With the presidential election later this year some of the candidates believe that we should take from the rich and give to the poor. It sounds Biblical right? But, does the bible teach socialism or communism?
One tenant of Socialism and Communism is that the rich should take care of the poor, goods should be distributed by and to the community (in a nutshell). The government should distribute goods from those with to those without.
It is clearly evident that there is a huge gap between the rich and poor in America, and we are failing at the whole “unto the least of these” aspect of the Gospel, but should we take from the “upper class” and freely give it to the “lower class?”
There is a short answer and a long answer to this question.
The Short Answer
The Long Answer
In breaking down our long answer I want to discuss three different examples as to why the Bible does not teach socialism or communism.
Rich young ruler
First, let’s look at Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler.
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. – Mark 10:17-22
Jesus has not and will not force Himself or His teaching on anyone. He is a gentleman. Jesus did not force the rich young ruler to give up his belongings or to give what he had to those less fortunate.
Jesus presented the challenge to Him to go beyond what he already knew. Did the rich young ruler still make it to heaven? Who knows, that’s not for us to decide. The point is, Jesus didn’t make the rich young man give away what he had.
The choice was laid before the young man and ultimately he still had to make the choice of whether or not to give it all away.
How We Should Give
Secondly, let’s look at how we are instructed to give in the New Testament. We understand that the choice is in the hands of the one who holds the goods, wealth, or abilities, but Paul provides us with the understanding of how we should give when we do decide to give.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
People have the choice to give or not, but beyond that it’s up to that person to determine how they will give: freely, obligatorily, or begrudgingly.
A man cannot be forced to give cheerfully. It comes from to an inner working of the Spirit in his or her life. If he gives by force or begrudgingly it is the same as if he never gave it in the first place.
A government cannot force an individual to have a changed heart by legislation. Just as legislation won’t stop a murderer from murdering, neither will it change the heart of an individual to give, especially cheerfully. More than likely it will make the person even bitterer because now they are obligated to do such.
If Don’t Work You Don’t Eat
Lastly, let’s look at another of Paul’s instructions to the church in Thessalonica.
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11
Giving in the New Testament was primarily directed to be given to orphans and widows. If an individual is of working age and capability, and that person chooses not to work Paul instructs that they do not get to eat then.
There is a difference between an actual handicap, disability, not being of working age, or have the capability to work and the person who is able to and chooses not to.
We have fostered a society of entitlement in America where everybody wants something for nothing. It doesn’t work that way. You reap what you sow. And that ladies and gentlemen is the kicker. You actually have to do the work and sow first, then you get to harvest later. You can’t expect to harvest if you do not work.
As believers generosity should be a hallmark signature of our character, not out of obligation or force, but by choice and cheerfully at that. We should be givers to the less fortunate, the hurting, the sick, widows, and orphans.
When a government tries to usurp the wealth of the people to accommodate those unwilling to work we lose the Biblical understanding of giving. We won’t even go into the social impacts of taking from those who work to give to those who will not. So to answer the question “does the Bible teach socialism or communism” I believe the answer is a resounding no.