A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal ran an OpEd piece by Rabbi Aryeh Spero entitled “What the Bible Teaches About Capitalism: As the Ten Commandments instruct, envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it.” (It can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577179303330474134.html). The article created a small firestorm of respond — apparently thousands of letters according to the editor who spoke with me last week. On letter grabbed my attention while reading the weekend edition on Feb 4. I got my computer and zipped off the following response (not to the article, but to the letter) — that letter (from 02/04) and my response (in the weekend edition 02/18-19) are below. Interesting!
LETTERS FEBRUARY 4, 2012
Economic Systems, the Bible and a Just Community
When Rabbi Spero discusses the history of the “Judeo-Christian outlook” and what the Bible teaches about capitalism, he makes it clear that he is referencing the Jewish Bible or the Christian Old Testament. Things certainly are different in the New Testament.
The New Testament’s Book of Acts provides great insight into the lifestyle of the early Christian church community: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) Doesn’t this read more like socialism?
Max Ballard, Green Bay, Wis.
LETTERS FEBRUARY 18, 2012
It Was Generosity But Not Compulsion
The New Testament says much about money, but let us be clear that, contrary to Max Ballard’s letter (Feb. 4), it does not teach socialism. Yes, the Book of Acts records the early church in Jerusalem practicing a form of socialism, but this describes historic (temporary) practice, not propositional teaching. In fact, this practice was a profound failure, plunging the church in Jerusalem into a generation of poverty.
St. Paul spent years planting churches in Asia Minor and Greece, and from every church he collected gifts in order to help the impoverished Jerusalem church. Paul taught that people should willingly give to the poor. Such giving should be intentional, proportional, regular, joyful and not done under compulsion (2 Corinthians). He also taught that people should be industriously self-supportive, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians: 3:10, ESV).
Michael S. Beates, D.Min., Winter Park, Fla.