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Was Jesus A Socialist?

Many people have misinterpreted the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Acts of the Apostles in order to promote a view that the government should be the conductor of redistribution of wealth.  Political figures have donned the mantra of “Christian Socialist” – from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

These misinformed persons often use the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37 in defense of socialism.  A synopsis:  A Jewish traveler is robbed and beaten and left by the road.  A priest and Levite, supposedly the most righteous of the citizenry, walk by the traveler but do not stop to help.  While a Samaritan, who is despised by the Jews and not a citizen, does stop and helps the man.  The Samaritan even takes the wounded traveler to an inn and pays for his housing and medical care.

Jesus’ summary of the parable is that the best neighbor is he who demonstrates mercy instead of merely appearing righteous.  Jesus commanded, “Go and do the same.”  Social progressives take this as a mandate that the state should be the primary entity to “show mercy” in the form of taxation and social entitlements.

This is a dreadful application of Luke 10.  It removes the parable from the entire context of the Bible’s teachings and subverts a command meant for individuals by incorrectly projecting it to governments.  In doing so, this creates a form of government that is vastly inferior to free market capitalism.

God does, in fact, ordain and establish governments.  According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to subject ourselves to the governing authorities.  America’s Founding Fathers took that another step by establishing American government as one “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  This sets up a whole new discussion of the uniqueness of the American Experiment and the circular submission of Americans with their government (a good topic for future postings).

Simply, God ordains governments for the suppression of evil.  In Genesis 9:5-6, the initial post-diluvian government was to be established upon capital punishment in order to suppress evil.  This was the extent of the affirmative directive from God.  It must be stressed ever so strongly, that the Bible never commands or mandates anything further for human government than to suppress evil.  Thus it is wrong to assert that God ordains active redistribution of wealth in a government.

Jesus commanded us in Luke 10:37 to take our personal abilities, talents and possessions and use them in showing mercy to other individuals.  Jesus demonstrated this by taking His own abilities and talents (which were considerable since He was God on earth) and used them to show mercy to other individuals.

Jesus never projected this command to any government. To take this command and extrapolate it to government is simply not in the text.  Let me repeat, the Bible makes no mandate whatsoever for a government to take the position of redistributors of wealth.

“But does not Romans 13:7 order us to pay taxes?” one may ask.  Yes!  But these taxes are for the government’s duty to restrain evil.  No mandate for taxes for entitlement programs was ever given.

Neither did Jesus compel or force His followers to give their wealth away.  Giving was to be voluntary and done cheerfully from the heart.  Those who gave with bad motives would lose their heavenly reward or, at worst, be struck down (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-9).

But did not the early Church of Jerusalem in Acts 4:32-36 sell all their goods and “distributed to each as anyone had need”?  Yes, they did do this.  But we must note again that their participation in this community was voluntary (Acts 5:4).

This same communal Church of Jerusalem, incidentally, was unable to withstand the worldwide famine that occurred during the Roman Emperor Claudius’ reign.  In fact, Christians in other cities, amidst the same famine, had to provide a “stimulus package” to the communal Jerusalem church (Acts 11:27-30).  This is not to assert that communal living was the absolute cause of the Jerusalem Church’s fiscal shortfall.  It is merely to say that their socialist structure was found to be insufficient in times of natural disaster.

This emphasizes the second point, that socialist forms of government are vastly inferior to free market capitalism.  Communism has never lifted the average standard of living of any society.  There are no examples of this happening ever in history.  Communism has only brought a population down to a lower average level.

The first American attempt at communism was also a failure.  The Pilgrims had a “common stock” contract upon their arrival in the new world.  We are very familiar with the suffering they endured.  After one year of misery, and several years of floundering, Governor Bradford initiated an ownership economy and the colony began to prosper.

The reason why communism does not work is that is goes against the very way God designed the human heart.  Since we were made in the image of God, His attributes of creativity and achievement (in the economic form of labor and entrepreneurship) are integral parts of our nature.  The impetus and reward of such entrepreneurship is enjoying its rewards – or enjoying the fruit of one’s labor.

Ecclesiastes 5:19  … For every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.

Psalms 128:2  When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.

Under the conditions of fruitfulness from private enterprise, citizens begin to give.  Americans give more than all other nations combined.  And of all Americans, Christian conservatives give the most.

Proverbs 21
25  The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work;
26  All day long he is craving, While the righteous gives and does not hold back.

There are many reasons why people endorse socialism.  Though some seem justified, none are good:

  • Their entrepreneurial spirit has been crushed.
  • They lack the confidence or knowledge to venture.
  • They are fearful of lack of provision.
  • They have lost assets to greedy people.
  • They are slothful and don’t want to work.
  • They are greedy and want things for free.
  • They want to have power by controlling other people.

Christianity effectively addresses each one of these afflictions and presents proven remedies for each … without endorsing socialism.

Yes, misinformed persons may endorse socialism, but let them not blame Jesus for it.

by Kenfen

12 Comments

  1. Shawn Morrison wrote:

    Question regarding the Jerusalem church’s “stimulus package”. Is this not a communal response from one church to another?

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  2. Shawn Morrison wrote:

    Let me address these if I may. Citing your quote –

    There are many reasons why people endorse socialism. Though some seem justified, none are good:

    Their entrepreneurial spirit has been crushed – Maybe in some cases.
    They lack the confidence or knowledge to venture. Or the capital to venture.
    They are fearful of lack of provision. – who isn’t?
    They have lost assets to greedy people – who hasn’t?
    They are slothful and don’t want to work. Please. Are you saying that only capitalists are not slothful?
    They are greedy and want things for free. Who isn’t?
    They want to have power by controlling other people – Don’t know exactly what you are trying to say here.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  3. Shawn Morrison wrote:

    Please cite your reference for the following statement:

    “And of all Americans, Christian conservatives give the most.”

    Additionally, are you including tithes and offerings to your church body?

    Please clarify.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  4. kenfen wrote:

    Thank you for your question, Shawn.

    Yes, it was a communal response. The emphasize being that it was voluntary … done out of a heart to give. It was not mandatory. Forced charity isn’t charity at all.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  5. kenfen wrote:

    Thank you again, Shawn, for your input.

    I did not indicate the listed reasons were singularly comprehensive. But I think we agree that these are conditions from which Jesus wants to free us.

    Jesus addressed fear of lack of provision in Matthew 6:26-34. Though we all occasionally succumb to this fear, He wants us to stop fearing and look to our heavenly Father. I believe there is an inverse relationship between trust in God and the endorsement of socialism. I hope that my blog will help fearful souls to turn to God instead of historically failing forms of government.

    Psalms 37:25
    I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

    I have indeed met a few slothful people who claim capitalist convictions.

    I was speaking of a class of people (politicians) who stay in power by promoting fear in the electorate. I have heard them described as “Victicrats” and “Class Warfarers”.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  6. kenfen wrote:

    My reference for the statement was Arthur Brook’s book Who Really Cares?. Within, the author addresses statistical data gleaned from the Population Panel of Income Dynamics (2001 and 2003), the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (2001), and eight other surveys. I highly recommend this book. It is superbly researched and foot-noted.

    Within, Brooks also addresses the statistics that show religious conservatives (in the U.S. they are mostly Christian) also give more than liberal secularists to causes like the Red Cross, soup kitchens, and even to the arts.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  7. Aaron wrote:

    In your words:
    “God ordains governments for the suppression of evil.”

    From Timothy 6:10:
    “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

    Capitalism is a system in which economic actors are driven by the need to earn money or profit, and in that sense it, as a system, encourages the love of money.

    Hence, the scripture argues that capitalism is evil and therefore, government should suppress it.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Michael Clifford wrote:

    Wow! really good blogging, I think people hide behind political ideas to avoid obeying Jesus, I see capitalism as the only system of ideas that allows us to be free to fail or succeed but in this way of living you must have self control( hard to have if you don’t trust the Lord.
    Thanks

    Friday, October 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  9. kenfen wrote:

    Aaron,
    Thank you for your comment.
    You have a premise that you need to prove before concluding that American Capitalism is evil:
    That the love or worship of money necessarily follows from the acquisition of money. My rejoinder to this is Can A Christian Acquire Wealth?
    How do you get your money? Is it not from investing your capital (education, intellect, skills) into a position where you have beaten the other lesser qualified candidates?
    Respectfully, Ken

    Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  10. Mike wrote:

    In any system there is greed. It’s the sin nature in man. Please don’t use the scripture of Tim 6:10 to justify your distain for capitalism, God encourages us to make a buck to provide for our self and family. Anything else we do for others should be out of a willing heart.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  11. Grant DeNormandie wrote:

    Shawn:

    Most socialist states have been dictatorships where democracy has been eliminated. Cuba is a good example. That is another connection between power mongering and socialism.

    Monday, November 7, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink
  12. I’ve just discovered your website and it’s addressing so many things that I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s just what I needed – a biblical perspective. Thanks so much!
    Lyn Williamson´s last blog post ..Chinese Capitalism: Everything A Leftist Never Wanted

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

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