By Kara Johnson
Was Jesus a socialist? This view has become extremely popular over the years, but is it true? The quick answer is ‘no’ this isn’t true. It’s evident that so many believers from influencers to mega-churches are latching onto the idea that Jesus was a socialist and it is practiced in the Bible. Even our politicians are thinking about it, but let’s be honest, this is an idea that is harmful and incredibly dangerous.
Why isn’t socialism supported by the Bible? Let’s explore it.
The main passages of Scripture that most cite to support their view of socialism is Acts 2-5. They often argue that "having all things in common” promotes socialism or communism. Many think that socialism automatically promotes commonality, but in truth, it does not. In fact, Acts 2-5 doesn’t mandate for socialism at all. Most scholars actually believe that it mandates a free market economy (commonly known as capitalism).
“All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as any might have need.”- Acts 2:44-45
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.... or there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” -Acts 4:32-35
While the language sounds like it’s speaking about socialism, it’s actually not. If you look closer into the text, you will find that the earlier believers in the church did not actually sell all their possessions. The believers continued to live in their own homes and gave as much as they could. Barnabas in Acts 4 is a perfect example. Barnabas owned a huge tract of land and when he saw that he could give generously, he sold his land and brought the money to give. Now Barnabas was wealthy and was generous with what he owned. Some have even speculated that he was the first person of substantial wealth to donate to the cause.
If these several passages of Scripture showcased socialism, even if you may think it’s a good example, you will need more evidence throughout the Bible, and quite frankly, there is none. It even says later in Acts 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
What is particularly interesting is that over the course of these past few years, especially since the 2016 election, there has become a new zest for socialism. Not just among the left, but also among the church. The core motivator of this stems from biblical commands and the confusion of the actual definition of socialism. These thoughts processes go a little something like this:
1. The Bible tells me I need to care for the poor.
2. Socialism is about the poor. Capitalism is greedy (they use Acts 2-5 often).
3. Therefore, I support socialism and oppose capitalism.
We absolutely should take seriously the needs of the poor and take care of them. Jesus did this during His ministry on earth. The dangerous thought is number 2, and it’s because several evangelicals and people, in general, lack the knowledge of what real socialism is and don’t realize that this kind of society is not promoted in the Bible. Socialism smuggles many needs away from society and is ultimately rooted in greed from a big government and power-hungry leaders. But once you research socialism and realize what it does, you come to understand that there is no way such this ideology could be in the Bible.
We looked at Acts and realize that this is the only Scripture that could possibly support the idea of ‘socialism’ if you look at it from the surface, but socialism isn’t what Jesus would have called it. Why? Socialism is strictly based on a materialistic worldview. In socialism, all that really exists is materials. Karl Marx created this ideology. He believed that matter contains a creative power within itself, which eliminates the need for a creator, erasing the existence of anything non-material. In socialism, there is the discussion that if everyone is given everything equally, all the problems in society will magically dissolve.
Everything about this contradicts Christianity and the Bible as a whole, which affirms that a material and a non-material world exist—and teaches that human kinds greatest problems are spiritual. The cause of suffering is sin and salvation is found in the cross of Christ, not a material world or the equal distribution of stuff. It’s because of sin that everything will always be unequal. This is evident in the parable of the talents. Those with good character accumulate more than those with bad character, who may lose everything they have. But there is hope because even if we aren’t able to accumulate wealth of any kind, we can still have an abundant life in Christ. Our abundance of life isn’t determined by equal materials or wealth or the quality of stuff we have, it’s determined by our relationship with Christ.
Socialism wants to provide aid and distribute wealth to those in need, but this, although it appears to look good, it’s not. An article in the Christian Post states this reasoning perfectly, “Whenever an institution provides aid, it runs the risks of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish those who are industrious by giving them the fruits of another man's labor. This is precisely what socialism does.” 1
The Bible states that aid should be tied to some kind of responsibility:
“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” – 2 Thess. 3:10
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” – 1 Tim. 5:8
“And having a reputation for good works; if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work” – 1 Tim 5:10
So, even in the act of giving aid, the church has always rewarded virtue and discouraged vice, in which socialism does the complete opposite. Also, socialism diminishes the ownership of private property, while the Bible does not. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament support private ownership. We can’t even obey the eighth commandment to not steal unless we accept private ownership of some kind, nor can we be good stewards like the Bible so often teaches. We must protect private ownership and allow individuals the freedom to allocate their resources however they see fit.
I could give you a million other reasons why socialism isn’t biblical, but I think the point has been made. Socialists state that their ideology supports a utopia, but in fact, it calls for a dystopia. There is no way that socialism promotes any kind of biblical worldview. Jesus wanted His followers to give to the poor and help the needy, but He also has called us to be good stewards and work hard. This has been a command since the very beginning of Genesis and it still is today.
Socialism is not biblical, and there is no way that Jesus would ever support it
Kara's Blog: Black Coffee at Midnight
Kara Johnson finished her Bachelor's degree in Communications at Moody Bible Institute-Spokane in 2014. Since then, she has become a firm defender of truth, faith, capitalism, and patriotism. Her fight for American policies is evident throughout her writing and online presence. She is a contributing writer for The Rogue Review and The Human Defense Initiative, while also working to consistently update her personal blog Black Coffee At Midnight about faith, issues, and life's journey.