Jesus was well-known for using real life examples to convey spiritual truths. Many parables dealt with money and a close look reveals that several of his stories espoused free market, capitalist principles. The fact they have what we now call capitalist ideas proves he enjoyed the truths found in the free market, knowing they could not only help listeners understand earthly things, but (more importantly) heavenly things also.
Before I go further, I’ll give a definition for capitalism to make sure anyone who reads this knows what I’m talking about. Capitalism is “[a]n economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market,” and is “characterized by the freedom of capitalists to operate or manage their property for profit in competitive conditions,” (see freedictionary.com). So here are the highlights from Jesus’ capitalist parables:
Treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44)
Summary: After a man finds treasure hidden in a field, he sells all he owns to purchase the field.
Earthly truth: When you find a sure thing with no risk that’s worth more than what you presently have, and it has lasting value, and you can get it by selling what you own, then go for it.
Heavenly truth: Nothing on this earth can compare to the value of being part of God’s heavenly kingdom, so it’s worth the sacrifice of whatever you have here on earth to get salvation and everything that comes with it.
Pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46)
Summary: A merchant in the market for a priceless pearl finds it then sells all his possessions to buy it.
Earthly truth: If what you’re looking to purchase is worth it (the risk is low, the return is high, and its value will increase over time) be willing to make the sacrifice to obtain it.
Heavenly truth: Although similar to the “treasure hidden in the field,” there are noticeable differences. The kingdom of heaven is the treasure in the parable above, but in this parable the kingdom of heaven is the merchant man. He sacrifices everything to buy the pearl. This is a picture showing us how Christ (the merchant man) sacrificed everything (heavenly throne, heavenly riches, his life) to buy the pearl of great price (believers). In the “treasure” parable, the believer makes the sacrifice to obtain heaven, but in the pearl parable, it is God who sacrifices to obtain the lives and souls of his children.
Laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
Summary: After establishing a contract for a specific wage that was fair, vineyard laborers complain when those who started after them got the same wage.
Earthly truth: The laborers really had no valid complaint for what they were paid since it was in line with the fair market wage for their job during that time. Besides, they already had a contract and it wasn’t their business what the vineyard owner paid the others since that would be a private employer-employee matter. Bottom line–if you’re paid an amount you negotiated that falls within the range of what the market says you should be paid, don’t envy your co-workers for being paid the same for the same type of work even if you are senior to them. This principle is resisted in our postmodern society, especially where unions are involved, but it’s a true capitalistic principle.
Heavenly truth: Sometimes those who serve the kingdom of heaven for a shorter period (e.g. toward the end of their lives or right before the rapture or right before Jesus returns) or enter God’s service after seasoned veterans, will obtain the same amount of heavenly rewards, or more heavenly rewards, based on their performance.
The wicked husbandmen [vineyard keepers] (Matthew 21:33-40)
Summary: A vineyard owner leases his vineyard to keepers, only to have them try to steal his property by physical assault and murder when he tries to collect on it.
Earthly truth: If you own something and lease it out to managers, you have the right to collect your property and to take the necessary legal action against managers who illegally try to steal your property or prevent you from having it.
Heavenly truth: God planned to have all Jews as part of his kingdom in Jesus’ time, but when unbelieving Jews refused to comply with his wishes and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, he gave his kingdom to those who would believe, whether Jew or Gentile.
Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Summary: A man going abroad leaves each of his three servants an amount of money to invest according to each one’s ability. While two of them invest and make money for their boss, the third is lazy and refuses to invest the money so he is cast out when the man returns to collect.
Earthly truth: An employee who knows what his/her boss is like and knows what his/her boss expects from them, should not make excuses for not meeting the boss’s expectations. Wise employees take the necessary steps to make the best return on their employer’s investments. Rewards should be given out based on a person’s performance. Those who don’t perform as they should on the job should lose their jobs and benefits.
Heavenly truth: Those who take advantage of what God blesses them with (salvation, spiritual gifts, etc.) will see a return on their spiritual investment and God will reward them for it. Those who refuse God’s gifts will be punished.
Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21)
Summary: A rich man who prospers only thinks of himself and how he can do things for his own benefit when his goods increase instead of how he can glorify God, but before he can eat, drink, and be merry, he dies.
Earthly truth: Don’t get so caught up in your earthly goods that you don’t consider or care about others, because there are more important things in life. It’s pointless to live for things because you may die before enjoying them fully and upon your death, they become someone else’s. These are unpopular truths in an age where socialist envy is promoted at the left wing of our society while at the right wing we have those who promote Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged version of capitalism embracing atheistic, self-indulgent, self-centeredness from a false savior named John Galt.
Heavenly truth: Earthly goods should be used to glorify God, not to satisfy your own covetousness and selfishness because you can’t take them with you when your life ends.
Parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-12)
Summary: I’ve covered this at length already in a previous post, so I won’t discuss it here except to add this one thing–
Earthly truth: The manager who selfishly wasted his employer’s goods found out when he was fired that when you take advantage of your resources and use them to help others, you end up helping yourself.
–Harry A. Gaylord–