The popular meme by John Fugalsang creates a Jesus made in his own image saying Jesus was “anti-wealth.” In another version, Fugalsang says Jesus was “anti-capitalism”. Fugalsang’s meme goes on to say Jesus “never called the poor lazy.”
Jesus never mentioned being for or against any form of economics. Jesus had no wealth while on earth, but there is no biblical text that says Jesus was “anti-wealth.”
Fugalsang interprets Christ’s silence on any issue in favor of his own views. If Fugalsang is for it, then Jesus’ silence is for it. If Fugalsang is against it, then Jesus’ silence is against it.
Jesus had a problem with materialism. Only once did he tell someone to sell their possessions. That person went away sad, because he loved his possessions too much. Yet some of Jesus’ disciples were well off.
In teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus says:
“The kingdom from heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing to pay the workers one denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-2 ISV)
• “Landowner,” sounds capitalist.
• Paying people a wage, sounds capitalist.
Why would Jesus use such a setting to explain the Kingdom of Heaven if he were against it?
Again, teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus says in Matthew 25:14-30), “Similarly, it is like a man going on a trip who called his servants and turned his money over to them. … based on their ability. Then he went on his trip. … the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. … The one who had received five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more talents.’ His master told him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant! … Come and share your master’s joy!’ The one with two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more talents.’ His master told him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant! … Come and share your master’s joy!’ Then the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I … being afraid, I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ His master answered him, ‘You evil and lazy servant! … you should have invested my money with the bankers. When I returned, I would have received my money back with interest.'”
Here we see:
1. People not working are called “lazy” in the Bible, by a person Jesus says represents Deity. Being poor does not prove one is lazy. But many are poor because they are lazy. Meditate on 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Timothy 5:8.
2. The people do business in order to increase wealth – sounds capitalistic.
3. We notice the use of a “banker” in the parable – if Jesus were anti-capitalist would he use this parable as a metaphor for his Kingdom?
“Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in … riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, … They are to do good, to be rich in good actions, to be generous, and to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
Jesus is not anti-wealth, but he is concerned about what we do with our possessions, whether we have much or little, we are “to be rich in good actions, to be generous, and to share.”