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  • Writer's pictureShawn Thornton

Anti-Capitalist Monopoly

Wednesday - March 10th

Devotionals from the Book of James

Scripture to Read Today: James 5:1-6


Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers

who mowed your fields are crying out against you.

The cries of the harvesters have reached

the ears of the Lord Almighty.

James 5:4

Lizzie Magie patented the earliest version of what we know as the game of "Monopoly" in 1903. Her version of the game was designed to be anti-capitalist. Magie's "Landlord's Game" featured a board with increasingly pricey neighborhoods along with railroads and utilities. Three of the board's corners were nearly identical to our modern Monopoly board. The fourth courier was not labeled "Go." Go was replaced with a drawing of a globe encircled by the words, "Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages."

Many historians say that Magie intended her game to be a teaching tool about the injustices of capitalism. She was a fan of a political economist who thought landlords were parasites and advocated a "single tax" on them to replace all other taxes. Magie thought players would get tired of paying rent, and players who became landlords would see the evil of their ways. They would advocate for higher taxes in real life.

Lizzie Magie thought her game would wake people up to the injustices experienced by the average worker. People would stop pursuing wealth and success. They would instead share their wealth with others. But that's not what happened. Instead, the player who accumulated the most money won - the same outcome as our modern Monopoly. How does this teach us about the dark side of capitalism? It really doesn't. Most of the anti-capitalist themes Magie promoted in the game went way over the average player's head.

Many iterations of the game came and went before it was eventually patented and sold to Parker Brothers. It has been argued that capitalism provides the world the most remarkable economic system, but only if it has basic ethics and solid morality at its core. Without a deep sense of others-oriented values, capitalism can lead to brutalism.

James 5:4 communicates that the poor treatment of and inadequate pay to those who work for us gets the attention of God. He sees the injustice that comes as the result of mistreating workers or underpaying them. The Scriptures tell us in several passages that a worker is worthy of their hire.

Whether we lead a company that hires employees or we personally hire someone to mow our lawn or repair something in our home, they deserve to be treated with dignity and kindness. We should not manipulate others into doing something for us or pay them less than fair market value just because we can. Living and loving like Jesus includes treating others the way we would want them to treat us.

Have you taken advantage of someone or a situation in such a way that you mistreat others? There are no good excuses for injustice toward other people! If you know something in your past or present that would not represent Jesus well in how you treated someone you hired, confess it to God. Please find a way to seek their forgiveness and to make the situation right. As you move forward, pay laborers their worth. Don't cheat them. Don't take advantage of them.

God says those who work for us should be treated well. They deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work.

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