The only things more dangerous than unrestrained capitalism are unrestrained lawlessness, and unrestrained government. The powerful must be restrained and regulated to protect the less powerful and powerless. This is a fundamental teaching of Christian Scripture and a self-evident lesson from human history. Our disagreements are over the degree of that restraint and regulation, and for Christians, how much of God’s Kingdom principles should be enacted into laws of the state. It is difficult to say where the God-like drive to create, bless, grow, prosper, bless, and increase our personal and communal world ends, and fallen human greed begins. All of these dynamics are parts of what drives free markets and capitalism.
As to God’s kingdom or His People, the Church, Scripture and Church history are clear. Continuing, and filling out, the types and trajectories of the Old Testament, God’s New Testament People are stewards, not owners, of all things we “possess,” including the earth and all aspects of God’s creation. However rich we are, and however hard we worked to obtain that wealth, it remains God’s and is held in trust for God’s People, God’s mission, and God’s poor. A standing call exists upon the Christian’s resources to meet the needs in these areas. This applies first in the covenant community of the local church, and then extends throughout the work of God. For Christians, the title to and control over our wealth which we retain does not mean it is ours to do with as we please. In my opinion, this same stewardship should apply to Christian-owned businesses, at least as the ultimate reason-for-being of the business. God’s kingdom rule extends into every facet of a Christian’s life and being.
However, just as the principles of this present evil age cannot be used to structure or govern the life and relationships of the Church, in the same way the kingdom principles mentioned above will not work very well among people who are not disciples of Jesus. The issues of regeneration and accountability are key. The unregenerate poor are as greedy and rapacious as the unregenerate rich, and our inability to make the poor-at-large accountable for their lifestyles means transfers of wealth to them will be squandered again and again.
That economic opportunities must be afforded and help to the destitute given is unquestionable. That those who are sick, elderly, physically or mentally challenged, and so forth, should be in some way cared for cannot be doubted. Nevertheless, there are parameters throughout Scripture describing who among God’s People should and should not be supported by others. When ongoing support is suggested, a personal knowledge of those to be supported, a lifestyle of following Jesus, and accountability for help received would normally be considered foundational requirements. When these are present, and when Christ the King issues a call through His Church, the resources of the stewards should be released to meet the need.
This is most easily seen among those people who live by rivers. There, you don’t have to worry ’cause you have no money, people on the river are happy to give.