Was Jesus a Communist or a Socialist?
It seems it’s become popular in some circles to claim that Jesus was a communist or a socialist. The idea being that since He commanded His followers to give to the poor that He would support a communist or socialist government. But nothing could be further from the truth.
So we’ve got to define a socialistic form of government and a communistic form of government. Karl Marx was the father of each system of government and himself said that socialism was merely a transition into communism. A socialistic government by definition is one where the government takes ownership of portions of income and property and redistributes it as it sees fit. A communistic system is where the government controls all aspects of the economy and income among those who are governed.
So would Jesus support that?
Let’s examine the words of Jesus that often cause a few to think He would support a socialist or communist government.
In Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus said:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
So it’s clear that Jesus puts high priority on helping the poor. But is that the same thing as supporting or being part of a communist or socialist system?
Is Jesus saying that we should rely on a big government program or give directly to the individual?
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said that “if a man will not work he should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Yet many times Paul told them to take care of the poor, the widowed and the orphans (1 Timothy 6:17-18 for example). So clearly the people had to know the difference between a man who was unable to work and a man who would not.
Paul says something similar in 1 Timothy 5:8 where he says that anyone who does not take care of his own family “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So again, we’re commanded to help the poor, but not to help the one who can work but won’t. And since we’re told if someone who can provide for his/her family but doesn’t is “worse than an unbeliever,” it seems that there are two situations we must distinguish between.
Paul, a follower of Jesus and writing under the inspriation of Jesus gave us the responsibility to know if a man is unable to work or simply won’t work so that we don’t reward the lazy in our attempts to help the poor. The government can’t do that because they are not close enough to the individual to know the difference! It would be impossible to rely on politicians who could easily use the poor as an excuse to increase taxes but really just waste our money on their pet projects to make themselves rich. Washington, DC is too distant from the situation to know if a man is simply living off the taxpayers or genuinely unable to work. And according to the Bible, it’s very important to know the difference so that we don’t enable someone who can work and earn to simply be lazy.
In addition Jesus would not approve of a government dictatorship where the work of one man’s hands is taken away to give to another or to be wasted. Remember, Jesus was/is God in the flesh. And in the Old Testament God established one of the purest forms of free market capitalism in history. The Jewish society was a precursor to free markets today.
For example, we read that God “abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight” (Proverbs 11:1). He’s talking about a fair system here where the store owner would weigh a pound of meat and charge the consumer for a pound. God didn’t like it when either side would be dishonest with the other by fixing the measuring scales to make it look like there was more food than there was or by fixing it where it looked like there was less. The consumer and the business were to be honest with each other.
This wouldn’t be a factor in a government controlled economy who would hand things out and decide how much a person should get. This passage is describing a free market.
And read these passages from Proverbs:
- “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (12:11).
- “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23).
- “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son” (10:4,5).
- “One who is slack in his work is a close relative of one who destroys” (18:9).
- “Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing” (20:4).
- “The cravings of sluggards will be the death of them, because their hands refuse to work” (21:25).
- “I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (24:30-34).
- “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (13:22).
We read about a system that says that there is a sense of fairness in some people having more than others. That having a lot is the result of a lot of hard work and having very little is the result of the opposite. Note that we’re also told that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” That couldn’t happen in a communist system and the government takes so much in a socialist system that leaving an inheritance would nearly be impossible because someone’s life work can simply be taken (taxed) away by a big, powerful socialist government. Again, these are the words of the Bible that Jesus inspired to be written.
Putting money in the hands of the government as a means to take care of the poor was not what Jesus was describing and is terribly ineffective in addition to being vulnerable to the hands of dishonest politicians.
Jesus did tell us to pay our taxes (Luke 20) because He doesn’t approve of law breaking, but the system of Jesus is independent of the government and thrives under freedom and the free market (wealthy people and people who have money to give for example fund missionaries and mission projects, that would disappear if the government controlled all money).
In telling us to help the poor Jesus was telling us to choose to help the poor, not to approve of the governemnt controlling the economy and taxing us to spend it on a massive number of wasteful things or redistribute wealth from someone who earned it to someone who did not. A socialistic or communistic government removes freedom and personal liberty. Just take a look at history. Did you know that the pilgrims experimented with communism when they first landed in what would later become the United States? Click here to read the story and their conclusions.
One final point is that communism as a system has always persecuted religion and must do so in order to survive. Vladimir Lenin, a disciple of Karl Marx, wrote: “A Marxist must be a materialist, i. e., an enemy of religion.” Click here to read one of our articles discussing this point in more detail with quotes from communist leaders. The bottom line though is that a life-controlling form of government can’t allow the people to submit themselves to a higher power. There’s just too much independent thought in doing that which could lead to an allegiance other than to the government and could lead to an overthrow. The ruling class politicians wouldn’t allow it and never have.
So the idea that Jesus was or would have supported a socialistic or communistic system is not accurate at all. Jesus supported individuals and churches helping individuals and seemed to Himself have an independent distance from government. He taught us to be far too submissive to God to ever be able to submit to a government in such great lengths that would be required by communism.Please share: