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It’s Christmas 2021, and Jesus Is Still Not a Socialist
It’s that time of year again where we celebrate the giving of gifts, Santa Claus, Covid tests, and mask-wearing at the Christmas dinner table. (Psst Psst… who? Oh yeah!) And the birth of Jesus Christ! How could I forget?
As it usually happens when Christian holidays come around, ideas of who Jesus is and what he stood for becoming topics of conversation. Members of progressive Christian movements and other leftist groups often say how Jesus was a socialist and use that as a means to demonize those who believe in capitalism and/or traditional Christian orthodoxy.
From what we read in the Bible, Jesus does not directly tell us how he feels about this topic or similar topics like economic and political structures, the way government is ruled, how government should tax, etc., all of which simply seemed not to hold as much importance with him as the forgiveness of sin and to be the bridge that connects man with God. But that will be the topic for another day. For today though, let’s look deeper and see if the Progressives are correct. Was Jesus a socialist?
Given what we read and know about Jesus from the scriptures, I think it’s fair to say that a reasonable hypothesis can be made regarding his thoughts on socialism. As for those who say he was a socialist, they point out several different areas of scripture to back up their claims.
First, in the book of Matthew, a wealthy man comes up to Jesus wanting to know what he must do to get into heaven, and Jesus tells him to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. This leaves the rich man to walk away sad and gloomy. Progressives see this as an admission from Jesus that the wealthy must have their wealth redistributed among the people in an effort to bring about equity, making him a socialist. The problem with this theory is how the distribution of money occurs when it comes to socialism. In Jesus’ instance, he tells the man what he should do, but he doesn’t force him to do it–-it’s the man’s choice whether he will sell and give to the poor or hoard it for himself. In giving the rich man a choice, Jesus shows where the man’s heart is.
In socialism, no one has a choice. The government simply takes individuals’ money and spreads it out among the masses, making it so that people are not freely giving from the heart, which is what a genuinely caring society does. Therefore, in this instance, Jesus does not show himself as a socialist.
Continuing, after the rich man leaves, Jesus goes on to say how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Progressives look at this as evidence that rich people can’t get into heaven, but, of course, there are multiple problems with this idea. When people think of the “eye of the needle,” often they associate that with an actual sewing needle, and obviously, a camel can’t fit through that. But that’s not the type of needle Jesus was referring to: Back in Jesus’ time, when entering a city, people and animals had to pass through a small gateway called a “needle,” and camels had to go on their knees to get through. This was certainly not an easy task, but it was doable.
Therefore, the example is not to say that wealthy people cannot get into heaven, but rather that the lure and possession of great wealth often stand in the way of a person’s relationship with God, making it tougher to get there.
Another passage from scripture that progressives like to point out to back up their claims comes out of the book of Acts, in which Christians were selling all of their possessions in an effort to help meet each other’s needs. An argument can be made that the way they were living would imply they were pro-communism. However, that argument falls apart with the understanding that what they were doing was completely voluntary and probably necessary at that time for the early church. However, nowhere in scripture is it commanded or expected as a means of living for all who would believe in Christ in the future. If Christian believers wanted to live this way, nothing in scripture would stop them from doing so either. What’s essential to understand, though, is that it must be by one’s free will (free will being one of the most important biblical concepts to understand) that they choose to do this. Jesus wants us to help the unfortunate with our giving, but it must come from the heart rather than government compulsion.
If that’s not enough to convince you that Jesus was not a socialist, then we can look at Matthew 2: the parable of the talents (talents referring to a sum of money.) It begins as follows: “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property, To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”
The story continues to tell how, upon the master’s return, the two servants who were entrusted the greater number of talents had invested them in order to make large gains for their master, while the third servant did nothing but secure the talent. The master goes on to praise the first two and reward them with more money in their care, but chastises the one that did nothing and takes away what little he entrusted him with in the first place. This parable shows that Jesus taught the value of hard work and proportional reward for it, rather than even distribution of wealth despite work ethic. The idea that everyone should receive the same of everything simply flies in the face of not only common sense, but what Jesus taught.
Socialism literally encourages mediocrity; its construct is designed to destroy people’s desire to do more to make gains. Then again, socialists might try to argue the flip side: that greed, or in their words, “capitalism,” creates greed-obsessed individuals and a society that is stacked against those who have less, which scripture clearly shows us that Jesus would be against. But capitalism in its purest form does not do these things, nor does it encourage greed to the point of harming others. Instead, it simply rewards those who use their abilities to the extent they use them. Nothing more. Nothing less.
What progressives may not understand is that not only was Jesus not a socialist, but socialism in and of itself breaks several of the Ten Commandments. The eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.” One might ask, “how is making everything equal stealing?” Well, if you have to forcibly take from some to give to others, that by definition, is stealing.
Next, the tenth commandment God gave Moses was, “Thou shalt not covet.” If we feel bad because we want something someone else has, we’re coveting, and that’s exactly what socialists are doing when they constantly say that people “have too much” or that “they don’t deserve what they’ve got.” And not only are they coveting, but these socialists are discounting the efforts people have gone through to get those things they have. They discount the work people have put in and the risks they have taken to achieve their goals.
Upon further examination, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was not a socialist. He was far from it. Many of the things he said, parables he preached, stories he told, and messages in the Bible all back up the fact that governments should not be responsible for making life “equal” for all people.
Jesus, and the Bible as a whole, do not preach equality of outcome but instead emphasize people working hard and making intelligent decisions. That being said, Jesus still calls on his followers to meet the needs of those who find themselves in a tough place. But does that make him a socialist? No, it most certainly does not.
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