A “Coffee with Lazarus” Post


“Greed, greed, greed!”

“Freedom, freedom, freedom!”

Lazarus and I had been going around in circles for some time. He kept pressing home the greed issue. “Isn’t greed a form of idolatry?” He insisted.

I knew the Apostle Paul’s warning about it: “Put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry,” Colossians 3:5. I’ve always thought it telling that people who harp on the greed issue will focus on its evil but ignore the first items of that list. That’s another discussion, I suppose.

“Doesn’t your capitalist system just allow people to give free reign to their greed?” Lazarus persisted. He always pushes me without giving me answers. Sometimes I feel as if our coffees are more debates than discussions.

“Ever since the Garden, hasn’t God given us the freedom to choose?” I countered. “An economic system, like socialism, takes away that freedom under the guise of ridding society of greed. And make no mistake, it’s a ruse. There is just as much greed in government as in the private sector.”

“So, you’d rather give people the freedom to pursue money,” Lazarus tried to make it sound pejorative.

“I’d rather allow people the freedom to pursue opportunities of their own choosing. Money has its pitfalls, but we all need it. Even the Good Samaritan had money. How else could he have helped the man on the road?” (Luke 10:25-37). I’d always wondered how people could ignore that. “Do you think a government-run, socialist system can keep greed out?”

“Something has to put a curb on greed,” he persisted.

“Seriously, Lazarus, even you don’t believe that any government can do that.”

He just grinned.

“I think Milton Friedman had that right.” I referred to a contemporary economist. “Anyone who believes socialism is the answer to income inequality is ignorant of the true facts about socialism, much less about how capitalism has lifted so many people out of poverty. You know the history of Russia, Communist China, Venezuela, and Cuba.”

“Please don’t remind me,” he looked pained. After a pause, he continued, “OK. You make some good points. Do you think your country is headed in that direction?” He was pushing me to my real concern.

“One party is the part of Bernie ‘bread-lines-are-a-good-thing’ Sanders.”

“What did you call him?” Lazarus seemed a little taken back by my brashness.

“A number of years ago Bernie Sanders said bread lines are a good thing.”

“What does that have to do with his party platform?”

“Regardless what their candidate says, it’s a good bet that the party will move closer and closer to a socialist system with the help and influence of Bernie ‘you know who’.”

“So that’s part of your concern here?” Lazarus queried.

“I think capitalism for all its faults is the best way to lift people out of poverty and provide the means of human flourishing. History has demonstrated that. A lot of people have been misled to think it creates a utopia.”

“Well you’ve made some good points,” he said after a long pause. “I’ve seen the history of some of those countries you mentioned. Not what I want to see again.”

After some moments, I said, “Is it time to go? We can discuss this quite a bit more if you want to.”

“I think there is a lot more to discuss,” he said as he finished his drink, got up, and walked through the mist out of sight.

I agreed. Much more to be discussed.