Was Jesus a socialist? Do the Scriptures teach the forced redistribution of wealth through the government in order to provide for the poor? Many people –including those who consider themselves Christians– seem to think so.
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There is a logical fallacy here –can you spot it? The first quote in the second video says, in essence, that if giving food to the poor is saintly, then asking why the poor are poor –and, by implication, using the government to “solve” the “poor problem”– must be even more saintly. To put it in an outline:
1. Caring for the poor is Christian.
2. Government uses redistribution of wealth to care for the poor.
3. Therefore, Christians must support government redistribution of wealth.
The fallacy is located between the first and second statements –the subtle slip between individual and collective responsibility.
There are many places where God calls for individuals to care for the poor –but there’s not a single one that calls for a collective responsibility towards the poor. Jesus never claimed the Roman government should be healing the sick or giving money to the poor. Not even among the laws of Israel will you find God saying the government should take care of the poor.
There are, however, two things you will find consistently throughout the Scriptures.
First, God teaches respect for private property. The people of Israel were given specific laws about how to handle the property of others that show a deep and immense respect for the concept of private property.
Second, God teaches equality before the law. God didn’t expect the rich to be treated differently than the poor under any circumstances. There were no progressive taxes in Israel.
So no, Jesus was not a communist. Or a socialist. The personal responsibility to care for those around you does not so easily transfer to the government –making “the rich” care for the poor in your stead isn’t quite the same as caring for the poor yourself. But this is a lesson lost on those who are bent on reading socialism into the Scriptures.