It should come as a surprise to no one that Big Eva would eventually condemn the actions of WallStreetBets. Christianity Today would go out of its way to obfuscate the moralities of hedge funds and retail stock market investing by taking a parable of Jesus out of context, and then bait and switching the reader into supporting Social Justice. Michael Rhodes writes the article titled “In the GameStop Frenzy, What If We’re All the 1 Percent?” The key Bible passage ripped out of context is Luke 12:13-21.
13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”NASB 1995
In reference to this passage, Rhodes writes:
While the vast majority of farmers in Jesus’ day would have been engaged in some form of subsistence agriculture, large landowners were increasingly profiting off grain speculation. Those who had enough of an agricultural surplus could afford to keep their grain off the market while prices were low. Then, when grain was scarce and people were hungry, they could sell their surplus at a massive profit. Such speculation wreaked havoc on the local economy while allowing the opportunist to profit both financially and socially from the chaos he helped create.
Let us assume what Rhodes writes about grain speculation is true. Jesus does not condemn the rich man’s actions in building a building a larger barn to store his surplus grain. Verse 19 is where we see the real reason for the rich man in this parable being labeled a fool. The purpose of this parable is to condemn the poor people who want to be that rich fool. This parable is about condemning covetousness. The rich man was a man who thought that he could prolong his life with his wealth and that his wealth was all that he needed. It’s not his shrewd business practices that are condemned; it’s his materialism. This parable points out that the man coveting his rich neighbor is just as foolish because they are driven by the same ravenous desire. Rhodes continues:
Against this background, Jesus condemns at least two aspects of the rich man’s greed. Not only does the rich man fail to share from his abundance, but he apparently plans to use the economic power his abundance affords him to gain further riches for himself at the expense of his neighbors.
Taking the wrong lesson from this passage, Rhodes speaks as though creating a hedge fund can only be motivated by greed. This is not to say that current practices of hedge funds are benign in their motivations, but the pursuit of profit is not sinful in and of itself whether it’s a hedge fund or a family business.
Jesus’ parable offers a warning to those who made ludicrous profits while creating a crisis that devastated the global economy.
He is referring to 2008, not 2020. I would blame the government for 2008, because the banks operated with a system where they were encouraged to shell out risky loans because they had assurance of a bailout. The symbiotic relationship was alive back then with the notion of “too big to fail.”
It’s hard to imagine that the Jesus who characterized a first-century agro-entrepreneur as a malicious fool would overlook the way bank CEOs claimed multimillion-dollar Wall Street bonuses while Main Street burned. Surely the Jesus who sniffed out the money-loving Pharisees’ hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) would have something to say about modern-day financial market manipulation.
These reeks of covetousness, which is understandable considering he misread the parable. Rhodes next articulates that the man who asked Jesus to demand his brother divide the family inheritance was likely destitute. Rhodes goes on to make a suggest that WallStreetBets was a movement full of Christians which was rather odd (I supported the movement but partook late in the game with very little of my Robinhood account dedicated to it.) I do not think market manipulation in and of itself is morally wrong. However, the double standard that the system applies to market manipulation is. But Rhodes shifts his argument to say that those in WallStreetBets are the 1%.
The danger here is much bigger than this week’s stock market story. The danger is that in the face of a deeply dysfunctional economic system and corruption by the super-rich, middle-class American Christians forget that in global and historical terms, we are the 1 percent.
This is inconsiderate as saying your problems are meaningless unless you’re a starving child in Africa, with AIDS. The inverse of that would be your happiness is nothing compared to the rich hedge fund billionaire riding on a jet ski at their third vacation home. This is soft-minding thinking.
Every single investor in GameStop lives a life of unimaginable comfort and wealth compared to the vast majority of those Jesus warned about their greed. Most of us are richer than the fictitious rich fool in terms of life expectancy, health, and luxury items. Economically speaking, compared to the typical first-century Jesus-follower, we are kings and pharaohs living lives of unimaginable security and ease. Yet middle-class Christians consistently read Jesus’ warning about the wealthy as applying to somebody else. We, the richest people who have ever lived, read ourselves in the role of the peasant and find somebody further up the economic ladder to play the part of the fool.
This is pure nonsense, every word. Rhodes has an inaccurate understanding of wealth that is conflated with standard of living. A man working for Google making $100000, while renting a coffin apartment in San Francisco is not rich. He is running a rat race. A family living paycheck to paycheck in order to remain in this high standard of living society is not wealthy. To call them such is demeaning to their struggle. People exist in the times that God places them to exist in and survive by the means that are available. Just because Crassus did not own an iPhone doesn’t mean that he was impoverished by today’s standards. In fact should we not judge the value of what people owned back then by it’s market value today for an honest comparison. In America we have to make enough income to stay alive in this high standard society. And an increasing number of Americans, in many instances due to government housing policies, are struggling to keep up with the race. The number of people who do not have emergency funds should tell you just how many people live with ease. Rhodes returns to the issue at-hand arguing:
But we shouldn’t confuse fighting for a better seat at the blackjack table with confronting an economy addicted to gambling. That’s especially true when either gambler’s loss can wreak havoc on the lives of others. After all, it’s not just Wall Street financiers who invest in hedge funds; pension funds, like the ones that fund the retirements of school teachers and firefighters, do too. We ignore the ways we are the rich fools at our own moral and spiritual peril and at our neighbors’ expense.
Jesus doesn’t tell his flock to beat the rich fool at his own game. He invites them to live an economic life free from greed or fear, storing up treasure in heaven by giving generously to the poor (Luke 12:33).
This is a truism. He is using words Jesus obviously did not say to make a larger point that does not necessarily apply. Most of the private sector has moved away from pension programs because they are outdated, but Rhodes implies that otherwise struggling pensions were selfishly harmed by the WallStreetBets movement. Being the rich fool is about motivations, not actions.
If we want to invest in Jesus’ kingdom, I suspect there are better ways than squeezing hedge funds. We could invest in black and brown business with the help of lending platforms like WeFunder and Kiva. We could invest our money and social connections in organizations that help the economically poor build wealth through education or homeownership. We could creatively protest some of the dysfunctions of our economic system while remembering that Jesus’ parable is a warning for us as much as it is for financial professionals.
And theirs the bait and switch. Instead of “gambling” on the stock market, he suggests gambling Social Justice. The race of a business owner has no bearing on the ability for the business to survive outside of very bona fide instances. The last line is completely lacking self-awareness. WallStreetBets was the creative protest of the system that he speaks of.
The misapplication of Scripture to obfuscate a cut and dry situation is a terrible witness. Rather than using people’s anger as a means to preach the gospel, Christianity Today would much rather lecture Christians about how wealthy they are in an earthly sense and then convince them to support woke causes.
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