Was Jesus a Communist and A Supporter of Governmental Redistribution of Wealth?

Posted on September 20, 2011

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A recent article by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in the Washington Post aroused my interest.  Not because I am a bit of a political junkie and I keep up with most things political, but because Thistlethwaite invoked God and the Bible to back up President Obama’s recent Jobs Act that includes $1.5 trillion in tax increases.  I was appalled at her use of the Bible to justify governmental redistribution of wealth.  While there are several areas I could explore in her article, two will be my focus.  First, she used biblical passages out of context in order to back her point of supporting governmental redistribution of wealth.    She was also incorrect in stating the core values of the Christian faith as “fairness, equality, and opportunity for all.”

After reading her article, I must admit I was somewhat astounded that a professor at a seminary could get the biblical passages so wrong.  She cherry picks certain passages and then rips them out of their context in order to justify her points.  One is her quote of Acts 4:32-35 which she feels justifies “anti-poverty political work.”  In other words, the work of helping the poor should be the job of the government and Christians should be willing to support any and all government measures that may help the poor including raising $1.5 trillion dollars in tax increases as President Obama wants to do. What many fail to realize is that our tax paying dollars have been used in the many trillions to fight a war on poverty since the 1960’s.  Guess what?  We still have the poor (Matt 26:11).  Nevertheless, in the aforementioned Acts scripture, it was the church that was selling and giving to all who were in need, not the government.  They did not hand their money to Rome in order to let Rome help those who were in need.  That was simply not the case.  So, why was there a need?  Because after Pentecost, the church had thousands of Christians still in Jerusalem with out job or home who were being discipled by the Apostles.  They had left their homes to participate in the Pentecost festival when God’s Spirit descended upon them and the church was born.  With planning done for the short term, the new Christians had ran out of resources when they stayed in Jerusalem. The people in need were not necessarily the poor of the community as it was people who still had farms and businesses back home that were on hiatus until their discipleship with the Apostles was over.  These were people in a city who did not have the means to house or feed themselves for an extended period of time.  To use this passage in justifying the redistribution of wealth so the government can take care of the poor misses the point of the passage and is in fact imposing socialistic ideology on a biblical text.  This passage does not justify governmental redistribution of wealth, communism, or socialism or any other “ism.”  For those wanting the justification of those political and economic schemes I suggest looking here.

 

Second, is Ms. Thistlethwaite’s statement that, “What we need to do is re-establish our national values of fairness, equality and opportunity for all, values that I believe are actually the core of the Christian faith, (as well as of other religious traditions and of humanist values).”  First, the core of the Christian faith is not “fairness, equality and opportunity for all.”  While I do believe those values can be found in the Bible, it is not those values that make up the core of Christianity.  A holy and loving God who is working to redeem His creation from the destructive work of sin in the world defines the core of Christianity.  God is doing this by the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son to atone for the sins of humanity.  For those who realize their dreadful state of sin and accept God’s free gift of grace by faith, they are counted as a child of God, forever forgiven for their sins.  In fact, this core concept is anything but fair.  It was not fair for Jesus to take my or anyone’s else’s punishment on the cross for our sins.  Jesus did not die to bring about “fairness, equality and opportunity for all.”  He died to redeem a creation permeated with sin and ruin.  I also don’t believe it is “fairness, equality, and opportunity for all” that caused Paul to endure all of his sufferings in the proclamation of the gospel.  It was Jesus and God’s divine grace upon him that caused Paul to endure beatings, shipwreck, and imprisonment.  It was the power of the Gospel and the glory of God that motivated Paul (Rom. 1:16-17).  The core of Christianity is the gospel.  To make it Ms. Thistlethwaite’s core of “fairness, equality, and opportunity for all” cheapens the biblical message if not also distorts it and leaves creation in its dreadful state of sin.

 

At one point, I do have to agree with Ms. Thistlethwaite in that modern capitalism is not God’s plan as if He created it.  Ultimately, God’s plan is for His Son to return and set up God’s economy.  Until then in the U. S., capitalism is a primarily man made plan that has some Christian values such as the right of ownership of private property (1 Kings 21) and the idea that it is necessary for someone to work in order eat (2 Thes. 3:10).  But in any man made system, there are prone to be opportunities of abuse.  Unlike Gordon Gekko, the Bible teaches that greed is unbiblical, a liar of false hopes, and destructive (Luke 12:15).  Yet in our nation or any other for that fact, greed can be found in those who are millionaires or those who are on welfare.  Greed holds no discrimination against economic class. Aside from that, the bigger question to this issue is what has capitalism produced to the good of humanity?  One has to look far and wide throughout human history to find another social and economic structure that has been more benevolent than capitalism in the U. S.  In pure capitalism, people have the freedom to keep as much as they want or give back as much as they want, yet what we have witnessed time and time again is that when left with the freedom to choose, those in the capitalistic U. S. have given generously to help here at home and to those abroad who are suffering tragedy or are just down on their luck.  It is capitalism that has produced the wealth of the U. S. so that we can be more than generous when compared with our foreign neighbors who hold to differing governmental and economic systems.  If one thing has been proven true concerning bigger government and bigger taxes, inefficiency always creeps into bureaucracies.  That is why I believe in the autonomous local church rather than a denominational system that holds sway over the church.  Things get done more efficiently on the local level.  Similarly, government works better smaller, not bigger.  While I don’t believe that capitalism in all its facets is particularly God’s plan, neither is socialism or communism.  To find justification for those systems I again suggest looking here. No, capitalism isn’t perfect, but if faced with a choice between it and more government control and intrusion into our finances and lives that leads to a quasi socialist/capitalist economy; I will choose capitalism, smaller government, and freedom until something better comes along or until the best comes in the form of Jesus’ return.

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