Douglas Wilson’s Letter From Moscow

Parable of the Ten Investment Portfolios

Blog and Mablog

Given the emphasis that the president placed on “income inequality” in his 2014 SOTU speech, I thought it necessary for us to review a few things from the Bible. We have wandered so far off from the teaching of Jesus that some of this pandering seems compelling and/or compassionate to us. It is actually evil.

Allow me to say a few things in this second paragraph that will seem outrageous to some, while doing so in the hope that you will then allow me to explain myself. I have argued repeatedly that free grace creates free men, and that free men are the only ones who can create free markets. Free markets are God’s design for us. If you don’t love the idea of free markets, you don’t love Jesus rightly. Christian discipleship requires an understanding of, and deep love for, economic liberty.

So why invoke Jesus by name? Why bring Him into it?
First, He is the Lord of all things, including what we do with our money. So there’s that. Second, in his fine book Friends of Unrighteous Mammon,  Stewart Davenport shows that in 19th century America,  two contrary camps developed among professing Christians (and they have been with us since). He called them the “clerical economists” and the “contrarians.” The clerical economists followed the insights of Adam Smith, but did so within a decidedly Christian framework.

But as they did this, their language did not emphasize Jesus so much. They were more about “the spirit of Christianity” and a “that wise and good Providence.” Their work was “curiously lacking in overt references to Christ,” even though they were orthodox Christians. Their opponents, the contrarians, went the opposite direction. Their teaching was all about Jesus, and individual discipleship, and the hard sayings of Jesus . . . and that engine was hooked up to socialist assumptions. In short, those Christians with sound economic understanding allowed themselves to be rhetorically outmaneuvered, and allowed the left to have the rhetorical high ground. But coercive taxation is not the way of Jesus, and blessing your neighbor with an actual job is. And so, no, let’s not leave Jesus out of it.

And so, speaking of the difficult words of Jesus, let’s take a look at the parable of the ten investment portfolios.

“As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me’” (Luke 19:11-27).

Ten servants are each given a mina, and we hear a report back from three of them. One made ten minas with his one, and another made five minas with his one. They are both praised. These men were investing in their master’s work in a city that despised their master, and had all kinds of negative things to say about him. The third servant, influenced by all the bad things being said about the “austere” master by these chattering classes, went and buried his mina. The master then judged him according to the false perception he had created for himself, and his mina was taken and given to the man who had earned ten. This grievous action, according to the naysayers of that wicked town, was simply compounding the great problem of “income inequality.” It used to be ten to one, and now it was eleven to zero! And then, to top off this narrative told by gentle Jesus meek and mild, the master summons those who had spread the lies about him in the first place so that they could all be slaughtered in front of him.

So yes, Jesus is the one who told the rich young ruler to give it all to the poor. He is also the one who told people to take one mina from this poor servant and give it to the rich servant. Do not make superficial judgments, especially with the words of Jesus.

Enough with their wicked city, and back to our wicked city. Our demagogues harangue us repeatedly with the lie that the wealthy need to pay “their fair share.” So what share are they currently paying? The top one percent (the ten minas people) are those who earn over $343,927. They pay almost 37% of all federal income taxes. The top five percent, those making $154,643 and up, pay about 59% of federal income taxes. The top ten percent (the five minas people) are those who make over $112,124, and they pay 70% of all federal income taxes. At what point, then, will they finally start paying their “fair share”? At what point will the envy of the liars be exhausted?

We are not just a nation of murderers and perverts. We have legally (but unlawfully) executed tens of millions of unborn Americans without so much as the pretense of a trial. We are moving inexorably toward sodomite mirages, an open invitation to the God of Heaven to flatten us. But we must not leave out this issue of theft.

We are represented by thieves in Washington because we vote to send them there, and we vote to send them there because we are a nation of thieves. We want representatives who will look at a man with ten minas, and at me with my one, and we want them to take some from him and give it to me. The current faction controlling this city (those citizens who hate the rightful ruler of it) is more than willing to distribute the minas in that ungodly fashion.

But the rightful king is returning, and we should remind ourselves this state of affairs will not always be so.
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