I’m a history nerd, and if history has taught me anything, it’s this: socialism does not work. So why is socialism raising its ineffective head these days?
- Popular culture is woefully ignorant of history.
- There’s an attitude that shouts: It’ll be different this time! We’ll do it right!
As if there’s a right way to do socialism.
Try explaining this to some Millennials. According to a Reason-Rupe survey, 58% of Americans have a negative view of socialism, but if you isolate that to just those 18-24, 58% of them think favorably of socialism! The percentage drops as the age groups increase, but still 43% of those 25-34 have a favorable view of socialism.
That’s alarming enough, but there’s a growing movement to justify socialism biblically.
That’s right. There’s a definite movement to merge socialism with the Bible. At this point, let me remind you what is at the heart of socialism. Socialism is a purely materialistic view of the world. While Buddhists define suffering as desire, Socialists define suffering as the result of unequal wealth distribution. The Buddhist solution to suffering is to remove desire, but the socialist solution is to fulfill desire—and that is done by redistributing the wealth of others. From a biblical standpoint, socialism is coveting what others have and using government means to steal. So right there, socialist breaks two of the Ten Commandments.
So how is the Bible used to justify socialism?
- The Old Testament calls for us to take care of the poor. “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you” (Lev. 25:35). Helping a brother is not the same as giving him everything.
- “Do not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether one of your Israelite brothers or one of the resident aliens in a town in your land” (Deut. 24:14). This has nothing to do with equal distribution, but with not taking advantage of another person.
- King Solomon’s prayer to God is used to point to the role of government in all this. “God, give your justice to the king and your righteousness to the king’s son. He will judge your people with righteousness and your afflicted ones with justice” (Ps. 72:1-2). This was not a mandate for civil action to redistribute wealth (Solomon did not distribute his wealth) This was a personal prayer to treat all with justice.
- “Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common….For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need” (Acts 4:32,34-35). This was a voluntary sharing. It was not equally distributed, but what was shared was shared voluntarily and used when there was a need.
We don’t need a flawed, humanistic system like socialism. The Bible does address matters of work, wealth, and our treatment of others, and if we follow its principles, we do something far better and far greater than anything the flawed, humanistic system of socialism attempts to offer.
Here are seven principles straight from Scripture on how we should live and act.
- If you don’t work, you don’t eat. The Book of Proverbs is full of proverbs touting the value and virtue of hard work, and Paul reminded us that ““If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). We don’t lounge around living off what others are forced to provide. Why should wealth be redistributed to benefit the lazy person at the expense of the hard worker?
- Good work is rewarded. Jesus’s parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) shows us that those who work diligently gain more. They are rewarded for their work. Socialism “rewards” the hard worker by distributing what others worked for.
- Don’t oppress others. We are to gain and profit through hard work, not by taking advantage of others. “The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors him (Prov. 14:31).
- Don’t be a burden; lift a burden. “Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).
- Be voluntarily generous. It’s a far greater thing to share with another because you want to, not because a socialist government forces you to. This should be a hallmark of the Christian: the quick willingness to give for the sake of others. “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart — not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Such actions scream the love of God.
- If you see a need, help. Jesus praised “the sheep” who saw a need and addressed it. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:35-36). These sheep didn’t act because it was Jesus they were helping; they acted simply because there was a need they could meet. Yet in acting with love, they were serving Jesus! “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40).
- Be content with what you have. Paul knew what it was like to have a lot, and he knew what it was little to have little. But in every situation, he was able to be content. Why? “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Paul discovered contentment because all he needed was found in Jesus.
This contentment is at the heart of why Christianity offers so much more than socialism.
- For those with much: When our contentment rests in Christ, we can give freely and help others because we’re focused on Christ and not on ourselves.
- For those with little: When our contentment rests in Christ, we have no need to envy those who have more than us. Our trust and our “riches” are in Christ.
Christianity works; socialism doesn’t. Socialism doesn’t rescue anyone; Christianity points us to a Savior who rescues us from sin and defeat. When we rest in Him, that contentment leads us to reflect Christ in how we help others. Furthermore, living the Christian life does more than help ease the burdens of others; it points them to the greater burden—their sin and lost state—and to a salvation that is infinitely greater than any financial security.
The early church lived that out. Look at how they loved each other and shared voluntarily …
Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:44-47).
… and look at it’s impact on those who witnessed this love in action.
“Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (v. 47)
Let’s be generous with the love and grace of Christ.
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