WVW: Socialist Christianity? - Acts and the Gospels
any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
If you’ve read the New Testament, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus calls his disciples to give to the needy and lend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Upon these observations, you might start looking at Jesus as being the first ever socialist. Is this true? How come then, were all the socialist nations of the 20thcentury strictly atheistic in their dogma? Something’s not lining up here…so, let’s take a look at some weird verses! #wvw
Telling The Difference
Matthew 19:21 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Acts 2:44-45 (NLT)
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
Luke 3:11 (NLT)
John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
Before we jump to conclusions about such verses, we have to ask ourselves, “Is this socialism or just examples of selflessness?” Socialism is government sanctioned—the citizen has no say in how most of their money is spent. When a socialist nation’s wealth gets redistributed, you don’t know who your money is getting distributed to. Instead, Jesus is interested in each and every one of our hearts. He wants us to give up our possessions and follow him because he knows how fulfilling it will be. Jesus is trying to get us to help the less fortunate as an act of a transformed heart, notthrough an institutionalized government sanction. Please, for the love of God, understand just how different these two things are. Socialism is forced upon you by governmental means, leaving out any room for the act to be personal or selfless. However, charity that comes out of love is the type of selfless giving that Jesus is calling us to. Go ahead and take a few minutes to meditate on just how different these two actions are.
Let’s put it into a chart:
done out of Love
giving up possessions
Acts 4:32-35 (NLT)
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
If anything, this sounds more like communism, because we see the apostles all working together towards a communal goal. However, true communism rejects any type of religion. It’s impossible—a complete contradiction—to try and say that the early Christian church were communists.
Now ask yourselves, “why were the apostles doing these things?” Was it because they all had the unified belief that socialism was what was best for everyone? No, that would be wildly reading into the texts. The apostles were transformed by the love of Christ, who supplied their every need. Jesus’s death and resurrection on the cross proved that he truly was God. This proved that he is the source of all life—the very person to have conquered death itself. Jesus extends this invitation of life to everyone that decides to follows him. That’s the message that unified the apostles—not some form of government.
Government is temporal and earthly, unlike the Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus was apolitical. His interests were so much greater than some temporal form of government, especially here on Earth. Jesus “campaigned” for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Romans 14:17 (NLT)
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
You can even see in Romans that Paul understood that Jesus’s teachings were not about following laws. They were about a radical change of heart that resulted in a righteous lifestyle, filled with God’s Holy Spirit. You do not find these things in socialism or communism.
Socialism dehumanizes the individual and makes the collective entity of the people the most important thing. Communism is also closely related to this. You might look at the apostles in that passage from Acts 2 and think that they were denying themselves their individual rights for the good of the collective effort, but I’d still disagree. Selflessness is not the same as dehumanizing. Again, God is interested in our hearts—not a collective, single heart for all of humanity. The Bible is filled with stories that focus on individuals, even though they appear in groups.
Listen to how God refers to Jeremiah’s unique personhood:
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Matthew 10:30 (ESV)
But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
God knows each one of us personally and desires a relationship with us out of his love for us. Like an adopted child longs to know who their real parents are so that they can truly understand their identity, we too long to know our true father, God, so that we can understand our identity.
Socialism is Theft
Everyone knows the 10 commandments, and number 8 is “thou shalt not steal.” Now I’m not making the argument that The Mosaic Law is still binding on us, meaning that if we break the law then we’ll never get to see God. That’s why Jesus came, so that in his death and resurrection we could be shown grace and be forgiven for our sins. However, this is to show that the ideals of Socialism and God’s laws cannot coexist. You might be asking, “since when is socialism theft? If it’s sanctioned by the government, then it’s impossible for it to be illegal.” Yes, but just because things are legal, doesn’t make them morally good. This is a hard pill to swallow for today’s postmodernists. In Nazi Germany, it was legal to kill Jews. Need I say anything else? But I digress. Socialism is theft because it anchors on the redistribution of wealth. That’s a fancy term for theft. Why? Because it takes money from the people who actually work to earn their wages and gives it to people who don’t work as hard. Don’t confuse this with charity, which is the willful giving away of money. Proponents of socialism try to spin this off as equality, trying to make it sound progressive and forward thinking. However, the only way to achieve this “equality” is to steal the money from the working class. It’s equality of outcome, not opportunity, and frankly it’s a sham. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t support theft.
If you read the New Testament, you’ll also notice that Jesus was constantly rebuked because he was hanging out with Tax Collectors. This wasn’t because he thought they were great people, but actually because of the opposite. When asked about why he was so frequently seen with such corrupt people, Jesus answered:
Mark 2:17 (NLT)
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Do yourself a favor and get to know the person of Jesus Christ. In doing so, you’ll be able to adopt an eternal perspective. This is so helpful because it allows you to see just how temporal and petty this life’s political matters are. All the greed and corruption that plague our world will be gone in the blink of an eye compared to eternity. Don’t underestimate eternity either—it’s worth your time to start thinking about now. Do you want to spend it with God or without? Only through Jesus, God’s only son, will you find all your personal desires and hungers fulfilled. He is worth your time to think about, not petty political matters.