Judas Kisses Capitalism

By Katie Kieffer

Dark and cloudy day in NYC

Image credit: “Empire State” by Stuart Boreham on Flickr via Creative Commons.

I’m chomping on the chocolate bunny (ears first!) that I found in my basket and it occurs to me that believing in Christ’s resurrection requires a capitalistic mindset. Certainly, you could be a capitalist without believing in Christ’s resurrection since it requires faith to believe in the resurrection. And, Christ’s primary mission on earth was not to overthrow human forms of government. However, Christ recognized as “good” a legitimate form of human government that espouses freedom, private property rights and representative authority. So, if you call yourself a Christian (as President Obama does) then I think you must also be a capitalist.

Increasingly, I hear Christians carelessly mistake the lessons in the Bible for those in Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.” I hear Christians praising “social justice” like it’s the 11th Commandment. I want to set the record straight: Jesus Christ was not a socialist and he did not preach “social justice.”

It is unnecessary to believe in the “historical Jesus” to follow the logic of my argument. I personally believe in the passion and resurrection of Christ. However, for argument’s sake in this column, I am not assuming that you, my reader, have “faith” in a historical Jesus.  I merely want you to see that the story of Christ—which politicians like President Obama routinely reference to “back up” their socialist policies (think Obamacare and the Buffett Rule) is a story of capitalism, not socialism.

The obvious “hero” in the Bible is Christ. Meanwhile, an obvious “villain” is a man named Judas Iscariot. (If you don’t know about Judas from reading the Bible, you may know of him from hearing from the Lady Gaga song, “Judas.”)

Basically, Judas starts out as a disciple of Christ. His responsibility is to be a treasurer and carry the common “purse” for Christ and the disciples as they travel and preach together. Unfortunately, Judas ends up loving money more than he loves Christ and the poor. While Judas says he cares about the poor, he is not poor in spirit.

Judas is very judgmental and self-righteous. In John 12:4-6, we read, “Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: ‘Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?’ Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.”

Judas’ attitude toward money is similar to that of a modern socialist politician who thinks that he knows better than the people he is representing—the taxpayers—how to spend their money. A socialist politician like President Obama thinks that he cannot trust us to be generous with our own money. However, ironically, when politicians and federal agents have access to taxpayer money, they often become corrupt and waste our money on things like conferences for federal employees that feature clowns, mind readers and goodie bags filled with costly key chains and commemorative coins. In other words, socialist bureaucrats have a track record of spending our money on worthless junk in the name of helping the poor.

Cloudy day over Pulaski Bridge in NYC.

Image credit: “cityscape from pulaski” by [mementosis] on Flickr via Creative Commons.Flickr via Creative Commons.

Judas, likewise, became so corrupted by his proximity to money that he was willing to betray those he represented—Christ and the other disciples—in exchange for coinage. Shortly after the Last Supper, Judas betrays Jesus by identifying him before his adversary’s soldiers with a kiss in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus was never a part of the government. Nor was he an anarchist; Jesus said: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” He was not against just human authority and taxation. However, he absolutely defended the right of private businessmen and women to run their businesses, wield their private property and enter into contracts as they see fit—not the way unions or politicians screaming for higher minimum wages and universal healthcare see fit.

Jesus defends free enterprise and private property when he tells the “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” in Matthew 20:1–16:

“… And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled against the householder, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong: did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?’”

I realize that the spiritual meaning of this parable relates to God’s mercy on sinners who repent and reform late in life. However, I think there is clearly also a secular or earthly meaning to this parable. For, Christ would not have used this example if he did believe in the value of private property and free enterprise on earth.

President Obama said at the February, 2011 National Prayer Breakfast that, as a community organizer, “…I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Savior.” Obama said: “… that’s why I continue to believe that in a caring and in a just society, government must have a role to play.”

At this year’s National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2012, President Obama again misinterpreted Christ’s words to mean that the government should tell private citizens how to spend their money: “… And when I talk about shared responsibility … For me, as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto who much is given, much shall be required.’ … I am my brother’s keeper … I succeed because others succeed with me. …It’s also about the Biblical call to care ‘for the least of these,’ for the poor, for those at the margins of our society; to answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute….”

I would encourage you to recognize that the Biblical story of Christ is not the same as the abridged version you hear from President Obama and other socialist politicians. Christ did not preach about stealing from one group to give to another. (In fact, his Father gave Moses the eighth commandment.) Rather, Christ taught that private property owners were capable of being generous independently. And, Christ did not merely preach poverty as Judas did—he lived a life of poverty and he befriended the poor and rich alike.

Don’t fall into the trap of confusing “social justice” with Christianity. The resurrection is a story of absolute freedom overcoming human corruption and manipulation.

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  1. Bill and Denise says:

    Love the article! We are not rich but both my Wife and I work and pay our taxes, and sometimes money is a bit tight for us, but that is OK. We do help out our fellow man when we can. Recently we donated a few hundred at a dinner / auction to support a 16 yr old whose family has been hit hard by the young lady's illness. We could afford it at the time and it was the right thing to do. Not bragging, and we are not better than anyone else, just the way we were raised

  2. JKnight says:

    I also feel like God wants us to be hard working self reliant. give unto ceasar what is his and unto god what belongs to god .Maybe God wants you to give him your faith and he will provide for your needs in a way government owned money cant. Maybe large government is evil in the reasoning that they really only ration out money and then want it back. Judas, It may also say that a man that walks the left hand of the Son of God can even fall to the temptation of money power.

  3. JKnight says:

    "Not by might nor by power but my spirit says the Lord Almight." Zech 4:6
    I believe that god gave us free will for a reason and that is because we have to come to him and have faith in God. Those forced into something are not examples of faith and charity but more likely manipulated by evil. It has to be of your own will so that it is from the heart and meaningfull. In my opinion one man of faith and charity giving cheerfully from the heart cant be matched.

  4. Witzend says:

    Jesus Himself acknowledged it was the love of money that was at root of all sin, not money itself. If you read the Gospels carefully, you'll see that it was the wealthy who supported Him in His ministry. Same thing with the Apostle Paul. And the early Church met in the homes of, you guessed it, wealthy believers. One of the founding members of the church at Philipi was a local business person who happened to be a woman. Capitalism can be a God-send.

    • Kris says:

      Well said. Money is not inherently evil; money is simply a tool that can create jobs and innovation in technology & healthcare. Capitalism rocks!

  5. Sophocles says:

    President Obama speaks about the Christian message of caring for your neighbor, which is all well and good. However, the government does not have the capacity to care, or love. Government is force; it makes for a poor caregiver. Mixing the proper governmental powers such as making arrests or declaring and waging war with caring for people seems a bit imprudent.

  6. Bob Sacamano says:

    Maybe you should read up on your Church's social teaching. Yes, it is infallible.

    • Kris says:

      What, specifically, are you questioning from Katie's article? I don't think she is talking about religion or the infallibility of a particular religion in this article. It looks like she is trying to show that the story of Jesus is closer to capitalism than socialism and so politicians can't use Christianity to defend socialism.

      • Bob Sacamano says:

        The Church doesn't advocate for socialism or capitalism. Read up on it. Start with Rerum Novarum. It's an easy read.

        Ever notice the *only* time Jesus got violent? When he threw the capitalists out of his father's house. Go figure.

  7. closte says:

    Good clarification. Part way through, I was thinking "Jesus wasn't for any particular form of government either–rather for freedom from sin"….but, you beat me to it. Well said!

    • Chris says:

      Actually, people in the 1st century mediterranean lived in a very collectivist society (read chapter 2 of Bruce Malina's The New Testament World for more information). You can still have aspects of capitalism in a collectivist society but the pure capitalism aspired to by the US is a very modern phenomenon spurred on by the relatively new idea of individuality. I don't think this means capitalism is flawed but rather evidence that socialism is an outdated idea.

      • Kris says:

        I agree with closte. Katie did a great job writing this article! How can you say that US capitalism is a modern-day construct?? The concepts of private property, freedom, competition and ownership are rational and they have existed since the beginning of time.

      • Chris says:

        Capitalism did not exist 2000 years ago. Just because the idea of private property and freedom may have existed doesn't mean that capitalism did. Their concept of private property would have been very different from ours. It was a completely different culture.

      • crazykeyman says:

        Yes you are correct but since there is no clear definition for capitalism opinions of it starting go from the middle ages to the 18th Century. Many historians believe that the Netherlands were the first to start Capitalism.

        And I totally get that you weren't backing Socialism by your statement, but merely setting the record straight.

  8. Crazy Jay says:

    Well Ms. Kieffer, once again you have out done yourself. I am completely amazed with this article. You taught this old man something I never saw before. Most of all you are so so correct in your comparison. I will be reading your articles as I love learning from younger folks. Thank You, John Schreiber

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