What does the Bible Say?
I have been writing on this topic since last spring. It proved much more difficult than I imagined. The more I studied and read the more complicated it became. It’s by no means complete so I hope it encourages you to study the subject for yourself.
It would be very presumptuous of anyone to label God either a capitalist or a socialist although some do say God is in one camp or the other. He’s neither! He is GOD! This article is not a politically based writing. I was raised to be against socialism and continue to maintain that belief but why? We should reexamine our beliefs occasionally to confirm or change them. A number of political leaders are in favor of socialism and are pushing our country towards that goal. In light of their effort, I felt the need to study the subject. I don’t want to be like the politician who came out with the position: “some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it, and well, I’m for my friends.” I want to be able to support the reasons I am against socialism. Let’s look what the Bible has to say. The Bible needs to be my guide in ALL matters. I cannot find either word in the Bible.
The New Deal was an amalgam of dozens of programs and agencies created by the Roosevelt Administration and the Congress.. These programs held many aspects of socialism in the U.S. FDR was elected president four times so his ideas and programs were popular. The New Deal was born as the result of the depression. The Social Security Act was signed in 1935. In the early 1970’s, I attended a financial seminar on investments. The speaker illustrated that investing the money you contributed to Social Security into a fund that earned a moderate interest rate would give you a much better benefit than Social Security. The problem with his idea is that too many people simply do not have the self-discipline to act responsibly. In other words they are not good stewards of God’s blessings. Many socialists do not believe individuals should not have to be self-disciplined.
The following are comments and descriptions of socialism and capitalism from the internet:
“Socialism is an economic and political system under which the means of production are publicly owned. Capitalism is an economic system under which the means of production are privately owned. Production and consumer prices are based on a free-market system of “supply and demand.”
“Capitalism and socialism are so different that they're often seen as diametrically opposed. Capitalism is based on individual initiative and favors market mechanisms over government intervention, while socialism is based on government planning and limitations on private control of resources assigned exclusively to either its “capitalist” or “socialist” components, or to the fact that the system is mixed rather than purely one thing or the other. The real debate, as Williamson* goes on to suggest, concerns the structure, balance, and integration of the elements that make up our political economy.” * Kevin Williamson, Deputy Managing Editor of National Review
“Socialism, strictly defined, is an economic theory which proposes the abolition of private capital and the substitution of collective ownership in carrying on the industrial work of the world. This collective ownership is to extend to all the material instruments of production; these are to be publicly operated, and the products to be equitably distributed. The government is to be wholly in the hands of the people, and it is to assign to each individual his task and to determine his wage. Every citizen is to be actually a government employee.”
“Many Christian socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in the sin of greed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, socialism is a "social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.”
An opposing view is interesting reading: 5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian By Julie Roys, CP Op-Ed Contributor, The Christian Post
1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview,
2. Socialism Punishes Virtue,
3. Socialism Endorses Stealing,
4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare,
5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family.
Read her explanation for each of these reasons.
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham stated that the rise of the Democratic Party’s socialist left to a list of concerns like abortion and same-sex marriage on the line in “a battle for the soul of our nation.”
Graham continues: “Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview and seeks to suppress all peoples in support of the state,” Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said in a televised sermon on Sunday. “No one serious about their Christian faith can be serious about socialism.”
There is a “movement” known as Bruderhof which is a communal form of life. No one owns anything. They share everything for the good of the community. It’s not a government system based on elected leaders based but the self-appointed leaders of the commune make the decision for the whole.
I do not believe these descriptions are all inclusive. When people use the term socialism it’s difficult to know exactly what they mean because there are different degrees and types of socialism. In researching the topic, I discovered that it is much more complicated than I thought. Some want to pull issues like abortion and same-sex marriage into socialism which I do not believe belong there. People bring issues into or leave them out based on their need to prove their points. An article by William Wilkinson written August 16, 2018 maintains that is conceivable to have capitalism and socialism both combined. I willing admit that I don’t fully understand everything he wrote. Read the article for yourself. “Socialism” vs. “capitalism”: what left and right get wrong about the debate – Vox.
In one form of socialism, the government takes control of everything. I’m opposed to this form because I do not trust the politicians nor the government administrators! My biggest concern is their lack of seeking God’s guidance. They are relying too much on their own ideas but then again capitalists are guilty of the same thing. Maybe I’m wrong but it does not seem many of the government leaders ask God to be a part of guiding them. Also, the more we rely on the government administration and politicians the more rights it seems we have to forfeit.
Some socialists believe in creating equality of income. Their belief is that there should not be a large gap in the income of people. During the pandemic layoffs, I heard a gentleman comment that he was being called back to work and was not pleased. He was making as much by not working as he was when he worked. One lady related the story about how her daughter and son-in-law were both laid off, but they were spending a lot of money. Turns out they were making more money than when they were working. If the government controls income and guarantees all people a minimum income, then more people are incentivized to remain jobless. To me this what happens under socialism when the government guarantees incomes to everyone.
My daughter has a degree in social work. She started her degree at the University of Memphis. The instructors there taught students to focus on the number of government programs available to their “clients” and to instruct them on how avail themselves of as many government handouts as possible. After we moved to Bell Buckle, she continued to work on her degree at MTSU. The instructors at MTSU taught her how help “clients” to use as few government programs as possible and teach them how to become independent. A huge difference in the two philosophies. I believe MTSU”s teaching is much sounder and more Biblical.
What does the Bible say about the poor and needy?
Proverbs 31:9 ESV “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Matthew 26:11. NIV “The poor you will always have with you.”
Proverbs 14:31 ESV “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Proverbs 28:27 ESV “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
Luke 14:12-14 ESV “He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Hebrews 13:16 ESV “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
1 Timothy 5:8 ESV “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 John 3:17-18 ESV “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth.”
Luke 3:11 ESV “And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Proverbs 14:31 ESV “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Matthew 25:37-40 ESV “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
There are many more scriptures directing us to help the poor and needy. How can you read these scriptures and not understand God’s direction? Some believe that by giving to the church they have satisfied their duty. I disagree! These verses are written about MY duties. In Acts chapters four and six you find that the deacons did act as a way of distributing money for the needs of people. They did this so that the apostles could continue with preaching and teaching about Christ. That does not absolve us of our duties. None of the verses quoted directs us to solely use the deacons of the church to help the poor and needy.
The Bible does not teach us to take care of people through the government, but neither can I find where it specifically condemns it. Many who are in favor of a socialist government claim that Christians have not performed our duty by helping those in need. Those claims are not without basis. We tend to attach requirements to our assistance that I cannot find in the Bible. Church attendance has been one of those requirements. I understand the thinking about church attendance but none of the Bible verses requires church attendance. A hungry child needs to be fed and properly clothed whether his or her parents take him to church or not. The benevolence program at Southside does a great job in following the Bible.
Our judgement about the worthiness of those in need help sometimes enters into consideration. I must confess to judging at times. For the past 2-3 years Rafe Woodard and I have delivered meals for the Senior Citizens Meals on Wheels Program, a government sponsored program. At times I have doubts on whether some of the people are worthy based on their home, cars and what I see as their life styles. But I do not know the whole story on these people. I do not believe that these elderly people are capable of working.
What does the Bible say about those who will not work? The only qualification for providing assistance I find is in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
Other Bible verses describing the lazy:
1 Thessalonians 4:12 ESV “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
Proverbs 21:25 ESV “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”
Proverbs 18:9 ESV “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.”
Proverbs 19:15 MSG “Life collapses on loafers; lazybones go hungry.”
I do not believe these verses are about being judgmental or vindictive. The principle taught is practical, spiritual, and loving. Giving to those who want to live off of others or the government enables a spiritually harmful attitude.
The school system in Bedford County provides free breakfast and lunch to all children without qualification. The meals are subsidized by the USAD. Bedford County is considered a poor county. Is this program “socialism”? Some say ”yes” because it is sponsored by the government. If it is socialism, then I’m ok with it.
There is also a program called “Backpack” that provides canned food for children to take home over the weekend. Many children may go hungry if not for this program. For the most part “Backpack” depends on donations. Some money comes through United Way and some from individuals. Many of the teachers help out of their pockets.