“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Acts 2:45 ESV
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Jesus of Nazareth – Matthew 19:21
These Bible verses are often used to justify socialism. But read carefully, these verses make clear Jesus only endorses distribution of personal property as a personal decision. Nowhere in the scripture is it a command. Nowhere is there compulsion to give up personal possessions and submit to government control. Generosity among believers is the biblical context of selling all possessions and distributing the proceeds to those in need. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44 ESV
This is a crucial distinction: Jesus endorses a society governed by voluntary free choices and personal decisions. Socialism, however, is a society controlled by central government planning and coercion.
Socialism is defined as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” This classic definition involving “governmental ownership and administration” of belongings is being embraced by a growing number of leading political figures who now openly describe themselves as socialists.
Who Defends Socialism?
Bernie Sanders championed the term and was leading the 2020 primary race until he doubled down defending Fidel Castro. As people began to research this actual policy position, his popularity plummeted. While Andrew Gillum (former mayor of Tallahassee and candidate for governor) openly condemned socialist societies like Cuba and Venezuela, he approved of Democrats adopting the label “socialist.” He defended the Democrat socialists as “champion[s] for an opportunity, democracy, and human freedom.” A CNN article also defended them, claiming they are “not advocating for an outright end to capitalism. Rather they’re pushing for more robust limits on its practice. The push for universal guarantees—to health care, jobs, labor rights, housing, access to broadband, and more…”
But history consistently proves socialism is always antithetical to “human freedom”—evidenced by the fact that in the 20th century alone, socialist/communist regimes were responsible for over 100 million deaths. While some may claim communism does not belong grouped with socialism, a USAToday op-ed correctly noted, “It is impossible to separate socialism from communism because the former (an economic system) inevitably leads to the latter (a sociopolitical system). Why? Because centralized economic control only works if citizens have no rights.”
Many of the new self-defined democrat-socialists point to Sweden and Denmark as support for their own socialist position. However, there are many problems with this. Even Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen bluntly declared: “I would like to make one thing clear: Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.” And former Prime Minister Carl Bildt affirmed the same about Sweden. It’s a problem that democrat-socialists are relying on proof that doesn’t exist.
Some capitalists use scripture to justify greed or materialism. It is not hard to see those whose false god is wealth (mammon). Some socialists use scripture to justify avoiding personal responsibility, laziness or entitlement. It is not hard to see those whose false god is the government – it is where they turn in a crisis for help.
The Bible teaches a strong work ethic, dignity and rewards of working and personal responsibility. The Bible teaches that the trust in and love of money and wealth is wrong – not that money is wrong. The Bible does teach us to care for the poor, the widow, orphan, needy, and sick. God teaches both generosity and stewardship – reminding us our possessions are not our own. Both leanings teach us that to whom much is given, much is required. Capitalism is a means of our generosity if our hearts are right. Some who claim to be believers are not yet generous or compassionate but still trapped in the love of money. But forcing them outwardly will not change their heart. Our giving to those in need is to be as we decide in our heart – not forced from the outside or under compulsion.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
The reality is, the socialist label cannot be separated from its totalitarian roots; and increasing the government’s power always decreases a citizen’s freedom. As affirmed in a 2018 report by the US Council of Economic Advisers, if the calls for “universal guarantees” for “health care, jobs, labor rights, housing, access to broadband, and more” are implemented, it will have disastrous economic consequences on the country.
In the end, socialist policies destroy free countries like the United States. The current romanticization of socialism is worrisome and ought to be condemned by any free society. When you understand history and the Bible’s economic teachings focused on stewardship and rewards, the only reasonable conclusion is a national policy of socialist distancing.