for them.

I, of course, am talking about an eternal “greed”.  One that meant the most glory for God.  Coincidentally – that also means the best for us – in the long term – in eternity.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

So here’s the question –

Do you want to earn as much as you can today – knowing that when you die, you can’t take any of it with you?  Not even the tiniest fraction of it.  Nothing.

Or do you have the courage to believe that there’s something more?  Than no matter what you have here on earth, whether nothing or the largest fortune ever amassed – you won’t have any of it after you die.  But you will have treasures in Heaven.  That you will proceed to give away – because they are things that we never earned, with things that we never owned, with strength that we never had, and with wisdom that we really can’t begin to understand.  And so we give them to the One who made all those treasures possible.  But somehow, again in a way that we really can’t understand – even after all that – we end up better than any other alternative.  Do you have the courage to take that chance?  Do you have the courage to have faith in the One who created you and everything / everyone around you?

Or do you think you can take care of yourself after you die?

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 


image from libcom.org

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