Free Market Capitalism Viewed From a Christian Context

Businessman praying in office

What is our purpose? We are not on this earth simply to survive, but to flourish. God created us in His image to use our gifts to help others. We cannot flourish as a society if far too many are living in broken, impoverished conditions. We need to help and serve the poor; we must use our time and talents to lift others up.

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. Proverbs 22:9, ESV

From a Christian worldview perspective, the context of the free market is an external perspective of serving others called servant leadership. To take this one step further, God’s ultimate purpose for us is to glorify Him through serving others. If we love our neighbor, we think of their needs. We survey them and seek to serve their interests. Wealth — or, better yet, abundance — flows freely toward those who serve and lead as stewards to others, our society and our earth.

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor.” Deuteronomy 15:11, ESV

Adam Smith, the 18th-century advocate of free markets, clearly established a criterion under which a society is judged by how its poor are treated:

"No society can be regarded as flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable."1

How Can a Society Become Prosperous and Bring Others Out of Poverty?

Capitalism is an approach that promotes social cooperation and motivates members in society to solve problems. Economists Eric Beinhocker and Nick Hanauer posited that capitalism encourages people to solve problems and create solutions for society.2 A free market system is one in which economic production and consumption are determined by the free choices of individuals rather than by governments, and this process is grounded in private ownership of the means of production.3

Free market capitalism, according to the Arizona chapter of Conscious Capitalism, has empowered many individuals to overcome poverty.4

Discussions of capitalism often revolve around rule of law, property rights, voluntary exchange, profit motive and competition, which are the economic terms that articulate the free-market system. However, the free market is not an engineered or prescribed process, because free-thinking human actors are the most important element in this system. It is the social capital of ethical decision-making, integrity and morality that allows this cooperative interaction to succeed for the greater good. It is imperative for businesses to serve society in an ethical manner, and we see this in action every day through voluntary exchange.

Unfortunately, businesses do not always operate ethically. Some have sought to serve only themselves and have neglected their higher purpose of serving the greater good of society. The leaders of these companies make short-sighted decisions to benefit shareholders or themselves and fail to account for the long-term impacts those decisions might have for their employees, the community and the environment. However, such failings are due to human imperfection, not the concept of free market capitalism. Every economic or government system requires its participants to make moral and ethical decisions that respect human dignity in helping others.

Christian Principles Promote Generosity and Serving Others

An external perspective of higher purpose is to serve God, not to pursue material possessions or money. The Bible encourages us to use our God-given talents to help others and make rational economic decisions by valuing private property, being good stewards and holding people accountable. Above all else, Christian principles compel us to make moral and ethical decisions that serve society and elevate humanity through service to others, for we are all created in God’s image.

So then each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:12, ESV

Christians aspire to serve others and to help those in need. Capitalism with a Christian worldview is simply business with an external perspective to serve others. This perspective advocates that a company ought to articulate their higher purpose and have ethical leadership under which decisions are made to help all stakeholders. Such businesses will create employment opportunities and help communities develop with improved school systems and healthcare access. But for all this to happen, value must be created, revenue must be generated, and innovation and entrepreneurial freedom must be fostered by society. Everyone benefits by getting behind such an initiative.

Capitalism simply allows the free market principles of human cooperation, ethical decision-making, voluntary exchange, open competition and access to markets to elevate the human condition. Economic freedom will lead to prosperity and human flourishing, promote love toward others and encourage helping those in need.

The Christian case for free market capitalism incorporates the complexity of an economic system based on social cooperation and free will — that is, individuals making ethical choices that promote creative solutions to society’s problems. Economic freedom incentivizes people to pursue their talents and earn their own abundance. That is our purpose: to help create a better world by living out our faith through creating value, being good stewards to society and lifting others up.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. Proverbs 19:17, ESV

If you are interested in learning more about business or Christianity, consider Grand Canyon University’s campus or online degree programs. GCU’s Colangelo College of Business helps students to develop their understanding of servant leadership and conscious capitalism. For more information, click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

Retrieved from:

1Smith, A. (1976) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (p. 96). (LibertyClassics ed.) Oxford University Press

2McKinsey & Company, Redefining Capitalism in September 2021

3Grudem, W. & Asmus, B (2013). The poverty of nations: a sustainable solution. Crossway publishing, pp. 131-132.

4Conscious Capitalism Arizona Chapter, About Conscious Capitalism Arizona in September 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.