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Was Jesus a Socialist?

By Don Ruhl

It is election time, and that means many people will use the Bible to support opposing ideas. When people from any of the political parties quote or allude to Scripture to support their position, they often have no idea what they are saying, and I am inclined to ask them what Jesus asked many in His generation, “Have you not read [such and such]”?

He would ask that of people who did read Scripture, but they did not notice all that it said, or they ignored the parts that they did not like. What about those who never read God’s word, but they think they have an idea what the Holy Book says, and so they spout off some platitudes, or they think they are giving biblical information, but they know it about as well as you and I know the Koran. We have no more business telling people what the Koran says than many people who propose to know what the Bible says. We cannot say the Koran teaches thus and so until we have read it in context, and likewise for those who say Jesus was a socialist.

Was Jesus a socialist? You can read it on bumper stickers, on the web, and from the pens and lips of secular and church liberals, who do not know how to handle the word of God. We cannot conform Jesus to human inventions, but human inventions must conform to Him, because every way of man eventually fails and every way of God succeeds.

What Is Socialism? 

I checked three dictionaries and they gave the same definition, “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Policy or practice based on this theory. (In Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.”

Did Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, or any other God-ordained preacher speak against private ownership of anything, demanding that everything be owned and regulated by the community, in particular the government?

Texts Socialists Use 

Matthew 25.31–46 – What about earlier in the chapter? The parable of the wise and foolish virgins, esp. vv. 8, 9 The parable of the talents, esp. vv. 24–29 and Luke 19.24, 25

Mark 10.21–25 – We have a tendency to dismiss what Jesus said. However, the socialists miss that this was volunteer, and that Jesus did not authorize the government to take the man’s goods, and that Jesus Himself did not take the man’s things.

Acts 2.44, 45 – There is a difference between having all things in common, selling voluntarily, giving to others, and taking from some by force and giving to others. Again, we are too quick to dismiss this, and we should fill our lives with good works, which may include doing these very things. We have done these things, even recently, but we should be careful to continue doing good works.

Acts 4.32–37 – Interestingly, the people again did these things voluntarily. Did they give the proceeds to the government, or to the church? How many socialists would like for the church to be in charge of this? No, they would scream separation of church and state.

Acts 5.1–10 – Did they die because they failed to turn everything over? No, they died because they lied about the selling price, claiming that they brought the entire amount, because they wanted to appear as though they had sacrificed everything. They held back part of it. They thus lied to the Holy Spirit. Verse 4 clearly indicates the Bible is okay with property ownership. The Bible elsewhere shows rich people approvingly. First Timothy 6.17ff though does say the rich must do good.

Passages They Ignore 

Naboth in First Kings 21 refused a government take over.

Matthew 20.1–16, esp. vv. 8–15 and the workers who all received the same pay.

Second Corinthians 8.3, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (2Co 8.3). The key was they gave themselves to the Lord and His preachers (v. 5). How many socialists would approve of that?

Second Thessalonians 3.10, 12, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat…Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (2Th 3.10, 12).

Proverbs 16.26, “The person who labors, labors for himself, for his hungry mouth drives him on” (Pro 16.26).

First Timothy 5.8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Ti 5.8).

Let Us Remember the Poor 

My intention is not to show that we should ignore the poor.

The Jews were not to harvest the corners of their farms, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God” (Lev 23.22).

The Bible says for us to help the poor, per the previous passages.

More in part 2.