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ASK BOB: “Does Socialism align with scripture?”

by Bob Russell

Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response. 

QUESTION

 Bob,  

     Would you consider writing a blog about how socialism doesn’t line up with Scripture? So many young people in the church seem misguided in this issue.  Even many Bible College graduates are talking about the “evils of free enterprise” and believe socialism is more compassionate.

MY ANSWER

     Jesus told a parable about a man who swept a demon out of his house but then left the house vacant. Because nature abhors a vacuum, seven demons “worse than the first” came and occupied that house.

     In recent years many churches and Christian Colleges have chosen to be silent about political issues to avoid controversy. They reason, “The church should be politically neutral so as not to alienate the seeker.” Since young people are not taught our country’s unique spiritual heritage, it’s not surprising that many, even Christ-followers, welcome socialism as the economic system they imagine best fulfills the golden rule. A Gallup poll found that 69% of those under 30 said they would be willing to vote for a socialist presidential candidate.

     Because of the carnal nature of man, there are inherent dangers in all economic systems, including capitalism. But there are basic Scriptural principles that are expressly violated by socialism. There are spiritual reasons why it always ends in disaster. Followers of Christ would do well to have a good grasp of the following principles and passages.

The right to personal property is God-given, not government-given. (Exodus 20:15)

The eighth commandment, “You shall not steal,” establishes the right of individuals to own property and accumulate wealth. People are not to steal from a neighbor just because he has more. Neither do civil authorities have the right to lay claim to property belonging to an individual or family.

     A Bible character named Naboth owned a plot of land close to King Ahab’s palace. The king wished to acquire it for a vegetable garden. Frustrated, that Naboth wouldn’t sell, Ahab and his wife Jezebel conspired to eliminate Naboth and confiscate his property. The prophet Elijah informed Ahab that God was so displeased with him for murdering his neighbor and seizing his property that his reign was going to be terminated. The king had no right to commandeer personal property for his own advantage. (See 1 Kings 21.)

     While the Bible gives government the right to levy reasonable taxes for essential services, taxes are not to be excessive or burdensome. (See 1 Kings 12 & Mark 12:17.) For the government to arbitrarily take what rightfully belongs to the individual is usurping God’s authority and stealing.

Healthy ambition is good and should be rewarded with the opportunity to accumulate.

(Matthew 25:14-30)

     Jesus told a parable of a financier who entrusted three servants with various amounts of money. He gave five talents to one, two talents to another, and one talent to a third. Jesus illustrated that while all are equally important to God, we are not gifted the same. Total equality is unrealistic.

     The Lord was pleased when he learned the first two men had doubled their trust. He didn’t say, “You have accumulated ten talents? You greedy capitalist! Look! You have a neighbor who only has one; you must share five with him.” Instead, He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

     Obviously, God is pleased with healthy ambition and hard work. Repeatedly, the Bible says, “The worker deserves his wages.” Appropriate initiative is good and should be rewarded.

     Upon learning the one talent man did nothing with his trust, the owner replied, “You wicked, lazy servant!…Take the one gift from him and give it to the man with ten.” Greed and envy are sinful, but so is sloth. Jesus made it clear that those of us with meager gifts should have enough ambition to make the most of what we have and not be intimidated by or jealous of those who have more. Socialism teaches no one has the right to have more than another and breeds class envy.

 

 

The helplessly poor are to be assisted and shown compassion. (1 John 3:17-18)

     “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

     The Bible often warns against the dangers of riches and emphasizes the importance of generosity to the needy. Jesus said, “The same as you do this to the least of these you do to me.” It’s imperative that followers of Christ be eager to assist those who can’t help themselves. Those who champion an equal distribution of wealth may envision themselves as noble since they advocate concern for the poor, but in reality, they promote generosity with other people’s money.

     Socialism, which claims to be compassionate, has proven to increase poverty, not decrease it. Listen to the testimonies of those who fled Cuba. Ask why the caravan of immigrants from Central America, seeking freedom, traveled north through Mexico toward the U.S. and not south to Venezuela. The reason socialism fails is the carnal nature of man. Those who aren’t rewarded for their efforts are inclined to laziness. Those in powerful oversight positions are inclined to greed and self-indulgence.

     Socialism is not the best way to help the poor. In the end, it increases poverty. Winston Churchill said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

God ordained government primarily to keep order not to redistribute wealth. (Romans 13:1-7)

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good…They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).

     Every human government receives the right to rule from God. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “You would have no authority if it weren’t given to you from above.” The primary purpose of government is to maintain order, not to redistribute wealth.

     The responsibility for caring for the poor falls first on the family. “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

     The second safety net is the church. The book of Acts relates, “…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:34-35).  The church in Jerusalem practiced a form of socialism, but it was voluntary, limited, and short-lived. However, First Century Christians continued to provide for their needy members through individual sacrifices.

     The government should be a last resort in caring for the poor, not a first responder. When the government attempts to redistribute wealth, it inevitably becomes bogged down in bureaucracy and ends in tyranny.

     Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I like even better what American novelist, Stephen King, said, “A person who doesn’t learn from the past is an idiot, in my estimation.”

The solution to human problems is redemption in Christ, not the redistribution of wealth.

(Luke 12:15)

     “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Socialism is based on the premise that the source of human suffering is the unequal distribution of possessions. The Bible teaches the primary problem with the world is sin, and the solution is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

 

Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10