Socialism and the Bible
Author: Pastor Paul A. Bartz
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
Many people say that the Bible outlines no specific economic system for society to follow. Many church bodies are involved in promoting communism or various forms of socialism, even to the point of giving material aid to revolutionaries who are attempting to bring communism to their lands. It should be no surprise that the church bodies involved in these activities have long ago given up the Biblical teachings about creation and adopted evolution. There is a very real link between the abandonment of the Biblical teaching on creation and the support these church bodies have shown for communism and socialism.
It is also true, as some say, that certain Bible passages which refer to buying and selling reflect the social and economic practices of the day without meaning to say that these particular practices are to be universal. But when immorality is practiced in Biblical culture, it is always condemned by Scripture. If private ownership and wealth were sinful and in themselves oppressive of the poor, Scripture would condemn them. Scripture, however, never condemns wealth – it speaks of wealth as a blessing, and actually protects the concept of private ownership. We shall look at a few Biblical examples which show that those of a socialist or communist bent who use the Bible for support are actually reading their own cultural views into Scripture!
Exodus 20:15, which reflects universal moral law, protects the ownership of private property. This same principle is explained by example time and time again in Scripture. Deuteronomy 22:1 and Leviticus 19:35-36, for example, both protect the practice of private property by applying Exodus 20:15 to specific instances. Civilized societies today recognize the universality of this moral principle by upholding these principles, thus recognizing that they are not unique principles for Old Testament Israel.
Deuteronomy 15:1-11 also adds mercy to the economic order. These verses prescribe the periodical forgiveness of debts but also promise that this should not be a hardship on anyone because the people shall be prosperous. The secret of their prosperity is found in verses 4 and 5: listening to the Lord’s commands. This principle still seems to be valid today on a national scale. The closer a people draws to the Lord as a nation, the more prosperous that nation is.
Both the Old and the New Testaments point out the purpose of possessions. Ultimately they are to be used for the support of the Lord’s work. This is especially specific in the New Testament where it is clear that private property is to be considered a tool for Gospel outreach. Proverbs 3:9 tells us to “honor the Lord with thy substance.” 1 Corinthians 16:2 repeats what Deuteronomy 16:17 said, essentially that we are to give to the Lord as He has given to us. 1 Corinthians 16:2 adds that this should be done regularly, “the first day of the week.” It is a shame that many churches and ministries are so limited because while some of God’s people take this seriously, so many do not.
In Matthew 19:23-26 we find Jesus warning about the peril of riches, but beginning in Matthew 20:1, Jesus compares God to a wealthy landowner. If being a wealthy landowner was of itself wrong, then He certainly would not have chosen this kind of comparison for this parable. In Luke 15:12-21 we have the parable of the rich fool. But as verses 22-40 point out, the point of this parable is not that riches are sinful, but the man’s attitude was sinful. All people commit the same sin when they measure their security by how many possessions they have – or don’t have.
Many extremely rich men are presented as heroes of faith in the Bible, among them Abraham and Job. They were rewarded with wealth by God, and blessed by Him, even after they were wealthy because of their faithfulness. Job was even given two fortunes by God! This clearly shows that wealth, and the wealth needed to make even more money, is not against God’s order. Were there poor people in those days? You can be sure that there were. We can picture Abraham and Job as generous men on the basis of what Scripture tells us, but they did not feel that they had to distribute their wealth equally among all the people who had need. For one thing, this would have put all the people whom they employed out of work.
Scripture also deals with another curse in this regard. When Samuel was old, the people of Israel wanted a king, just like other nations. God warned them, through Samuel, of the problems this would bring to them in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. He warned that unlike the judges, a king would establish a huge bureaucracy which would require up to a tenth of the people’s income, plus property taxes (really – read it!) to support it. God considered this a burden too heavy for His people. This tells us something about the size, and therefore the functions, which God has in mind for government.
The problems with communism and socialism begin with their rejection of the creation in Genesis. With their totally materialistic measure of man and life these systems continue, from this point, to ignore the rest of the God-given order for the world. While communism has an interest in denying religious freedom to Christians, this is only a by-product of their faulty beginning which results in a faulty worldview. Societies in which socialism grows always encourage people to think in more materialistic terms.
Ultimately, our goal as Christians on this earth is to support and be a part of the Gospel outreach to all men. We are to place first the witness of Christ’s innocent suffering and death on the cross for the redemption of sin-enslaved man. Christians who are homemakers, as well as those who are presidents, each have this charge as much as any pastor. Those of us who are blessed with a government in which we can participate should thankfully use our rights and powers as citizens to see to it that we continue to live in a society in which God can be openly glorified and served with all our hearts, all our souls and all our substance.
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