Why Do We Hate This Guy?   17 comments

An Investment in Others

“For [the Kingdom of God] is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his [employees] and entrusted his property to them. To one, he gave five talents (a talent was worth about $25,000, so about $125,000). He gave two talents (about $50,000) to a second employee and to a third employee he gave one talent. He made this dispersal according to each worker’s ability. Then he went on his journey.

The one who received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two talents gained two more. But the third worker who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground to hide his [employer’s] money.

19 After a long time, the [employer of the workers] came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents and, see I’ve gained five more (so he now has a quarter-million dollars).

21 [The employer] answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful [employee]! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 

22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ (he now has $100,000). His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful [employee]! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26 But his [employer] answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  Matthew 25:14-29

Two Interpretations

I made a few changes to the text to update the story. There’s two ways to view this story. One is Jesus was talking about spiritual matters. God gives each believer talents and we’re supposed to invest them wisely for His kingdom. If we squander them, we’re wicked and we’ll be tossed out of heaven (this interpretation contradicts other parts of Scripture, by the way).

The other way is to interpret it as an economic tale. A wealthy man has some extra cash and other things to do, so he distributes some investment funds to three employees and then goes about his own business. He doesn’t micromanage them. Two of them understand what he wants — although the story doesn’t detail the conversation, I suspect there either was one or the employees had worked for him long enough to know what he wanted. Two of them got busy making a profit. The third guy, reasoning his employer was an abusive hard-ass, buried his investment seed money in the backyard. Eventually, the employer came back and asked for an accounting. The two entrepreneurs were praised for their industry. It doesn’t appear he asked for the money back (in the end, he gives the one unused talent to the one who “has 10”. Apparently, he’s going to allow them to continue to manage those funds.

Does that sound like an abusive hard-ass? It doesn’t to me. Would you like to work for him? He sounds like a great boss, actually. He invests in his employees, allows them to manage accounts, doesn’t micromanage, and he celebrates their successes with them. He gives them more responsibility when they’ve shown they can handle it.

But the third guy didn’t see it that way. He accused his employee of being abusive and Scrooge-like. You’d think this was a horrible man to work for. Why?

I’m-a Victim-Mentality

Apparently, the socialist assertion of “I’m a victim of the rich man” has been around for time immemorial. Jesus knew about it 2000 years ago. And many of us read this parable and assume the third guy was telling the truth about his employer…ignoring that he had two great interactions with the first two employees. He was generous, he was trusting, he just expected a return on his investment. There’s no real expectations asserted. He would have been happy with bank interest. But the third guy assumed he was not a nice man and so they didn’t have a good interaction. The employer who knew he’d been generous and trusting, was insulted by this man’s false assertion that he was not a good man. “You knew, did you? Well, okay, let me show you the guy you think I am. Get out! Don’t let the gate hit you on the way out.”

It’s hard to blame him. The third employee was pretty ungrateful for what he’d been given.

God Is Not a Cosmic Meany

We can learn multiple things from this parable. It doesn’t require just one interpretation. It’s also important to understand the context in which Jesus told this parable.

Jesus was preaching in a house and just prior to this parable, some men started tearing into the roof to lower a friend on a pallet down to Him because they believed Jesus could heal their friend’s paralysis. Jesus forgave his sins, which might have been a little disappointing to these men who had gone to all this trouble for this man to walk. But the scribes in the crowd were thinking “How dare He pretend He can forgive sins. He’s blaspheming, saying He’s God.” Of course, we know Jesus is God. He was just exercising the authority that was His by right. They were judgmental stone-chuckers. So, Jesus — knowing the hearts of men and reading their thoughts (they never said this aloud) said “Why do you think evil thoughts? Which is easier – to forgive his sins or to heal his legs?”

Let’s be honest. Forgiving sin is mostly invisible. It’s probably the harder thing to do, but it lacks the flash and bang of healing. Most skeptics would think “Uh huh, sure you forgave his sins. Delusional!” Jesus had addressed the paralytic’s bigger problem (sin is always our bigger problem), but just to assure the scribes knew they were thinking evil thoughts, He healed the man. They couldn’t deny what He did when the man picked up his pallet and left the room.

So, it’s interesting that right after this event, Jesus tells a parable about a generous rich man with two entrepreneurial workers and a third who thought he was a victim of a man who had done nothing but good for him.

God is highly generous with those He loves and for those of us who follow Him, there are rarely any regrets. I’ve never met a Christian who at the end of his life looked back and said “I should have been an atheist.” I’m sure a few exist, but I think they’re a minority.

And, yet, there are many people who have misapprehensions about God. They think He’s going to mistreat them. Some of that is the fault of Christians who do mistreat others, but more often than not, it’s simply a mistaken belief — a believe that God is a cosmic meanie and that if they give into Him, He’ll do them harm.

Rich People Can Be Good Guys

Let’s set out at the beginning — there are bad people in this world and some of them invest in businesses for nefarious reasons. Set that aside. They’re the minority. Most investors put money out there to help the business they’re investing in while also gaining a profit for themselves. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They combine their money with the industry of the investee. A hard-working investee will return a profit, though sometimes circumstances don’t work out. Investors know the risks of providing money to upstart ventures and investees should know that failing at an investment might mean that investor will not be available for the next venture. That’s not being mean. It’s called realism.

We too often destroy our chances in the world because we have an attitude that the world is against us — well, against “the little guy.” We refuse to try because we “know” the world won’t treat us right. “Poor people can’t get ahead.” Even when we meet generous people who are willing to help us, we hold a chip on our shoulder that will not allow us to take advantage of the help offered. “Yeah, I’ll make money, but they’ll make more money.” We self-talk ourselves right out of a beneficial relationship because we’re sure there’s something fishy about any “rich” person willing to risk their money on investing in someone who has less money.

But there are people in our world who look at all investors as evil. “The rich” are the source of every bad thing in society. They’re the reason people are poor. If they didn’t have all that money there’d be more for the rest of us.

For a whole host of economic reasons, this isn’t true. The rich are the job creators in a capitalist society and jobs are the pathway to prosperity. Sitting at home on government benefits is undignified, but it’s also limiting. You are stuck at a certain level of income and you can’t increase it legally (although there are people on government benefits who do engage in illegal activities to increase that limited income). One of the takeaways from the 1990’s Contract with America was that former welfare mothers had higher incomes from their jobs 10 years after they were forced to take jobs rather than sit at home. The wealthy generally create those jobs, either directly by the companies they own or indirectly through investing in smaller companies that then employ workers. Take their money away through taxation and they will create fewer jobs, either by curtailing their own business growth or their investment activities. And, that hurts poor people far more than their accumulation of wealth does.

Should Christians who are wealthy invest more of their spare cash in others? Of course — if indeed they actually have spare cash. One thing you learn if you interview the wealthy is that they often don’t have a lot of spare cash. Their money is invested in the businesses they own — the machinery of production, the buildings, the stock, the vehicles they use to transport that stock, etc. — or in the other businesses they don’t own, but do invest in. That money isn’t liquid. It’s value, not cold hard cash. But, yes, a wealthy person sitting on more than a year’s operating capital should probably consider being more generous with their money. Notice, I didn’t say they should give their money away. It’s a hard truth, but money given is often money wasted. People aren’t even grateful when you give it and they certainly aren’t grateful later when they’re out of money again and want more. Now, money invested and earned — that makes a difference in people’s lives. The rich person’s money mingles with the investee’s industry and creates something of real value.

And that only works if we accept that the rich people aren’t evil and if given the opportunity, can be a force for good in the world. And that’s understanding that in order to have 90 rich investors enriching the world through funding entrepreneurial ventures, you might need to accept 10 rich jerks who hoard their cash.

Posted September 30, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

17 responses to “Why Do We Hate This Guy?

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  1. I grew up in the post-WWII era, in which a reputed phrase from a chaplain at Pearl Harbor was commonly shared and understood: “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Do you you have to do and don’t expect help. You may get it, but don’t expect it.

    Those were also days in which many of the rich shared in the common mission. Actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber pilot and flight commander, who (against orders) few bombing missions over Germany in an unarmed aircraft. Go find someone like that now. All we have are stories of how rich kids evaded military service, to the point where the creation of a professional military and elimination of the draft institutionalized that exemption.

    The new threat is the push by the Waltons to create a market in water, allowing the price of water to increase with demand. It’s a mechanism to drive small farmers out of business and ultimately make it hard for any low income families to survive, all for extra profit. As Milton Friedman famously said, there is no equity in economic behavior. Or in our age, ethics. Any sense of fairness comes from government intervention in the system. That from a leading free-market economist. And in fact, government intervention has been twisted to the benefit of the wealthy. Remember the phrase, “too big to fail”?

    The parable is a story, and I don’t even know that you would find it in the oldest versions of the Bible. It’s not consistent with driving out the money changers from the temple, which Islam interpreted as a condemnation of lending money at interest and Christians embraced as good business. Jesus is about helping the needy and that the rich have almost no change of entering heaving (the same chance as a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” if I recall correctly). Indeed, it is said that Andrew Carnegie created his foundation out of a belief that anyone who dies rich is as much a failure in life as one who makes no effort to succeed.

    Modern evangelicals have equated Christianity with making money which I would argue is directly opposite of most teachings that can be traced back to Jesus.

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    • You would find it in the oldest version of the Bible. And you totally misunderstand the “camel-eye of the needle” reference. For one thing — the eye of the needle was a colloquial term for the man door in a city gate and, yes, a fully unloaded camel on its knees can get through those — as they did after the main gate had been closed for the night. It was difficult, but not impossible.

      And if you followed my writings in the past, you’d know I’m not a supporter of the prosperity cult. I simply think stealing other people’s income is still stealing, regardless whether they make a lot of money or not. And one of the 10 commandments is “Don’t steal”. It doesn’t say “Unless you can do it through the tax code.”

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      • The corollary is the notion of freely giving, which is largely absent. It’s surprising how many diverse views come together on greed leading to violence and destruction.

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      • I know a lot of people who give pretty freely to worthy causes. Most of them can afford it. I cant, so I give what I can and try not to feel guilty when I can’t.

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      • You and I are in the same place. The fact is that the wealthy give a much lower percent of their income on average to charity than do the rest of us (IRS data). Further, giving by the wealthy tends to be driven by taxes rather than generosity. The exceptions like the Gates provide cover for everyone else.

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      • Gates is no exception. He’s a totalitarian thug who uses the tax code’s protection of his foundation to try and force other people to do what he thinks is best and his primary goal is population reduction while making us believe he has our best interests at heart. He doesn’t. He has his own best interests at heart and I’d be willing to bet he makes more money from his foundation than he gives away. It’s all just hidden by smoke and mirrors and corporate welfare.

        And IRS data shows that those making over $250,000 a year pay 70% of all the tax revenue that goes to the federal government. Those making over a million a year pay 45% of the revenue. It helps this conversation if we deal with reality and not just our perceptions of things. If we discuss historically, the wealthy were far more generous when the government wasn’t coercing them toward “generosity.” Not sure Jeff Bezos would become Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockafeller if he got to keep more of his wealth, but some of our rich people might feel that urge if they didn’t have a government gun to their head requiring it.

        And nowhere in the Bible does it say “Force your neighbor to be generous.” It says we are individually responsible to give what we can. Trying to find texts that say otherwise is merely trying to force the Scriptures into supporting a political position that was alien to the times in which they were written.

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      • Not sure I see your point. If you look at the ITEP chart (https://itep.org/who-pays-taxes-in-america-in-2020) the proportions look pretty close to the distribution of income. The top 1% generate 20.9% of income and pay 24.3% of taxes. The next 4% generate 15.5% of income and pay 16.3% of taxes. The bottom 20% generate 2.8% of income and pay 2% of taxes. The poor don’t have the offshore tax havens in Belize with which to evade taxes, which many of the rich including some politicians are using. If you look at total wealth rather than income, the poor are actually subsidizing the rich.

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      • Who creates that wealth before it is stolen from them? The government or the people who earned the income? Correct answer — not the government. The poor aren’t subsidizing the rich. It’s not their wealth. Most poor people wouldn’t have jobs if rich people didn’t create them through their investment in the economy. I’m not saying the wealthy subsidize the poor. They earn their incomes through their jobs. It’s their money — and also some of it is stolen from them by the government same as happens to the rich. But those jobs wouldn’t exist if rich people didn’t invest their wealth to create them. The government is not helping the poor when it takes money from the rich. It’s helping itself at the expense of everyone else.

        Our real concern should be that the government is stealing money from all of us and wasting it in unsustainable spending programs. Instead of fighting over whether the wealthy or the poor are more deserving of keeping some of their income, we should be united in taking away the government’s power to impoverish us all through the tax code, because that’s coming and soon. They’ll have no choice when Social Security and Medicare run out of money in 2025 about the same time the interest on the national debt reaches an unsustainable level and inflation goes through the roof.

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      • Agree with some of your points but not others. The current bet is that economic growth can pay our way out of the deficit. That’s worked before, but whether it canwork now is to be seen. On the rest, the counter argument is that without the tax code, Federal employment, and the peons working in private industry, most of todays rich wouldn’t be. The government is the largest employer in the US and the driver of most consumer and business spending. The question isn’t who is more deserving. The question is what’s required to maintain social order, a requisite for the dollar to have any value at all.

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      • That’s nonsense. History shows it’s nonsense. Whenever government takes money from the citizens and the private economy to spend on pet projects that may or may not be needed (hello, Solyndra, as just one example), it deprives the economy of its fuel. When money is generated and spent in the market economy, it passes through 6-7 hands, creating other jobs and the wealth that goes with it. When it is taken from the market economy to be used by government, it typically only passes through 2 or 3 hands, thus creating fewer jobs (and less wealth) overall. What’s more, it takes the taxes of at least three private sector workers to support every public sector worker. It’s therefore a cancer on the economy. It may be the largest single employer, but (pre-covid) small businesses with fewer than 100 employees still employed about 60% of the total workforce. And that money goes a lot further and passes through many more hands than does “government” money.

        Then there’s another issue that few people consider. It’s the “what is seen and what is unseen” effect. We see what the public sector does — let’s say builds a bridge — but we don’t see what didn’t happen because they built the bridge. Maybe they tore down some beautiful historic warehouses to make the bridge possible. Those warehouses were derelict at that time, but had they sat on the market another year, they would have been rehabbed by an entrepreur and turned into a mixed-use housing complex that would have generated a lot of tax revenue for the City. But since they were knocked down, now all we have is this bridge that would be really great for getting people to the factory that closed because the workers couldn’t find affordable housing within a comfortable distance. We don’t see that. And, the thing is, had a private-sector company built the bridge from start to finish, you can bet they’d maintain the thing rather than expecting the federal government to do it after a decade of neglect, which just costs more money. The bridge is cancer on the local economy, but nobody sees that because the government says we can’t have just anyone building bridges. I say, why not, since it is private sector companies contracting with the government to build all roads and bridges. The government doesn’t actually do it — they just take money from hard-working people to do it — whether it needs to be done or not. Maybe that bridge would have been more useful a mile further south, but it would have required tearing down the home of the mayor’s largest donor. We just don’t know because we only see what we see rather than what didn’t happen that might have been better.

        I suggest you read Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. It’s a little dated (1965, I think), but if you pause and reframe some of his topics to today’s economic situation, it all begins to make sense. We can look back historically and see that the national economy began to inextricably slow starting in the 1960s — right when government started spending an awful lot of money and depriving the market economy of its fuel.

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      • Actually, if you look at the wealthy merchants of the East India Company, or the rail tycoons of the US 19th century, or the DuPonts, the Rothchilds, or the oil industry, their wealth all came from the government — land grants, monopolies, contracts, war finance, and Churchill’s decision to convert the British fleet from coal to oil. The self-made man is mythology.

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      • Actually not true. Vanderbilt got into railroads because he hated monopolies, especially the ones created by government. Most of the early railroads were built without government funding, and even in the middle phase of railroad building they were mostly just granted land. The Great Northern didn’t take government funds, for example. Now, yes, there were plenty of railroad tycoons were resembled Elon Musk in getting rich through corporate welfare, but it is a mistake to claim this was the standard practice. It wasn’t. It just gets all the press in the history books.

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      • And, I’m not commenting on Churchill primarily because England’s industrialists have been in the UK government’s pockets since before the United States existed. They never really had a market economy. The current pretend-market economy is really just the off-spring of the old mercantilist system that caused all the problems with the American colonists in the first place. Certainly, we’re not the only country ever to give mostly free-market capitalism a try, but we’re one of the few who ever gave it a full-throated try. Sadly, we’ve degraded it with too many burdensome regulations and taxes and so it’s gradually grinding to a halt. Trump’s little short-lived boom is a suggestion of what might happen if taxes were lowered and regulations lightened. We almost had full employment and that even among historically-disadvantaged racial groups. We haven’t really had that since — well, the 1920s under Coolidge.

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      • Here. This a really interesting lecture about exactly what we’re discussing. When we watched it, my kid kept saying “That’s not true. That guy was a robber baron. We read about him in school.” But he as he was fact-checking Tom Woods about those “robber barons”, he learned his teachers only told him half the story or sometimes didn’t really tell him any of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VA9VZeox3g

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      • The argument is based more on philosophy than fact. Please Google Library of Congress “railroad land grants” and read. That’s just one of many examples of government enabling select people to achieve wealth. Regulation wad the result of abuses that threatened the economy. Why do we have a Securities and Exchange Commission? Because market economics is devoid of ethics and we don’t want ten Madoffs per honest businessman. What we have are people trying to revise history to fit a certain belief system, like the bullshit about the South freeing slaves before the Civil War started (yes, there are people claiming that). Facts are ugly and don’t fit neatly in boxes. We have a legacy of wealth tied to government handouts dating back to naval construction in the Revolutionary War. As I stated several posts ago, I agree with some of what you say, but the facts don’t support the broad generalizations you want to make.

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      • Looking for facts or comedy here? In the insurance industry, this is called twisting and its an illegal practice.

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      • You can fact-check it, man. I did and Woods is right. It’s certainly not what we’re taught in school, which should call into question what they’re teaching in schools.

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