Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH God):
Does the Bible Promote Socialism?
When people try to use the Bible to advocate socialism, they are not being honest with the word of YEHOVAH God. Instead, they "distort…the Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). We must be on guard against this perverting of the gospel. YEHOVAH’s plan in the Bible calls for individuals (primarily) and churches to help the needy -- not government.
by HOIM Staff
Socialism is becoming more accepted in our society. Proponents of it are more open in advocating for it and it holds less of a stigma than it once did. However, there is still a large percentage of people that reject this political and economic philosophy -- many of these are religious people. Those who promote socialism, if they want it to gain popular support, must find a way to convince these individuals of the alleged virtues of the system.
What is socialism? In a nutshell, socialism is the belief that a central, national government ought to oversee and control all aspects of the economy, rather than leaving private businesses and individuals to conduct their business as they see fit. It is rooted in the notion that all property and wealth is to be shared and the national government is the entity which determines how they are to be shared. Of necessity, socialism demands a strong centralized government to be able to function in this way.
Some of the proponents of socialism are attempting to use the Bible to defend their ideology. This only makes sense since many of the ones they are trying to persuade to embrace socialism claim to follow the Bible. So let us briefly examine some of the arguments that are made using the Bible to defend this philosophy.
The purpose here is not so much to promote one economic philosophy over another, but to examine whether or not the Bible is being used accurately by those who use it to argue for socialism. Timothy was admonished to be diligent to learn how to "accurately [handle] the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Is the word of truth being accurately handled by those who use it to defend socialism? Let us notice a few arguments.
Alleged Examples of Socialism
The most common Bible example used to defend socialism is the early church. When the church was established on the day of Pentecost, Luke records, "All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need" (Acts 2:44-45). A little while later, Luke stated that among the believers "not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them" (Acts 4:32). Funds collected "would be distributed to each as any had need" (Acts 4:35).
Some will argue that this sharing and having all things in common is the foundation of socialism. Therefore, the political/economic system is simply built upon the foundation of the early church.
These brethren certainly shared, but that did not make it socialism. Socialism assumes that all things are common property (whether the property owners like it or not) to be used according to the will of the national government. Property owners have no choice, but are forced to participate. This is in no way akin to what was done by the early church. Yes, the brethren shared and considered their possessions to be common property; but this was done voluntarily, not by force.
When Ananias and Sapphira brought money from the sale of their property to the apostles, they brought only part of the proceeds while trying to present it as the whole amount (Acts 5:1-3). As punishment, both were killed by YEHOVAH God (Acts 5:5, 10). Were these two punished because they kept some of the price of the land? Those who are trying to promote socialism will adamantly affirm that they were. They then jump to the conclusion that it must be morally right for the government to forcibly take from the prosperous whatever amount they deem necessary.
Yet this is nowhere near what this passage is teaching. Ananias and Sapphira were punished for lying (Acts 5:3), not for withholding some of the purchase price. How do we know? Peter explained the principle of personal property rights -- they were free to use their resources as they saw fit: "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?" (Acts 5:4). Before and after the sale of the property, they had the right to use their possessions as they desired. Even though many of their brethren were voluntarily selling property to donate the proceeds to the church, no one could be forced to do so.
Socialism depends upon the forced confiscation of property and wealth by the government so it can manage these in the way it sees fit. It is ludicrous to attempt to twist the Scriptures enough to make them support this system. The Biblical support is just not there.
The Need to Help the Poor
Many argue for socialism on the basis that we need to help the poor. It is certainly true that we should be eager to "remember the poor" (Galatians 2:10), but this is not the issue. Proponents of socialism often try to depict their opponents as having no concern for the poor. But the reality is that there are several ways to help the poor. Socialism is just one way man has invented to (allegedly) help those in poverty.
YEHOVAH God has a plan to help the poor. His plan begins with individuals helping their fellow man. When the Messiah told the parable of the Good Samaritan, this man helped the man in need by taking time himself to help him and using his own money to provide necessary care (Luke 10:30-37). Addressing our individual responsibility, Paul wrote, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
To the Ephesians he wrote, "He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need" (Ephesians 4:28). James also discussed the primary responsibility of individuals in the matter of benevolence: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).
In addition to the primary responsibility of individuals to help the poor, YEHOVAH God has given local churches the task of helping needy saints (Acts 4:32-35; 11:29; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1). Helping those outside the church is left to individuals (Galatians 6:10).
The ideal of socialism is that the state would care for those in need, taking any resources necessary from the population in order to provide the necessary aid. For someone to promote this concept, he must argue from some source other than the Bible. YEHOVAH’s plan in the Bible calls for individuals (primarily) and churches to help the needy -- not government. YEHOVAH God has ordained a specific (and different) role for civil authorities -- to punish evildoers (Romans 13:4), protect the innocent (Romans 13:3), and to maintain a level of freedom which allows us to serve YEHOVAH God in peace (1 Timothy 2:2).
There is no God-given role for government to help the poor. A distant, centralized government will simply not do as well caring for the poor than individuals will. In fact, the wise man alluded to this when he said, "If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them" (Ecclesiastes 5:8). The larger a government bureaucracy gets, the more inefficient and inept it becomes. There is simply no Biblical support for the government taking the primary role in benevolence.
Capitalism and Greed
Socialism is offered as the alternative to capitalism (a free market system). The proponents of socialism will often attack capitalism for allegedly being rooted in greed. After all, if you are unwilling for the national government to take your income and savings at will, then you must just be selfish and unconcerned for others. This is a dishonest argument, for it unfairly (and often wrongly) attributes an evil motive to someone. The Bible is explicit in condemning this type of judging (Matthew 7:1; James 4:11-12). We are not "able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" as YEHOVAH God is (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Does greed exist in a capitalistic system? Of course. No honest person can deny this, nor should anyone attempt to deny it. And we must freely acknowledge that greed is a problem. Paul said it "amounts to idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). But we should remember a simple fact: Greed will exist under any economic system, even socialism. In socialism, you have the greed of the ruling class who desire to gain control of the nation’s wealth and use it as they please. You also have the greed of sluggards who make a living from the labors of those who work, while they themselves refuse to work. So yes, greed exists in capitalism; but it certainly also exists in socialism.
While greed exists in both capitalism and socialism, neither one is rooted in greed. Capitalism is based upon the freedom and responsibility of an individual to provide for himself. Socialism is based upon a centralized government controlling and regulating an economy, such that an individual must look to the elites in power to see what they will allow him to do and to have.
Again, the purpose of this article is not to advocate some political position, but to examine the claim that socialism is rooted in the Bible. As we have seen, it is not. Yes, the early Christians shared their possessions with their needy brethren; but this is a far cry from a centralized government confiscating property from one group of citizens to redistribute to another group that the rulers in power have chosen to help. Yes, we are to help the poor; but this does not mean that civil authorities are to take the primary role in benevolence. Yes, we are to guard ourselves from greed; but this does not mean that we reject capitalism, for greed can also easily exist in a socialistic society.
When people try to use the Bible to advocate socialism, they are not being honest with the word of YEHOVAH God. Instead, they "distort…the Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16). We must be on guard against this perverting of the gospel, just as Peter warned in the next verse: "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17).
The problems we face, individually and collectively as a society, will not be solved by placing our trust in government, but by placing our trust in YEHOVAH God. As the psalmist wrote, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9).
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