Think of this as a primer rather than an exhaustive essay. But around the world right now there is an ever growing antagonism between self-proclaimed socialists and capitalists, with people on both sides appealing for support from the masses. But too often the American Christian Church is pulled into these arguments without having really considered all of the nuances at play and that is a dangerous thing.
Socialism is all the rage right now in American politics as we grapple with the economic issues facing the world today on a local, national and global scale. Proponents claim the inherent value of the system as one that prioritizes helping the poor out of poverty through a fair and equal distribution of resources. They call it social and economic justice. But opponents claim the inherent flaw of the system is its homogenization of society which makes all men wards of the state, calling it dictatorial and enslaving.
Alternately, others hold up Capitalism as the better economic philosophy, claiming that it, in fact, brings about true social and economic justice by incentivizing hard word and creativity. But the opponents of Capitalism decry it as dictatorial and enslaving because it rewards greed by allowing the exploitation of workers and resources, products, and services, under the auspices of a free market.
The question which Followers of the Way of the Cross must answer is, what does the Bible teach us about these two concepts?
First, we are told to seek justice and mercy (Micah 6:8). Second, we are told that if we ignore the cries of the poor, we will cry and not be heard (Proverbs 21:13). Third, we are told that true religion is to care for the fatherless and the widows (James 1:27). Taken together these passages give us an insight into the heart of God about the use of wealth and the care of our fellow man.
However, before we conclude that the Bible unequivocally supports a pure socialist economic structure, we must also consider how the above principles play out in the Community of Faith as recorded in the Scripture.
First, while the Jews were instructed to leave the gleanings, the poor did the work (Leviticus 23:22). Second, while the Jews were not to deny help when they had the ability to provide it (Proverbs 3:27-28), those who don’t work also don’t eat (Proverbs 6:6-11). Third and most importantly, in the earliest days of the Messianic community the book of Acts says that they had all things in common – not because they were forced to but because they wanted to (Acts 4:32-5:5).
So while God desires us to love each other and to take care of each other (Galatians 6:1-5), we must do so freely and intelligently so as to engender accountability to a standard that draws all Men up rather than incentivizing their self-destruction (James 1:14-15). Taken together, these passages highlight the fact that the Bible does not affirm socialism or capitalism; it affirms the third option, it affirms community.
Community transcends the politics of governments because it is the precursor of government. It cannot be created through legislation. It can only be received and reciprocated by the individuals who choose it. It is, simply, Life lived together. And when we freely choose one another it will result in deep and lasting societal change because that change will be grounded in the Imago Dei. These are the economics of the Kingdom of God. This is the Way of the Cross. Apolitical and the only real hope for addressing the economic issues facing the world today on a local, national and global scale.
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need…
…But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.