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Was Jesus a Socialist?

Think Christianly: Was Jesus a Socialist?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Was Jesus a Socialist?

Recent headlines include words / phrases like: Occupy wall street. Redistribution of wealth. Capitalism. Socialism. And now...Jesus. But what does Jesus have to do with economics? Well, everyone loves to get Jesus on their side of the argument. Here is one of the passages often cited to argue that Jesus would have been in favor of socialism (Acts 4:32-35):
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that 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."
Two pieces of advice. First, always read the biblical context. In his helpful Washington Post article, Jay Richards responds to the claim that Jesus was a socialist / marxist:

"No serious biblical scholar, or economist, would mistake the practice of the early Jerusalem church for Marxism. First of all, Marx viewed private property as oppressive, and had a theory of class warfare, in which the workers would revolt against the capitalists-the owners of the means of production-and forcibly take control of private property. After that, Marx thought, private property would be abolished, and the state would own the means of production on behalf of the people. There’s none of this business in the books of Acts. These Christians are selling their possessions and sharing freely.

Second, the state is nowhere in sight. No Roman centurions are breaking down doors and sending Christians to the lions (that was later). No government is confiscating property and collectivizing industry. No one is being coerced. The church in Jerusalem was just that-the church, not the state. The church doesn’t act like the modern communist state." (read the rest of the article)

Second read works / authors who understand the biblical worldview and take the Bible seriously (i.e., in its historical-gramatical-literary context) and who also understand economics. Here are two great options: (1) Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards and (2) The Virtues of Capitalism: A Moral Case for Free Markets by Scott Rae and Austin Hill. Listen to an insightful interview with Jay Richards here.

Economics is a moral issue. It is critical for Christians to understand that when it comes to economics, good intentions don't necessarily translate into good outcomes. This means that it is actually possible to do harm to people while intending good if we adopt bad economic policy. I interviewed Jay Richards about this and how economics relates to the Christian worldview here.

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