Why do some of us have negative reactions to the terms like capitalism and economics?
Maybe it’s cultural and educational conditioning; perhaps it’s the media.
But ultimately, the negative reaction of most people to the idea of a capitalistic economy stems from ignorance.
What’s a proper understanding of capitalism — and is a capitalistic economy really biblical?
“We live in an era in the history of our world and an era in the history of the United States of America where probably a majority of us in our country are illiterate about the history of our own country. We are illiterate about the history of western civilization. This is one of the biblical foundations of economic thinking — we’ve taken it for granted for so long — that one has the right to private property.”
Austin says western culture has gotten off track on matters of economics due to a lack of understanding of that very fundamental concept: private property:
“When you and I, in our modern context, hear the word ‘property’, we think ‘real estate’. But in economic terms, and in historic philosophical terms, property is any material resource that you can own and that you can use to make money. We’ve taken it so for granted.”
“This moral relativism has snuck into our culture in such a way to where it is common thinking to say, ‘Yeah, Dr. Bill’s money is his money — but if he makes too much of it, well that’s unfair. I deserve some of it, and we need to raise taxes on Dr. Bill.'”
Austin says this line of thinking is absolutely wrong, because it ends with the theft of property which has been rightfully gained.
“All too often our brothers and sisters in Christ are buying into [relativism], and it’s really, really dangerous.”
So, where do we begin in developing a biblical understanding of economics? Austin says there’s one issue: debt.
“It is odd to a lot of people to try and connect the timeless, ancient wisdom of our Christian faith and the scriptures to the modern-day global financial system and our economics. But if we are to take seriously James and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and other passages of scripture, we have to conclude that debt is a really bad thing.”
Despite the general, you know, enslavement and bondage debt brings to people, Austin says numerous politicians peddle a message which says that ‘debt shouldn’t hold you back’. Austin says that’s pure farce:
“Debt does hold one back. That is scriptural. That is reality. We are a nation in deep, deep denial if we think the government [can simply forgive all debt].”
Secondly, Austin says pastors, church leaders, laity alike need to take a long, hard look at their teachings and beliefs on economics:
“Christians are, in some cases, part and parcel to the problem here: we’ve kind of made a God out of government. We think that if government says that healthcare is free, or we’ve arbitrarily reduced the cost of government, or we’ve refinanced your mortgage for you, or we’ve bailed you out of your payments on your mortgage — we think that if the government gives us something, it’s free and it’s magical. That’s false, and that’s a false narrative.”
“There are a lot of people in the pews and the pulpits who don’t understand how the scriptures speak to these issues. Those of us who are laity, we’ve got to start proactively wrapping our minds around these issues and start speaking truth to them, and get tutored up ourself.”