The impossibility of a socialist Jesus

Jesus was “pro-socialist,” American Christians are in thrall to Ayn Rand, and the early Apostles concocted a system of “egalitarian … Continued

Jesus was “pro-socialist,” American Christians are in thrall to Ayn Rand, and the early Apostles concocted a system of “egalitarian socialism backed by fear of death.” Such are the wild claims Gregory S. Paul made Friday on this site.

Socialism is a relatively modern construct, a governmental system invented roughly 1,800 years after Christ’s death, not a biblical mandate. The question, then, is whether socialism is compatible with Christianity, not whether the Bible mandates socialism.

How can Mr. Paul claim Jesus was “pro-socialist?” Jesus, after all, despite many demands from His followers, pointedly refused to establish an earthly government. Undeterred, Mr. Paul interprets Jesus’s “substantial encouragement for the poor” and warnings against the moral pitfalls of wealth as support for socialism. Yet one has to travel quite the intellectual and theological distance to equate admonitions towards charity and warnings against greed with divine sanction for the destruction of private property rights and the forcible redistribution of wealth.

But this isn’t Mr. Paul’s main argument. He claims the Jerusalem church’s famous voluntary sharing of goods and property wasn’t voluntary at all but instead represents a “form of terror-enforced-communism imposed by a God who thinks that Christians who fail to join the collective are worthy of death.” This theological assertion — a reading of Scripture that has completely escaped theologians for two millennia – rests on the story of Ananias and Saphhira, who were struck dead after they “lied to the Holy Spirit.” They had sold land, given part to the Apostles but claimed that they had given all. Here are the Apostle Peter’s words to Ananias:

Catch that? The very passage which Mr. Paul believes clinches his argument that the Bible endorses “terror-enforced-communism” actually reaffirms private property rights. The land belonged to Ananias, and after he sold it, the money was “at [his] disposal.” (Indeed, Jesus Himself declared that “the worker deserves his wages.”) His crime wasn’t withholding money; his crime was lying.

While the Bible is hardly an economics text, some economic and social themes do endure, and they are incompatible not just with socialism but also many aspects of the modern welfare state.

While the Bible calls us to help the poor, it is also clear that the poor must help themselves to the extent they are able. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul warns against idleness and says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” In 1 Timothy 5, Paul also declares, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Even inclusion on the widows’ “list” (which entitled widows to receive aid from the church) was conditioned upon age and good conduct.

The requirement that the poor be industrious is also found in the one earthly government that God did explicitly create: Old Testament Israel. In the midst of comprehensive laws that govern everything from religious ritual to sexual conduct to diet comes this instruction: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” Not only is private property recognized (“your land”) but the welfare that does exist requires the poor to actually engage in the harvest to collect the gleanings.

Finally, it should be noted that Scripture hold societies responsible for outcomes, not just intentions, and the verdict of history is clear: Socialism creates poverty. The old Eastern Bloc fell, collapsing under the weight of their command economies. China has tossed aside the socialism of the cultural revolution and has surged behind its capitalists to become the world’s second-largest economy. The few remaining, truly socialist, countries are mired in poverty and dependent upon the largesse of others to survive.

Even the capitalist/socialist hybrids of Europe, created in the short window of history when their capitalist success provided the excess wealth for socialist experimentation, are finding that fifty years of welfare is enough, that their safety net cannot be sustained.

Mr. Paul wrote his article as London burned, as Greece and Ireland are picking up the pieces from their collapse, and as Spain and Italy teetered on the brink of oblivion. Their idle but well-fed youth, demanding ever-more from a state they give nothing, are either in the streets or threatening chaos.

There is a reason why Christians have overwhelmingly rejected socialism, and that reason is not found in the pages of Atlas Shrugged, but instead in the pages of a much older — and better — book.

God’s people should “strengthen the hand of the poor,” not create poverty. Yet socialism impoverishes. How can a Christian be socialist?

David French is a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, a graduate of Harvard Law School, Lipscomb University, and a Captain in the United States Army Reserve. Jordan Sekulow is the Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a graduate of Georgetown Law (LL.M.), Regent University School of Law, and the George Washington University.



More On Faith:

Jay Richards: Should Christians be socialist?

Gregory Paul: From Christian socialism to church-sanctioned capitalism

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  • wyner2010

    The idea of Jesus being a “pro-socialist” only enforces the fact that we live in a very sinful world. Jesus was born into the world to save us from our sins and bring everlasting life. Jesus stands for everything that is right in this world. Socialism stand for everything that is wrong. Jesus came into this world as a servant: he healed the sick,gave sight to the blind,fed the hungry and died on a cross to save us from eternal damnation. The world needs to understand that God chose us, we did not chose him. We have to play by his rules, he does not have to play by ours. Socialism is a government this sinful world created on its own. Accept the Lord Jesus as you savior.

  • kamm2020

    To say Jesus and His apostles were socialists is absurd. It would be intersting to know Mr. Paul’s definition of death, because all except one apostle died as martyrs because of their faith in God. Furthermore, the biblical definition of death means separation from God. So if the apostles feared death, as Mr. Paul claims, it doesn’t make sense for them to have rejected Jesus’s command to love God and people only to adhere to a socialistic system wherein men meet their own needs without God. Jesus is God and He rules the Government of Love which is a heavenly government far superior to all worldly socialistic systems. Authentic American Christians don’t worship money or other things. However, they need money to help them advance the kingdom of God in the earth. Christianity is not a religion, but it is a personal relationship with the sovereign God of the universe. Mr. Paul and other godless people interpret biblical and American history with a sin-tainted view, hence, they don’t qualify to justly define Jesus, nor His apostles, nor American Christians. It’s abundantly obvious that Mr. Paul is projecting his own fear of death and other negative characteristics.

  • chinwendu1

    Jesus does not endorse socialism. Ananias and Saphhira had a choice of what and what not to give but they wanted to keep up with the Jones (so to speak). They wanted to make it appear as if they did what everyone else did, which was give from their heart. Ananias and Saphhira were being deceptive. When confronted, they lied to the Holy Spirit and it was their lying that brought the end result. There are laws of the land and there are also spiritual laws. Those who appear in court Must tell the truth. Those who CHOOSE to live the Christian life Must honor the standards of God. >>>Don’t be deceived by those who voluntarily choose not to believe in God<<>>Force others to believe what they believe, which is there is not God and force others to live a life without God against their will..<<<

    Many who choose not to believe in God have tricked the masses to believe that seperation of Church and State means God, Jesus, Christianity can not be talked about in schools, etc. When it speaks against what they are doing…which is trying to force their belief of no God upon us by trying to change our history,

  • chinwendu1

    Youth of America<<

  • chinwendu1

    >Seek the truth for yourself and you WILL find it.

  • CSoM

    A very clear and comprehensive explanation of why Christianity is NOT compatible with socialism. I believe every Christian should be aware of these differences to make an informed decision AGAINST this popular move toward the so called “global socialist utopia”. At the end of the day someone has to PAY the tab for all this pie in the sky.

  • namvetdoc

    One can have an honest discussion about whether or not Socialism versus capitalism is a good idea. However, to use Jesus and the New Testament as a basis for government run socialism is a misuse of Scripture and misinterpretation of what Jesus or his followers believed or practiced. Jesus made it clear taht his Kingdom is not of this world. Though many Christians believe that one day he will return to establish his Kingom on this earth, as I do, in the interim he is building a spiritual kingdom through his Church. The government is a secular institution, at least in this country, and is not be confused with the Church. When people confuse the two and look to the governement to do what the Church was meant to do, they make a grave mistake. The selling of property in the New Testament and the sharing of ones material wealth with those in need was entirely a voluntary act. Paul write, “Let each man give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This was writtne in relationship to a collection being made for needy Christians in Jerusalem and is a far cry from government socialism which seeks to spread the wealth by force. Taxes are far from voluntary and I don’t know tf any people who pays them cheerfully exactly for that reason. AT the same time, Jesus said, “render unto Ceaser that which is Ceasers,” when he was asked about paying taxes. Government has a cost to it and taxes must be paid to support it’s function. But let’s not confuse the government with the Church or what the New Testament says about the Church with government function. We can certainly be guided by the moral values of the Bible but mandated governemnt socialism is NOT one of them.

  • brucetj4522

    Communist/socialist countries are collapsing the world over. They’re running out of other peoples money! To give a dollar to anyone, it first has to be TAKEN from someone else by force! The incentive for people to produce wealth is lost when the government takes all the profits! A perfect example is the recent rash of local governments forcing children to purchase $300-$500 business permits to sell lemonade at their little neighborhood lemonade stands. They either pay the fee/tax, or they shut them down! That’s right here in the USA! What then is the incentive for kids to open a lemonade stand? The Socialist leaning local government took it away by making sure there is no profit available to them because of the high fee/tax. So in the end the lemonade stand doesn’t even open because it’s cost prohibitive! Socialism gets everyone nowhere, and fast!
    BruceJ4522

  • DonL1

    Facinating that the ones who have rejected Christ the most try to co-opt his name for their evil -but then, no surprise. It was no less than Satan that quoted scripture to Him in order to co-opt his goodness for his own devious ends. On the other hand, thel;eft’s partron saint -Saul Alinsky , Dedicated his book Obama and Hillary so love to that same Satan. Again no surprise.

    The left ought to read a bit more John Paul ll , especially on two points: the evils of the “”welfare state” and the “principle of subsidiarity” where the government is morally required to be the last resort of the common man-not its first resort

  • Secular1

    IRT several posts holding a brief for scripture:

    Come on guys, enough with the context nonsense. One chap, says I have to read some stupid in OT and it to be put in context something else stupid written some 666 chapters later. First of all, this is called trying to rationalize the vulgar things by something that came much later. Even if that is granted, how do you explain away the period of time between the two stupidities. What was a person living in the interim to do.

    Other thing you have to explain the admittedly your own evolving morality would be rationalized in light of the constant railings against the so called moral relativism of the day. In addition for all the claims of perfect deity, why did she need to go through so many iterations to get her morality right, or is it right even now?

    Of course then there are some of you who wish to explain away the cruelties and absurdities of scriptural prescriptions, with modern science and knowledge. That’s so wonderful. So my question is then why do revere this books? Do we revere books on alchemy? NO, we left them on the trash heap of history. Likewise the so called holy books are not worth the papyri they were written on. They need to be left on the crap heap of history. No value and no guidance for us in 21st century. Only thing they bring us collectively is misery and strife.

  • ThomasBaum

    wyner2010

    You wrote, “Socialism is a government this sinful world created on its own.”

    Wouldn’t capitalism be a form of “government this sinful world created on ilts own” also?

  • ThomasBaum

    Didn’t John Paul II also say a word or two about capitalism?

  • SaveAmericasSoul

    Good Presentation Gents,

    And Mr. Paul’s theological paradigm resembles that of many “Liberation Theologians” in terms of their “moral views” of socialism as (somehow) being superior to capitalism. The practice of these folks is (typically) to demonize freedom-loving capitalists (whether they are wealthy or NOT). The latter want a political system that affords everyone “opportunity” while also enabling “good samaritans” to do the “assisting” for those less fortunate.

    Yes, Jesus had strong words for the “Rich” in this world; but NOT because of their aspirations, fueled by a strong work ethic.. Ney! It was more due to their greedy hearts and ambivalence for the plight of the poor (eg. not being like the “Good Samaritan” in their hearts and deeds).

    Christians are called by God to reach out to the poor and destitute (out of love and gratitude to God for forgiving THEM of their own sins). But no where in scripture does God or the Lord Jesus advocate “force” by Christians to somehow “even the economic field” in THIS world. That is known in scripture as “covetousness” and then “theft” and (perhaps) even “murder” if Socialists take it that far. And those actions are ALL called SIN by God and are a serious VIOLATION of His Commandments.

  • georgebernardshaw

    The moral views of Jesus are not a bit difficult to discern by a short time reading what he has to say about the rich and the poor in the gospels. If you cannot be bothered reading it for yourself, let me summarize it for you. The poor were blessed and the rich could expect no consolation in god’s kingdom. Now, if socialism favours the poor and penalises the rich, surely it is plain that socialism is morally superior in Christian terms to capitalism that encourages the rich to accumulate more wealth than they can possibly need while many poor people cannot find work and so cannot support a family, or often themselves.

    And while you are criticizing socialists for advocating force in some sense that Jesus did not advocate, since when did Jesus advocate carpet bombing innocent people in far off countries, or invading them with highly technical military units when all they want to do is tend their fields. In other words since when did Jesus say it was all right to punish a whole nation for the wrongdoing of a few. The people who ordered these appalling invasions were professed Christians supported by millions of like-minded Christians.

    Capitalism is a system that depends upon greed and limitless self aggrandizement. Christ was poor, recommended poverty as spiritually beneficial, and held his possessions in common with his colleagues. Christianity is diametrically opposed to capitalism. So is socialism!

  • georgebernardshaw

    Popes are hardly the best people to exemplify Christianity whatever they had to say. Most of them will have to tarry outside the pearly gates with the foolish virgins, imagining, no doubt, that they were in heaven!

  • georgebernardshaw

    wyner2010. And what of the egalitarian community of the apostles described in Acts, evidently a continuation of the community Christ himself lived in when pursuing his ministry with his apostles in Galilee and Judaea. But then you comment shows you knew nothing about it. Typically Christian. You expect to be saved but know nothing about your God. Paul of Tarsus was the same. And he is the real God of the Christians.

  • SaveAmericasSoul

    Mr. Shaw,
    Thank you for exhorting the importance of “reading the Word of God”. Be careful though:
    …..your words … “The poor were blessed and the rich could expect no consolation in god’s kingdom”.

    -> Quite False! “the poor IN SPIRIT” will be blessed, but ONLY if they come to true repentance and faith in Christ. Then they shall receive heaven as a reward. Otherwise, all will die in their sins and face certain judgement apart from repentance and faith.

    -> The “Rich” are not cursed nor outright rejected by God (simply because they are rich), and even THEY can be blessed by the same rules of repentance and faith. NOTE: Many of the Patriachs were considered “rich” in their day (eg. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.). Joseph became Ruler in Egypt (second only to Pharoah). There were also many numerous “rich” believers elsewhere in scripture and even in the NT. The warnings of Jesus (to the “rich”) most prominently target their “hearts”, for they will find it difficult to come to faith since THEY (typically) trust in themselves and their wealth.

    As for your accusations regarding the historical “sins” of so called christians and capitalists, you seem to have a rather “shallow” understanding of what a “real christian” is (by the Bible’s definition).

    Finally, as for the virtues of socialism, capitalism, and the (supposed) superiority of either, I believe you missed my points (above) entirely. Aside from that, the two economic / political systems will soon be smashed anyway and done away. Because (contrary to the beliefs of most “Liberation Theologians”), the literal “Kingdom of God” is coming soon my friend (by the Lord’s own promise). And He is the one who will bring it (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-15; Matthew 24; 1 Corinthians 15:24 and so many other passages :o). Are you (personally) ready for that day ?

  • georgebernardshaw

    Of course the kingdom of God is coming soon. It is a Christian tradition going back 2000 years that it is coming soon. It would be a shame to give up such a well established tradition merely because it has never happened in 2000 years. Meanwhile, until “soon” comes, that is, you have to do what Christ instructed you to do, not Moses or Abraham if you wish to identify as a Christian. If you prefer Moses and Abraham, you can always become a Jew, but do not pretend to be a Christian in that case.

    Poor in spirit? Sounds as if it means people who are depressed. Of course it does not. It means people who consider being poor is a spiritual state to be in. In other words, it is people who do not even want to be rich, and plenty of Christians throughout history have taken that to be its meaning. They are blessed for taking that view. You might note that Christ does not qualify his statement that the poor in spirit are blessed.

    As for the rich, they are repeatedly told they are forbidden to enter the kingdom of God. Again without qualification. The rich can be saved, just as habitual sinners can by repentence and remaining righteous thereafter. The rich have to give up their wealth to the poor. The sinner cannot repent then carry on sinning, and the rich man cannot give up some of his wealth and yet remain rich.

    Try reading some of these posts. Or better still, why not try reading the words of Christ for yourself in the gospels. I trust you can get access to one.

    What do you think the purpose of the gospels is? You seem to place more emphasis on the Jewish scriptures, like many of your kind, when Christ whom Christians are supposed to consider to be God incarnate, has his own moral rules directly reported in the gospels. If you are a Christian, then take note of what Christ said, not what king Solomon, or Abraham or Moses did, otherwise go see your local rabbi and convert to Judaism.

    The bible definition of being a Christian is doing what God in the form of Christ, told you to

  • GovernNationUSofAasRepublic

    Jesus’ call to care for the poor was not an endorsement of government handouts.

    Example the Social Security system was not intended to be a retirement check but to be a supplement to what you had already saved (helping yourself to the extent you are able) and/or invested over their productive working years.

    Why don’t we again put into practice the following ‘golden rule’ (In the later generation in America, all they are willing to trust should be some kind of golden rule)
    “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” Not only is private property recognized (“your land”) but the welfare that does exist requires the poor to actually engage in the harvest to collect the gleanings.
    Lord Jesus, God, is not a Socialist. The Church body would be in contradiction to Christianity if it fought to embrace socialism.

    Henry
    Dallas, TX

  • adhouk1

    @george
    “Of course the kingdom of God is coming soon. It is a Christian tradition going back 2000 years that it is coming soon. It would be a shame to give up such a well established tradition merely because it has never happened in 2000 years. ”

    It is clear that you are not a christian and from your prior posts where you don’t even acknowledge anything said you just repeat yourself over and over hoping that others fall for your statement. It is clear that you do not want to put out the clear meaning of the bible but desire to distort it to fit your purpose to lift up the socialist agenda as the more morally right. While it is clear from the bible that the socialist system is an evil system (both old and new). You have lost all credibility way earlier in the post. To translate the bibles meaning you must take all of it and not just some generalization of a small bit.

    I suffer no delusions, I am quite poor, but it is quite clear to me what the truth is and I know that the bible doesn’t condemn the rich for being rich nor does it suggest that the rich are unable to inherit the kingdom of God unless they give their money away.

  • maandpanotary

    Jesus did was not involved with politics. He came for one reason only and that was to give his life so that we could have the relationship with the Lord that was intented for all mankind. Jesus is all about love not control. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, so he that believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send his Son to condemn the world but that the world would be saved by Him. God is love and he help establish this nation. I for one will honor my Lord and pray for our nation to get back to the Lord’s business. We are to love the Lord our God.

  • sneedhall7

    Also, God included “Do not steal” and “Do not covet” in his Ten Commandments. Protecting people’s private property must be very important to God for him to include it in his “Top Ten” list of commands twice. Part of the dignity of being human is receiving the rewards for our labors. Plus, to truly be generous, giving must be of something we possess and be from the heart.

  • SaveAmericasSoul

    Mr. Shaw,
    Please, consider (carefully) what the “gospel” of Jesus Christ really IS (as revealed in scripture) and not by what we WANT it to be (by our “ideological bents”).

    The word “gospel” MEANS “good news”.
    - It is not good news just for the poor (though they have an easier time “believing it”), it is available even to the rich (though they may have a harder time “receiving it”.
    - Nor is it intended only for “Gentiles”.
    - It is available to everyone (even Jews) (John 3:16-17).
    - It is also NOT something you CAN EARN; it is a free GIFT God wants to give to all of us (to be received by faith) (Romans 6:23).
    - “Not of works”, lest anyone should ‘boast’” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    The New Testament (NT) itself tells us these things in SO MANY places my friend, and the Old Testament (OT) points (forward in time) to this “gospel”.
    —- > Example (OT) : Isaiah 53.
    —–> Example (NT) : Romans 3:23-24, eg.. “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.

    The Socialist’s “gospel”, which is a “social gospel” for “the flesh” (eg. Not spiritual) is “counterfeit”. It is truly NO GOSPEL AT ALL (eg. there is no “good news” in it except a “works gospel” (eg. the edict often pushed by “activist Liberationists” (who have a shallow theology mind you )). They teach and even pressure their followers to “work” to usher in a “radical change” in the culture (even by “force” if necessary), in the political system, in the economic structures and in the thinking of the masses AND they teach that (by doing so) they shall (somehow) “gain heaven too” because (they claim) the Jesus of scripture somehow condemned “Rich people”. THAT is a “man-made” message that (conveniently) leverages only certain scriptural teachings to lend credibility to its “man-made” vision and agenda.

    The Socialist’s “gospel” is not THE Gospel of Jesus Christ (revealed in scripture) at all, it never was, it never can be, and teaching