A Terrible Sermon on Economics – Part 2

Continuing from the last post, dealing with Jeff Durbin’s terrible sermon on socialism, comes the worst offense, he says:

In first kings 21 you’re gonna see an example of a wicked king who wants to buy private property from a citizen. You know what the citizen tells him? No, and so then there’s a woman named Jezebel … who sees the king all distraught … He wants the guys property, they guy tells him No, he’s the government … But you know what she does? Jezebel actually forges something to have the State go against the guy, and they claimed and they found false witnesses to say that he actually blasphemed the king, and so then they kill him. They kill the guy, Jezebel has him murdered, so that the king can actually take his land.

And his application:

How does God feel about a government taking ownership of your property? The point of the story is the guy said “It’s mine you can’t have it” and this wicked king and his Jezebel thought “well, then I’ll take it by force.”

What makes this the worst offense of them all is that the actual text makes almost the complete opposite point. Jeff Durbin is trying to make it seem as though the story is that the government wanted to seize property for the state, this righteous man refused, out of his own autonomous private property rights, and then the state killed him. This, of course, is not the case at all. First of all, the King wanted to purchase the field, as an individual, not seize it as the state. King Ahab didn’t pass a law, he wasn’t proposing a tax, he wasn’t proposing nationalization, he wanted to buy the land, at market price, for his own personal garden.

So right from the get go Jeff Durbin is miss-characterizing the story, this begins with the King, acting as a private individual, wanting to make a private market place purchase. Then why does Naboth (the owner of the field) refuse to sell the land? Was it due to him simply not wanting to enter in the market transaction, and asserting his right to control his own property? Absolutely the opposite, in 1 Kings 21 (the NRSV) Naboth replies to the king saying:

 But Naboth said to Ahab, “YHWH forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”

”YHWH Forbid” is not a phrase analogous to saying ”Hell no” or ”Heaven forbid,” it is literally that God himself forbids that he should sell his ancestral inheritance. So the King James renders it:

And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

The reason Naboth says it is forbidden is because of the Jubilee law in Leviticus 25

10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.

and

 23 The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. 24 Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.

25 If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. 26 If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, 27 the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned. 28 But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned.

The reason Naboth wasn’t going to sell his land was because there was legislation in the Torah which forbid selling your ancestral land permanently. The land was not to be sold in perpetuity. It wasn’t him asserting his private property rights against the out of control state. No, rather it was the King wanting to overturn the law restricting private property rights and bring market exchange into a place that the law of God had restricted market exchange, the ancestral lands.

The economic lesson here, if there is one, is the opposite. Naboth did not have the right to do whatever he wanted with his land, the law restricted it; why did the law restrict it? In order to make sure that no one fell in need, it was a social welfare policy. When discussing a similar law, the Sabbatical year, Deuteronomy 15 says:

Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but you must remit your claim on whatever any member of your community owes you. There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy,

These economic legislations existed to protect the poor, restrict markets, and to advanced the welfare of the society.

Jeff Durbin makes it seem as though the story of Naboth was a story warning against state meddling in markets and private property, rather it was the story of a man who followed Gods law and didn’t assert his own autonomy over his property and didn’t bring into the market place what God had said didn’t belong there.

So why does Jeff Durbin, in this instance, so terribly twist scripture, use false logic and, frankly, deceive his audience when talking about this subject? I can’t read his mind, but I suspect the reason is more political and ideological than theological. Just like when Liberal theologians twist and turn to try and pretend that the New Testament doesn’t condemn homosexuality, Jeff Durbin and other conservative Christians will do any kind of exegetical and mental gymnastics to protect their sacred cow, Capitalism.

This is why political ideology needs to be far away from theology. Jeff Durbin’s entire sermon here is based on ideological assumptions, that property is absolute, rather than a social construct, and that nationalization is theft, but privatization is not. He also selectively takes Jesus’ parables literally, but only when it fits his ideology, and completely deceives his audience about the story of Naboth. His miss-applies the story of Ananias and Saphira, and pretends Romans 13 says things it clearly doesn’t. All because he must protect his favored idol, Capitalism.

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A Terrible Sermon on Economics – Part 2

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