Was Jesus Christ a Socialist?

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by William Deatherage, Executive Director

All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk! (Is 55:1-3)

These words are not from the Communist Manifesto, yet they are often invoked to justify Christian socialism. While Christians are certainly no strangers to dreams of socialist utopias (see St. Thomas More’s Utopia), Communism’s destructive tendencies in the 20th Century showed what many consider to be the logical consequences of a micromanaging super-state. While extreme capitalism and socialism have been condemned by several popes, both schools of thought have looked to the Bible to justify themselves. And though Christ was certainly no economist, He provided plenty of direction for how we ought to live. It is therefore imperative that we evaluate the impact that different economic systems will have on the Christian life.

The first step towards evaluating economic systems is understanding what God asks of us. Fairly quickly, we can deduce that we are not called to prosper, at least in the modern Western sense of prosperity. We know this because the bread that God offers us is not of this world. The Gospel Acclamation is quite clear in this:

One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4)

Furthermore, the pursuits of the Apostles and early martyrs were certainly not ones of material wealth. In fact, many of them lived in poor conditions and died in quite gruesome manners. This does not mean that we are all called to martyrdom, rather the ultimate reward we seek is no earthly one. But if entrance to the Kingdom of God cannot be bought by Earthly currency, then how is it procured?

Freedom is the state of being that enables all men and women to encounter the world authentically, meaning they accept the grand possibilities God has presented them with and discern how live out their best lives. Freedom’s cultivation requires liberty, or the ability to make decisions without hinderance from others. As I wrote last week, freedom and liberty are not interchangeable; in fact, they are often antithetical. A person who goes through life doing whatever they want simply because they can will likely enslave themselves to addictive behaviors. A truly free society is not a laissez-faire technocracy in which men come back from work with fingers chopped off due to the lack of regulations, but it is also not one in which the government micromanages how its citizens behave. One of the primary problems with socialism is that its centralization of economic institutions is often coupled with a centralization of its media, health care, religion, and most importantly education. Money is quite powerful, and those who control the circulation of money have power over what a civilization prioritizes, as well as which ideas live and die. Even if a socialist project begins with noble intentions, human nature has shown that the few with the power of the purse will become corrupted. The beauty of capitalism is that it distributes this authority into several smaller private and social entities, thus allowing for a diverse set of values to emerge from a marketplace of ideas, bringing forth fertile soil for authentic freedom to grow from.

There is a delicate balance between authoritarianism and unfettered liberty, neither of which positively contribute to the human condition. A prime example of this balance is the family, which governs but does not choke out its members. Interestingly, many prominent 20th Century socialists understood the family to be the greatest obstacle to their movements. The family’s emphasis on cultivating eternal virtue stands in stark contrast to socialists who begin with an economic agenda of superficial prosperity. Of course, proper virtue requires proper living conditions, and it is a government’s duty to provide its citizens with the tools to succeed. But the best way to promote authentic Christian cultivation of virtue is to divest a central government of its authority and return it to families and local communities. It is only through diverse familial tradition that we collectively discern the best paths to human freedom. Such an effort is only stifled by socialism, which risks monopolizing worldviews like a modern Tower of Babel. Christ may not have explicitly campaigned against socialism, but no good Christian should warp His words into endorsing a socialist message.

6 Responses

  1. An excellent explanation why Socialism is not something that any American should support. We must be vigilant in who we support and vote for in November.. We must select the candidates who put the American people first….not an agenda that will rob us of our very freedom.

  2. These two sentences are the most telling of this article.
    “Even if a socialist project begins with noble intentions, human nature has shown that the few with the power of the purse will become corrupted. The beauty of capitalism is that it distributes this authority into several smaller private and social entities, thus allowing for a diverse set of values to emerge from a marketplace of ideas, bringing forth fertile soil for authentic freedom to grow from.”
    Substitute capitalism for socialiam in the first sentence, for its statement is true of any economic or governmrntal system. Humanity corrupts all things out of greed and desire for power. Capitalists, socialists, authoritarians, etc. will corrupt any system when their focus is on self and not others. Jesus’ focus was always on others. I have a bumper sticker sent to me by a friend many years ago that reads, “God is neither a Republican nor Democrat.” God is love.

  3. The problem is that one equates personal freedom from the true meaning of “free” in a capitalist economy. Freedom means free enterprise without the interference of government or regulatory boards. Such freedom has led to the exploitation of people. I don’t think that Jesus would associate himself with a capitalist system at all. It is evident when He scolded the money exchangers.

    It is fair to say that Jesus was a Socialist Democrat. Far from a capitalist.

  4. No. Freely we have received all things, freely give. People know what they make in the many stores. People know what they distribute from manufacturing places. Jesus is not for money that makes god’s image to say no to itself. Money controls from the outside – in, working like mans fear giving laws. God’s law needs to work from the inside – out. Each individual controling themselves. Jesus did not set up a booth, having prices for whatever. Jesus was not for majority rules.
    The Popes need to be rejected. They are blasphemers saying they are Jesus, that Philip wanted to see, with the Father, identity.
    To not be of the world does not mean we cannot have nice things. Not being of the world is being like Jesus. The church caused Amish people to exist.
    People doing what they want will shed their restrictive clothing when they walk around, doing whatever. Clothing optonal will exist. No one will yell sex offender or pedophile.
    Muslims want to chop body parts off of your body, using any excuse they can cook up.
    Preventative health care is found on Upper Cervical Health Centers or TheSpesific or Upcspine. or NUCCA. Grostic is like NUCCA. Wait 4 – 5 days after an acsident. Don’t do Gonstead. Diversified twists the neck. Don’t let anyone do that. Core and ABC chiropractic push down on the upper back. That does not get at the root of the problem, making things to be worse.
    Jamies 1:26 – 27 talks about pure undefiled religon. Religon is not what the church taught.

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