Monday, January 30, 2017

Jesus Was Never a Socialist

Jesus' reaction to confiscatory taxation.
Have you seen all the memes lately proclaiming Jesus is a socialist? Usually, it's someone trying to make the case that Trump is the anti-Christ and that Christians ought to support the resistance against him. They state that Jesus was a socialist as if that were a foregone conclusion.

But generally such persons have no idea who Jesus was other than that he was some guy that thought we should love everybody and feed the poor. And that's what they thing socialism is all about. This reveals a massive ignorance of both Christ's teachings and the teachings of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Nicolae Ceausescu, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and the rest of the socialists' greatest leadership hits parade.

Here's how Jesus differs with the great principles of socialism.
  1.  From each according to his ability to each according to his need. On the face of it this sounds very much like what Jesus did. Actually, at no time does Jesus advocate stealing or taking forcibly from one person to give to another person. While Jesus did expect his followers to distribute their surpluses to the poor and needy, he never suggested that the government do it for them. Quite the contrary he only valued voluntary charity.
  2. Collectivism, collective bargaining, minimum wage. In a parable, found in Matthew 20:1-16, Christ told the story of the vineyard owner who hired workers to harvest his grapes. He hired workers first thing in the morning. He hired more workers later in the day going back to hire more workers right up to the last hour of the day. At the end of the day, he payed each worker the same amount. The guys who came in the morning complained that the guys that only worked an hour got the same pay. Jesus said that they had no complaint since they had agreed on the amount they would work for at the beginning of the day. It was none of their business that the owner paid everyone a different amount per hour. Jesus did not advocate minimum wages or even equal pay. Jesus believed you should negotiate your own deal. Collective bargaining was not a feature of Jesus' economy. The man who owned the vineyard told the complaining workers this:  “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I now allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”  If you translate the last phrase literally, it read, “Is your eye evil because I am good?”
  3. Government must make everything fair.  Fairness, if you are a socialist generally translates to sameness. In pure socialist economies, everyone makes the same wage whether you are a doctor or a garbage man. But Jesus demonstrates in his parables that fairness isn't about equal pay for equal work. Fairness is about receiving the pay you were promised. If an employer pays a worker what he promised to pay him, then it's fair. It doesn't mean workers are paid exactly the same amount. 
  4. Public ownership of the means of production. Jesus was a capitalist. His stories take place in a world where there is private ownership of the means of production. In his parables each worker is free to make his own deal for wages. In Jesus' parables the employer must pay his employees what he promised. There is no need for government management in any of his stories.
  5. Forcible redistribution of wealth through taxation. The most stunning episode that illustrates this point is when Jesus discovered a taxation scheme in the Temple itself where the Priests were collecting fees through inflated pricing at the money-changers tables where, in order to make sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law, worshipers were being forced to pay exorbitant fees. It was quite a scheme. You could only use temple coins to make offerings, so you had to trade your Roman coins for temple money at the money-changers tables and they were gouging customers. They were giving a cut to the Priests for the right to operate the money-changing franchises. Jesus responded to this attempt at government manipulation by roaring onto the Temple portico with a whip in his hand, over-turning tables and saying harsh things about the corrupt practice which basically circumvented the free market for doves, sheep, cows and pigeons 
  6. The classless society. Jesus described a society in which one's pay and station depended on hard work, careful investment, and the making of a profit. The parable of the servants who were entrusted with varying amounts of gold describes nothing less than a performance review by the employer. The ones who proved dependable, trustworthy and capable were rewarded with financial reward and received advancement according to their ability.This is not an economy in which one advances merely by occupying a position for a given amount of time and unrelated to performance.
Early Christian Collectivism:

Yes, Christians gathered together when the church was being persecuted and shared resources. These were small group tactics designed to help survive and attack. As armies do, these Christian soldiers formed an organized effort so that they could spread the gospel and at the same time take care of each other when they were under attack as a group. As persecution let up and the gospel spread, Christians began moving into small communities and cities and taking up free market self-support selling purple die, building tents, fishing and other types of enterprise.  Christians like their Jewish forebears became producing members of society and, without the need of government to make it so. It can be argued that the corruption of the Christian Church began the moment they were granted state sponsorship by Constantine and descended even further when the Roman emperor handed the power of government to the papacy when Rome was divided. This was not something Jesus would have approved of. The corrupt government of Israel in his own time, received his harsh criticism during his ministry. His disciples were almost all murdered by government. 

Let's face it, socialism is based on violation of at least two of the ten commandments. The eighth says "Thou shalt not steal."  To take by force is theft. Taxation where it is beyond the willingness of those taxed is theft.  To say it is not really theft, but that government has a "right" to tax citizens could be argued to be a violation of the commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness."  Finally, the commandment that prohibits greed, "Thou shalt not covet.

At no time did Jesus say anything remotely like "Let the poor go unto a dot gov website and apply for food stamps that they might be fed." He expected us to take care of our responsibilities to the poor and needy and not to put it off on the government in order to (as liberal TV personality Joy Behar put it), "So that I don't have to worry about the poor."

Jesus was no socialist. He fed the poor, healed the sick, and introduced the lost to their Father who loved them and would care for them and teach them to stand on their own two feet.

Just sayin'

© by Tom King

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