Updated: Jun 25
By Providence C.
Was Jesus a Socialist? Many people question whether or not Jesus of Nazareth promoted and supported the ideas of a socialist government. That question can be emphatically answered no.
Socialism can be defined as “an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels” (World English Dictionary). By this definition, Jesus can be said to espouse some socialist views, but he does so only within the confines of His Church, not secular government. Out of love for God and fellow man, Christ taught His followers to voluntarily and charitably give of their possessions to care for and respond to the need of the most vulnerable in society; the sick, elderly, poor, widow, and orphan.
The visible church, the people of God, was to be a conduit for healing and deliverance through proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ saves; a message of hope to a lost and dying , world. All who acknowledged and turned from their sin, received Him and placed their trust in His name (whether rich in this world or poor) would be awarded eternal life (Jn. 1:12). Through Christ’s example, His disciples were taught that preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, the worship of God Almighty, and righteous living were to be primary focuses in this life, not accumulation of wealth or material goods. The poor were warned not to covet (Lk. 12:13-21) or be anxious about temporal hardships (Phil. 4:6), and the rich were cautioned not to trust in uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17) and admonished to give generously. Because of sin, the poor and the rich alike were both spiritually depraved and in need of salvation. The Church was tasked to share the gospel, while showing the same concern for the needs of all people as Christ did. The Problem with Socialism The concept of socialism in government (government-sanctioned equality of outcome) is not biblical. Joel McDurmon said it best when he affirmed that the Bible has “never spoke a single verse in support of government involvement in charity, health, education, or business . . . Where is universal health care in the Bible? Where is government-guaranteed minimum wage in the Bible? Jesus accepted wages to be negotiated between workers and employers, not guaranteed by government decree.” Jesus never proposed that any secular king or government should take on the role of provider or savior. Government was established by God to punish evil and promote good (Rom. 13:1-5), and administer justice (1 Pt. 2:13-15). Its function was not to make victims of its citizens by robbing and forcing charitable acts upon the most productive in society to subsidize government prioritized charity; where its citizens were forced to succumb to that government’s definition of equity and fairness concerning one’s fortune, health, and personal sustenance; where acquiring wealth was considered criminal and immoral; where a man’s worth was measured merely by earthly standards; where Christ was nowhere preached. Besides increasing poverty through minimizing economic growth and opportunity, socialism creates a vast social and financial imbalance by placing most societal resources in the hands of a few bureaucratic bandits and politicians who relegate individual freedoms. These bandits, as McDurmon has noted, “redistribute wealth evenly despite an individuals’ productivity.” Thus, socialism reduces incentive and motivation and discourages hard work. Scripture taught just the opposite. Individual responsibility, owning private property, inheritance of wealth, hard work in exchange of personal reward or profit, and wise stewardship were encouraged throughout Scripture. Laziness, idleness, and gratuitously remaining a monetary burden to others were rebuked. All able-bodied men, poor or otherwise, were required to work (Ex. 23:11, Lev. 19:9). The poor were encouraged to help themselves; the disciples taught that every able-bodied individual was to work and contribute toward their own livelihood. The Apostle Paul commanded this, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:6-10). Other biblical passages support the same. Socialism remains unbiblical even, like McDurmon said, when you use the poor to try and justify it. Some proponents of socialism claim the advice such as the Apostle Paul gave to the Church at Corinth in His second epistle to them prove equality of outcome is a biblical principle that should be held by all.
The Apostle stated, “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. And in this I give advice . . . by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:9-13).
Essentially, Paul knew that all wealth belonged to the Lord, and men were mere stewards. His advice and challenge for believers was to emulate Christ’s selflessness in giving. People with material wealth, because of their abundance, were in a position to help the poor. If everyone followed Christ’s example, then men’s basic needs would be met. Jesus showed mercy to all people and He especially cared for the poor; He loved them, He rebuked them, He corrected them, He taught them, He fed them. Believers should do the same. Generosity was a principle strongly promoted throughout the Bible and the concept of giving was valued, not only so that none should lack anything, but so that money would not become their taskmaster. Those who gave charitably were considered good stewards (1 Pet. 4:9-10). Christian giving was always voluntary and “as each has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7) unlike in socialist governments in which giving is coerced and involuntary. Biblical charity involved choice. God commanded men that when they gave, they were to give generously and do so without a grudging heart” (Deut. 15:10).
Pause for a moment and reflect
Wealth is Not Evil
The Bible indicated that certain believers had been entrusted with riches (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, etc.) and others had lived in poverty. Although Christ encouraged the idea of community and admonished believers to care for the poor, He never guaranteed any man an income, poor or otherwise, nor did He rectify inequalities in material wealth (see the parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30). In the book of Luke, a man from the crowd asked Christ to make his brother share his wealth with him. The man demanded, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Lk. 12:13-14).
Jesus observed men’s attitudes towards money and possessions, and He addressed the very condition of their heart, which Scripture taught was deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9). Christ rebuked men, both rich and poor; those who would make money their idol, those who suffered greed, those who coveted, and those who would seek after riches instead of seeking the kingdom. Over and over again Jesus redirected mankind away from being consumed with material possessions and the accumulation of them, because serving God and serving possessions were incompatible. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24).
Community not Communism
Certainly some modern Christian communities have taken to modeling after the first-century church in Jerusalem, where the believers were said to have given all of their possessions and they held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35). This idea of a communal church in which no property was privately owned and all things were shared equally has had some appeal for modern believers. Yet, in the context of the early church, which suffered great persecution at the hands of the Roman government, community was all they had. Until the rule of fourth-century Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was outlawed and Christians did not share in the wealth that is common for some Christians today. Christians held no positions of authority, they had no political power, and they did not live peacefully among other Roman citizens, and they could in no way look to their government for any type of assistance or help.
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Because persecution was so severe in the land, these citizens voluntarily gave all they had for their common good, so that all of their brethren may both worship God AND eat. Consistent with the teachings in the Bible, they did what they wished with their own property. As in Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner proclaimed, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15) These early Christians did not cling to material wealth or possessions but lived each moment not knowing if it would be their last.
The early church’s communal experience in Jerusalem ended as early as the first century with the scattering of the saints to other regions due to persecution (Acts 8:1). And despite persecution, Christians preached the gospel everywhere. They, like their Messiah, cared for the poor in spirit above all and in addressing the physical needs of a man, that man became more receptive to God’s message of salvation and redemption. Christians were generous in giving and they served the underprivileged while sharing God’s message of love and hope to the unsaved masses. Secular governments, on the other hand have robbed and oppressed in the name of righteousness, tyrants have abused their citizens in the name of goodwill; all under the guise of equality.
Come back tomorrow for PT ... the Conclusion