Jesus doesn’t endorse Socialism
Socialism is not a new idea. As a political movement, socialism began during the Industrial Revolution. However, it has been a thought in the minds of men and women for much longer. There are those who say that even Jesus taught us the principles of Socialism. Although, it goes without saying that many people have a misunderstanding of what socialism is and what Jesus teaches in regards to money.
Socialist apologists explain that the greatest benefit of Socialism is that it creates equality and it provides prosperity for all. Socialism is “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies” (Merriam-Webster). The key ingredient in Socialism is government control.
Jesus’ teachings on money are not an endorsement of socialism. Socialism is government enforcement of the redistribution of wealth. Jesus clearly teaches us to make a choice to give what He has first given us, void of government intervention. “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ~ Matthew 19:21
Pay your taxes
Jesus commands us to pay our taxes (Matthew 22:21). Paying our taxes involves an act of obedience to Him. It is tempting to view taxation as an us versus them mentality. However, this command from Jesus applies to both citizens and government officials. “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7
Jesus commands all of us to “give what you owe them”, so it is applicable to the tax payer and the tax collector (e.g. Matthew). Jesus does not condone government abuse of collecting taxes. Biblically speaking, taxes are used to collect money for the benefit of the nation, state, or city (Ezra 6:8). Taxation becomes theft when one individual’s money is taken from them and given to someone else.
That doesn’t mean we should stop paying our taxes when the government abuses their power with that money. Jesus did not give us conditions for paying our taxes. However, it does mean that the government officials who abuse their powers are accountable to God for their sins. Taxation for the purpose of legal plunder is not glorifying to Jesus. It is theft! And God’s word declares to everyone… “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
Jesus desires generosity
God’s word makes it clear that Jesus is not a Socialist. To be fair, Jesus is not a Capitalist either. He is our king! Although free market Capitalism most closely resembles Jesus’ teachings in regards to money. Capitalism in its purest form allows individuals to make choices in regards to what they do with the money they have been blessed with. Skeptics of the free market claim that Capitalism is flawed because it leads people to greed. However, this is a flawed perspective. Greed abounds in any economic system (even Socialism), because we are sinful beings.
Socialism does not make us equal. In fact, it does almost the exact opposite. Socialism takes from some and gives to others. Eventually it leads to less production, since many individuals no longer desire to work once they no longer have to. In essence, Socialism promotes laziness. Socialism may be the radical idea of sharing, but not the kind of sharing that Jesus teaches. Jesus never commanded the government to force us to be generous. He commands individuals to be generous by giving to the poor out of love.
Jesus’ triumphant return
While there are many unknowns regarding Jesus’ return, we can be certain that He will come back. We know this because His word declares it. Of course, we don’t know when that will be (Matthew 24:36). It could happen in our lifetime or it could happen after our generation passes. What is clear, is that we should always be ready for His return and look forward to that day (Matthew 24:44). Jesus also made it clear that His return will be quick and unexpected. However, we should be reminded that God has work for us to do while we wait for Him (Ephesians 2:10). He commands us to love Him and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). He commands us to reach the world with the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). He commands us to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He told us we will be the light in a dark world (John 8:12).
Jesus told us to be watchful of His return, even though we don’t know when it will be. He correlated watching out for His return with a homeowner taking care of his house… “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” Matthew 24:42-43
Notice that in this parable, the homeowner didn’t abandon his home. Instead, he kept watch over his home and protected it. Through this parable Jesus is telling us that we are to remain vigilant over what is happening on earth while we wait for Him. As temporary as it may be, earth is our home until we meet Jesus in heaven. Jesus wants us to be doing the good works He has planned for us, even though we don’t know when His return will be. A similar parable in the Gospel of Luke, explains what Jesus desires from us while we wait… “occupy till I come” Luke 19:13.
We must define “the world” in context
What exactly should we be doing while we wait for His return? Most Christians agree that one key to growing our personal relationships with Jesus is to distance ourselves from the world. While this teaching is true in a sense, it is often used out of context. In biblical terms, there are three different meanings for the word “world”…
- People in the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9)
- The physical earth (Hebrews 1:2, John 13:1)
- Sin of the world (Matthew 18:7, John 15:19, 1 John 4:5)
God never commanded us to not love people. When God commands us to not love the world, He is referring to sin or sinful things. We are not to love sin, or essentially, the world’s way of living. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15
Your relationship with Jesus in relation to politics
Some Christians believe that we shouldn’t be involved in politics, because God commanded us to not love the world. However, in the context of 1 John 2:15 (and other similar verses), the world does not equate to politics. Politics are defined as the way we govern our lives and are not inherently evil. God has clearly called us to govern our lives in obedience to Him. He instituted government for our good (Romans 13:1-4) and so we each have a role in government, at least to some degree.
Looking forward to Jesus’ return and caring about politics do not have to be mutually exclusive. We are called to love people. Politics are directly related to people (the world). Politics are intertwined with our relationship to Jesus. He is our King and our lives are governed by Him. Therefore, our political stances should be in alignment with God’s word.
It is easy to get discouraged when politics get ugly. When our favorite candidate doesn’t get elected, we want to give up, because we see no hope. However, when men and women of faith avoid politics, the worse our nation becomes. We falsely believe that we should give up when our nation is struggling, yet that is precisely when our nation needs us the most. In order to oppose the world system, we must do so actively. And we must bring our faith into the political realm until Jesus returns. Believe it or not, your relationship with Jesus could actually blossom by doing so.