Jesus Was Not a Socialist
During election years, Joni and I find ourselves asking strangers (primarily waiters/waitresses) who they plan to vote for and why—mainly just for fun, but also to possibly preach Christ in some way. Usually, we end up discussing a policy or life principle, and we've heard all sorts of outlandish things. Recently, a young, thoughtful, Christian restaurant waiter (also a college student) told us that he liked socialism and the candidates who supported it. After hearing him out and then giving our Biblical rebuttal about how voluntarily helping the poor is completely different than having the government force us to by "Robin Hooding" our money away, he said something interesting.
But with this spreading deception in universities, the media, and in some Christian pulpits, we should "know how we ought to answer every man" so we can help innocent people understand. Does it really matter if some Christians lean toward the politically liberal side or the socialism side? It does for their sake—a believer who does not know the truth of God's principles is not totally free.
And it was on. He had opened himself up to a nice little Bible lesson. After his shallow reasons of "Jesus fed the poor" and "the good Samaritan", we briefly explained the way of God to him more accurately. I can't say he decided to change his vote, but he seemed to have a slight change of heart. "True. True. You make a good point", he said.
So was Jesus a socialist? I want to address this—not because I believe we should be leading the Church into a political campaign to fix a nation's government (that's what the millennial reign of Christ is for). But with this spreading deception in universities, the media, and in some Christian pulpits, we should "know how we ought to answer every man" so we can help innocent people understand. Does it really matter if some Christians lean toward the politically liberal side or the socialism side? It does for their sake—a believer who does not know the truth of God's principles is not totally free. Anyone who does not understand God's way as it relates to life's choices is not happy—"Happy... is the man who gets understanding" (Prov. 3:13).
But the answer is, No. Jesus was not a socialist. And neither the Church, nor the rich, nor any government is commanded to evenly distribute wealth to alleviate the poor. Here's why:
1. In the parable of the "talents" (Matt. 25:14-31), the lord made the poorest guy (who was unfaithful with his one talent) give his only talent to the guy who had doubled his five into ten. He called the poor guy "wicked and lazy". The rich got richer and the poor got poorer because the rich was attentive and faithful while the poor was unwise and negligent. God causes the same thing to happen today. Socialists want just the opposite.
2. Fairness in the business system does not mean "equal everything". Jesus told of the landowner who hired people throughout the day to work in his field. He offered the same amount to all, even though that meant some worked all day and some worked only an hour. The early workers complained. So, the landowner responds, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil (stingy, covetous)"? Fairness is in how we honor our word with people. And it's covetous to "manage" another person's money.
3. Jesus, through Paul, said by the Spirit, "that if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10) and called it "disorderly". Sluggards end up in poverty. How much should a person make for his work? That depends on what someone is willing to pay for its perceived value, and it depends on supply and demand for that skill set. Higher income people are not paid for their time, but for their expertise. Rather than coveting, the poor who want out of poverty should be striving for expertise and achievement. In the Bible, some people prospered, and some people didn't.
4. Jesus worked a miracle twice to feed thousands, but that doesn't mean we are commanded to perpetually feed the poor. Both instances were during gospel crusades, after people had sat under His ministry and were without food—one time for three days. We often do this overseas in our gospel campaigns, where we feed those who've had to journey for hours or days without food. This is that, and not an obligation for the Church or a government to provide for the masses.
5. Jesus believed in voluntary giving, but not the involuntary redistribution of wealth. Of course, we are to show mercy to the poor, and help the poor when we cross their paths, and not oppress the poor, and do good for all people as we can. But God doesn't allow us to steal from one to give to another, nor pass a law so the government can do it. It is impossible to eliminate the poverty of the poor en masse, as Jesus said we'd always have the poor with us.
6. Jesus did not make "social reform" part of our Christian commission. Our gospel command is to get people saved and make disciples. Our current Christian endeavor is to build the Church. And that's it. Anything we do outside that is only our civic involvement—more secular than divine—and though we can attempt to persuade people that one system is better than another (e.g. capitalism is more Biblical than socialism), it's still a secular system that we'll find great frustration in reforming.
7. Jesus is not nearly as interested in natural governments nor secular politics as we tend to be. And He does not yet control this world's institutions. “My kingdom (government) is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight…but now is My kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). When Jesus was asked to rule in financial favor of the man who wanted his brother to divide the inheritance, "He said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" (Luke 12: 14). We all wish that our kingdom authority included world system domination, but it doesn't—not yet at least. We can't have our theocracy just yet, and we'll have to be okay with that.
8. Within the Church, we help one another. Any time an offering was taken in the early church to feed the poor, it was always and only for the poor saints, and not for the general public. "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem" (Rom. 15:26). After Agabus' prophecy, they sent relief to the brethren in Judea (Acts 11:29). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). The Early Church combined and evenly distributed their goods among themselves a couple of times. But it wasn't mandatory. There is no Bible implication for society welfare programs.
Finally, there is warning for the rich, as it's impossible to serve God and mammon, it's hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and we must charge the rich to "do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Timothy 6:18). Greed is bad. But capitalism's hope for success, invention, growth, prosperity, and life improvement is not.