St. John, private property, and the Parable of the Wolf and the Good Shepherd (2ndC AD)

Saint John

In the Gospel of St. John there is related a parable by Jesus about the wolf and the good shepherd. (10: 7-14). Only a property owner truly cares for his property and does what is necessary to protect it:

11- I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12- But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13- The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14- I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Scattered among the parables of the Christian Bible are many sound economic lessons gleaned from centuries of historical practice. In this parable John tells us about the junior employees who have no economic stake in the protection of the capital accumulated over time. When threatened by the appearance of the wolf the “employed” shepherd runs off leaving the flock (the invested capital) exposed to attack. Only the owner of the capital has a real economic interest in protecting that capital investment. Is this what Max Weber called the “Protestant work ethic”, or is it a universal truth applicable to all societies at all times?