“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Acts 2:45
Last week in our Wealth & Poverty series we discussed capitalism and why it works. This week I want to shift and talk about what causes poverty. If we understand that the natural order which God set in place at creation is the blueprint for prosperity and wealth, it only makes sense that rejecting His plan would cause poverty and despair.
Many cite this passage above as an endorsement of socialism found in the Bible. But we know from the account of Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts 5 that this social experiment was, in the end, a dismal failure. When the disciples gave willingly and out of their abundance, they prospered; however, eventually some tried to cheat the system to elevate their social status. Their plan didn’t end well.
The socialist mantra states, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” Although this sounds similar to the Biblical mandate to give to the poor, it is not (we’ll discuss this more next week). The motto seems to imply that goal is to assist those in need, but Socialism isn’t intended to help individuals; the purpose is to empower the government.
Socialism always begins with the promise of utopia but leads to tyrannical rule.[i]
Countries all over the world who have experimented with socialism have ALL have met the same fate. Vladimir Lenin promised Russia “Peace, Bread, and Land” in 1918; Jawaharlal Nehru promised India the end of poverty in 1947; Mao Zedong promised China there would be open debate in 1956;[ii] Fidel Castro promised Cuba prosperity in 1960; and Hugo Chávez promised Venezuela universal healthcare in 1998. Many brutal dictators successfully sold a dream of peace on earth, only to devastate their country’s economy, oppress their people ruthlessly, and crush any opposition.
In this era of participation trophies and entitlement, the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25 doesn’t seem to make much sense to us. Many are perplexed by the idea that the man in the story doesn’t treat everyone “equally.” Allow me to summarize …
A business owner calls together his employees for a meeting. He’s going out of town, so he puts different individuals in charge of his assets. He makes this determination based on each individual’s ability: his star employee receives five talents, his deputy assistant receives two talents, and his underperforming worker only received one talent.
The first employee invests his boss’ money and quickly doubles his savings from five to ten talents. The second employee also doubles his investment, ending with four talents. The third employee was just plain lazy. Instead of investing and earning minimal interest, he hid the money and sat on it.
When the man returns to check on his assets, he finds a mixed bag of results. He’s very pleased with the first two employees because they doubled profits on the money entrusted to them. But he’s disappointed with the last employee—to say the least—because he didn’t do anything with the one talent he had.
What happens next is most perplexing. He takes the one talent from the last employee and gives it to the first. If one of us were writing the story, we would probably have the business owner give two of the first employee’s talents to the last guy to make things “fair.” Not only that, but the business owner severely punishes the last employee. In fact, the punishment is so harsh that it doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
This story explains how God’s economy is built on the foundation of rewarding hard work and obedience [to God]. We are given talents to use to glorify God, but these gifts also serve a practical purpose: they allow us to provide for ourselves and our families. Some are naturally gifted teachers, some are talented to work in the hospitality industry, others are skilled in the trades, many are natural “protectors” and work in public service, and others are skilled entrepreneurs. We all possess God-given talents, and there are real consequences for refusing to work in ways God has gifted us.
Socialism promises “peace on earth” but creates social unrest. Do you want true peace—emotional, physical, and financial? Follow God’s natural order and His blueprint for you to prosper.
Next week we will discuss step 2 of the Biblical pattern for creating wealth. For more discussion on socialism and capitalism, please see my book “The Pursuit of Liberty: Protecting our God-given Freedoms . . . Before it is Too Late.” Available on Amazon.
[i] "Why Socialism Always Results In Tyrannical Rule," 1998, Orthodoxnet.com, https://www.orthodoxnet.com/news/WhySocialismAlwaysResultsInTyranny.html. [ii] "Top 5 Failed Socialist Promises: From Lenin To Chavez," 2020, Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/top-5-failed-socialist-promises-from-lenin-to-chavez.