Installment #5 - Commerce and Banking
In the Gospels There are some fascinating mentions and analogies, as well as key parables, that get at key economic activities, at least peripherally.
In this section we see that buying and selling, wages, pay, borrowing, debts, creditors, deposits, and accounts were all well established in Jesus’s time as would be expected in an advanced civilization such as Rome.
Can we see President Trump in these passages? For the most part it is left to you the reader, with a little help along the way.
Buying (13) / Selling (13)Transactions are the life blood of an economy. The most basic of economic activities is the act of buying and selling. And if nothing else, Trump is famous for buying and selling, the essence of deal making.
Matthew 21:12 Then Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.
Mark 6:36 Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”
John 4:8 (For his disciples had gone off into the town to buy supplies.)
In this next parable the value of “doing business” is shown to be highly valued. Notice the mentions of kingdoms, money, labor, trading, interest, banking, agriculture, risk/reward, promotion, business, etc. Trump as the “nobleman” and can we find “apprentices” in the story? By the way, a Mina in today’s terms might be worth close to $17,000.
The Parable of the Ten Minas
Luke 19:11 While the people were listening to these things, Jesus proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 19:12 Therefore he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 19:13 And he summoned ten of his slaves, gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 19:14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to be king over us!’ 19:15 When he returned after receiving the kingdom, he summoned these slaves to whom he had given the money. He wanted to know how much they had earned by trading. 19:16 So the first one came before him and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 19:17 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 19:18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19:19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 19:20 Then another slave came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina that I put away for safekeeping in a piece of cloth. 19:21 For I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You withdraw what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ 19:22 The king said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! So you knew, did you, that I was a severe man, withdrawing what I didn’t deposit and reaping what I didn’t sow? 19:23 Why then didn’t you put my money in the bank, so that when I returned I could have collected it with interest?’ 19:24 And he said to his attendants, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has ten.’ 19:25 But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten minas already!’ 19:26 ‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 19:27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be their king, bring them here and slaughter them in front of me!’”
As for enemies being slaughtered at the end of the parable…
Wage (3) / Pay (5)The only mention of the word wage is in the parable about the workers in the vineyard, another parable rich in economic references.
Workers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 20:2 And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 20:3 When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. 20:4 He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ 20:5 So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. 20:6 And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ 20:7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ 20:8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.’ 20:9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. 20:10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 20:11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, 20:12 saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ 20:13 And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 20:14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. 20:15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The Gospels make it clear that people deserve their pay…
Luke 10:7 Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the worker deserves his pay. Do not move around from house to house.
Debt (6) / Debtor (3) / CreditorWithout credit and debt the modern economic system would be unrecognizable. Not surprisingly, borrowing and lending are well represented in the Gospels as well. The Gospels’ texts would put the world economic system on its head if followed to the letter. Lend and expect nothing back? Give to the one who asks and do not reject them? Not likely.
Trump as a real estate mogul certainly has borrowed lots of money, at least through his companies. And his bankruptcies have shown that the legal system often allows debts to be excused.
Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 7:37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. 7:38 As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil. 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” 7:40 So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 7:41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. 7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
BorrowThis passage is not going to go far in today’s system.
Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.
Lend (4)Being a banker is also tough to square with the following.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people.
Repay (5) / Repaid (6)According to the Gospels, apparently we should lend only to those from whom we don’t expect to be repaid. A very intriguing take on who lends money to whom. Were the crooked mortgage lending passages of the 2000’s actually these passages in action? Music to Trump’s ears?
6:34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.
Can we find the president in the following?
The Parable of the Clever Steward
Luke 16:1 Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations that his manager was wasting his assets. 16:2 So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’ 16:3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m too ashamed to beg. 16:4 I know what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ 16:5 So he contacted his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 16:6 The man replied, ‘A hundred measures of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man replied, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 16:8 The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
16:10 “The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 16:11 If then you haven’t been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will entrust you with the true riches? 16:12 And if you haven’t been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Withdraw(ing)/Deposit (2)In the following passage we see a reference to a banking transaction. Can we imagine Trump? Positively?
Luke 19:21 For I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You withdraw what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’
Accounts (4)In this fascinating passage we can wonder who is “he” and who is the “manager”…
Luke 16:2 So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’