By now, you’ve probably heard from some on the progressive side of Christianity that Jesus was a socialist. Today, I’ll be going through some of their main arguments and offering rebuttals as to why their reasoning is wrong.
1. “Capitalism is worshipping the god of money.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 that, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Of course, everything Jesus says here is true, that we must choose to either serve God or whatever else we may desire. But those who make this argument fail to look only three sections back where Jesus is talking about giving to the needy and how it should be done. Context is key when reading the Bible. Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
There is no better way to let others know what you are doing than to do it through the government. Once you put the government in charge of anything, it becomes the business of everyone else and no longer yours alone. Socialism, by definition, is the redistribution of wealth by a central government. While it is certainly true that capitalism can lead to worshipping the god of money for some, it is not always the case. Socialism, on the other hand, is always worshipping at the altar of money and other people’s possessions as it depends on those things to already exist, while capitalism allows wealth and possessions to be generated on their own.
Socialism cannot happen without the possessions of others. There must be something to take for redistribution to happen. Under capitalism, there is no need for the possessions of others. People are free to create and own their own businesses and spend their money how they please without the government interfering with any of these.
2. “Jesus commands his followers to care for those who are less fortunate.” Exactly. This is a very common argument among progressive Christians. Even a few Democratic politicians who want to use the Bible to appeal to Christians have used this argument. Speak of the House Nancy Pelosi has done this, as well as Presidential Candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg has also done this. There isn’t much to rebut with this one, but all there is to say is that we are encouraged to care for the less fortunate or the “least of these” out of our own free will and kindness. This is not to be done through a third-party agency, the government. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that an outside source is supposed to take what is rightfully one person’s and then redistribute it to another person. It is also ironic how the same party who claims to care for the “least of these” through government intervention also wants to pass sweeping legislation to make abortion at any point during a pregnancy legal.
3. “Capitalism creates an economy of exclusion and inequality.” As Christians, we are called to be inclusive and treat everyone as equals because we are all made in the image of God. That we can agree on. But this argument is a non-sequitur. This has nothing to do with the claim that Jesus was a socialist. Pointing out a problem with the opposition is not the same thing as offering evidence to support your own claim.
I have acknowledged in a past post (Business and Government) that I am in favor of a form of capitalism where businesses are allowed to serve whom they wish and discriminate against whom they wish for any reason they desire. The business produces its own product and owns its own labor, so I believe it is also within the rights of the business to serve and refuse service to anyone they please. Some would say that this produces exclusion and inequality. I disagree. I would argue that because no one person has the right to the labor or product of another person (or business), they are not being excluded from anything. You can’t be excluded from something you don’t have a right to. A stranger does not have the right to steal my car keys and drive off with my car. I own my car. I paid for it myself. Therefore, it is my right to do with it as a please, so long as it’s not harming anyone. I am not excluding anyone from using a car by having my own.
Exclusion and inequality take place more so under socialism than it would under this form of capitalism. Under socialism, the rich and middle class are being taxed and essentially having their property and labor stolen from them by the government so that the lower class can be artificially built up. In other words, the rich are being excluded from their own property and belongings.
Of course, it would not smart for a business to do this because once the word gets out that they discriminate against consumers based on whatever reason, then they will lose business. But that does not negate the fact that it is well within the rights of a private business to do this.
4. “Socialism is living the Golden Rule.” One of the most important moral standard to live by is “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7 during his Sermon on the Mount, Christians have held to this for years. But going back to the second rationale, it is not the role of the third-party agency, the government, to be the arbiter of who lives morally and who does not. This is why I support the legalization of marijuana, gambling, and other actions that some may deem immoral, but it is not the place of the government to produce a moral code for its people to live by when those actions do not harm the lives of others. I believe in a government that has very little power, and the citizens have a strong personal responsibility.
Is stealing the money and property of others through a third-party “doing to others as you would have them to do you?” I don’t believe it is. Again, I believe in limited government and strong personal responsibility for citizens, which means that there should be minimal taxes being paid to the government but citizens (specifically Christians) are focused on caring for the less fortunate through their own choice.
To summarize, no, Jesus was definitely not a socialist. There is no evidence in the Bible suggesting that Jesus supported the forced redistribution of wealth against the will of the people. In fact, we have found just the opposite. We have found that Jesus commands Christians to care for the less fortunate not through government intervention, but through the own will and desire within themselves. By doing this, we can truly glorify God in our charity because it is from our heart, not from a bureaucracy.