Today’s reading: Proverbs 27-29.
God’s word doesn’t condemn making money – just lusting after it. It doesn’t prohibit owning property, but it does recommend holding possessions with a loose grip. Capitalism isn’t forbidden. In fact, Proverbs gives a pretty good description of some of the fundamentals of capitalism.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls. Proverbs 27:23-27
Private ownership. “your flocks…your herds.” The flocks and herds belong to an individual, but the principle can be extended to companies owned by groups of individuals.
Motivation by self-preservation. “give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever.” Ownership conveys responsibility, including the responsibility to take care of your belongings so that they remain available to support and feed you or your family. The motivation to take care of your business, and see it prosper, is one of the most powerful factors in the success of capitalism.
Free exchange of goods for profit. “the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.” The owner of the flock uses the increase of his herd to obtain clothing or land through the exchange of goods in which each party is free to set their price.
Creation of wealth. “You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.” Capital markets are not zero-sum games where one party gains at another’s expense. They create wealth for the owners through profits and for the employees through wages.
Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs, those who organize and manage a business with personal initiative and risk, are the motors of wealth creation. Even the herdsman managing his flocks of sheep and goats is an entrepreneur. It is his capital that bought the initial stock of animals. His initiative keeps them safe and healthy. He sacrifices time and energy to grow the flock. When he makes a profit (not guaranteed), by the wisdom of Proverbs he shares it with his family and uses it to care for his employees.
It’s enlightening to see how God’s word described these economic principles in action long before any professional or academic put them down on paper.
Image by Quazie on Flickr, CC by 2.0