Jesus was not a socialist.
When confronted with more than 5000 hungry people Jesus didn’t propose that the state should feed them, He told his followers “You Feed Them” (Mark 6) and then personally manufactured the food himself and gave it to them to eat.
When confronted with an epidemic health crisis, facing wide spread leprosy, palsy, and worse, Jesus took the initiative and healed people Himself and then trained a task force of healers to extend the reach of His healing ministry, telling them that it was good to be paid for their services because “those who work deserve their pay” – Luke 10.
When confronted with economic inequality, Jesus proposed personal savings and fiscal responsibility as the baseline solution and effective investing and the creation of small businesses as the preferred solution.
Jesus actually said,
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” – Matthew 25
And perhaps even more challenging, on the issue of income inequality specifically, Jesus told the story of a land owner who paid a full day’s wage to workers who worked the whole day and also paid the same full day’s wage to some he hired for only the last hour of the day. When challenged by those who worked the full day, the employer in the story said,
“Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” – Matthew 20
Jesus is actually supporting the sanctity of contracts and the importance of good negotiation as the just outcome, not receiving an equivalent hourly wage.
There are so many examples in the Gospels of Jesus promoting freedom, justice, the sanctity of contracts and personal property, wise use of capital, and passionate, focused, and persistent effort through hard work and dedication to pursuing a better life because these were the core tenets of Jesus’ economic teaching.
Karl Marx, the atheist founder of modern socialist thought, famously said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This slogan has been the hallmark of socialist thinking ever since. And yet, it is fundamentally flawed, not because it is wrong in the result it is seeking to achieve, but because it is wrong in its assertion that need is the fundamental driver of purchasing power and that ability is the fundamental driver of production capacity. This misdirection is why every truly socialist economy struggles with granting its people purchasing power or expanding its production capacity to meet the demand.
Jesus fully grasped the fundamentals of human nature. He knew the flaws, the failures, and the sins that plague people. He knew the aspirations, the hopes, and the dreams that inspire people. Jesus understood the morality required to establish society and the need for community as the foundation of civilization. Jesus exemplified and repeatedly asserted the essential necessity of love, compassion, freedom, and justice. AND, Jesus taught that people who work harder, smarter, and more productively will achieve more, receive more, and live better than those who don’t.
Jesus knew and taught that life isn’t fair.
There is no way to achieve equal outcomes, and for a government to pursue equal outcomes instead of equal opportunity is to deny this fundamental truth about humanity — we are all differently gifted, differently talented, differently able, differently called, differently successful. It is the strength of the human race that not one of us is the same as anyone else. We are all — each and individually — unique and particular. Where it is easy to categorize cheetahs as fast, or camels as high endurance, or bears as strong, or lions as fierce — the human race is best categorized as powerfully diverse and robustly various. And God knows this because God created us this way to be the leaders of the rest of creation.
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.'” – Genesis 1
Life isn’t the same for any two people on earth. Each person has their own unique story, their own unique journey, their own unique abilities and flaws, their own unique experience and education, their own unique strengths and calling, their own unique skills and connections. And yet, rather than being designed to isolate us or drive us apart, God created this infinite variety to more perfectly reflect and empower His infinite character and capability because each one of us has a unique connection and relationship with God that no one else has, has had, or ever will have. Each one of us brings an offering that no other person can provide. Each one of us provides something of infinite value that the world can only experience if we choose to share it and make it known.
Socialism’s flaw is that it seeks to constrain the actual diversity of creation in an attempt to achieve equivalent outcomes for every person created. Socialism’s flaw is that it denies the fundamental fact that life is not fair, people are not the same, and the only universal motivating force in the universe is God, not government.
So, if the vision of a perfect society and a thriving economy is one in which everyone has access to what they need and more and is motivated to provide as much as they are capable of producing, then by necessity it is essential to embrace the fact that productivity and capability is what creates buying power, not need. Just because I need something doesn’t mean that I have the ability to purchase it — that’s the flaw of the socialist worldview.
Jesus wasn’t socialist, which is exactly why Jesus taught the value of wisdom, insight, knowledge, education, work ethic, passion, persistence, investment, training, efficiency, intelligence, and productivity.
If Jesus had been a socialist He would have been teaching that the land owner was evil for depriving people of equal pay for equal work. He would have been seeking a communal solution to feeding the 5000 instead of manufacturing the food Himself. He would have condemned the master for rewarding the success and punishing the failure of his servants to invest wisely and well. The list goes on and on. Jesus simply wasn’t a socialist.
Jesus taught that every human life was valuable, that every human being had a unique and precious role and offering, that every person was created with fundamental abilities, specific gifts from God, and the opportunity to receive life and receive it abundantly if they would choose to embrace what God offers.
The fact is, we are free and our choices matter. Choose well and you will succeed. Choose poorly and you will fail. And if you think that you are choosing well and still failing, either it means that you haven’t persisted long enough to see the ultimate victory you have in store, or God is giving you a wake up call that perhaps you aren’t choosing as well as you may believe you are.
As believers it is our calling and our mission to seek and to support the equal opportunity of every life to know God, to receive eternal life, to receive it abundantly, and to enjoy the blessings of freedom, peace, prosperity, and joy that God offers to every human being born. We must remain dedicated to insightful and enlightened education and wise and effective training, just laws and fair law enforcement, freedom of conscience and liberty of action and speech to explore the quality of our choices, and the strength of the human spirit to respond to God and rise through every challenge with infinite variety and the unique power which the specific and particular gifts of our creator to each of us individually provide.
Life isn’t fair. The game isn’t rigged. You have a choice. Use it wisely and well and God will show you a blessing beyond your biggest and best dreams. Use it poorly and the results will be less rewarding. Those are the facts. And God is ready to use this apparent inequality of outcomes to show you how to achieve great things in your life and the lives of those within your reach. And maybe that’s the point, God is ready to work with you in your unique situation, to empower your unique gifts and talents, to develop and mentor your unique skills and abilities, and to give you the opportunity to make a unique and valuable difference in bringing His kingdom into your life and the lives of those around you.
“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” – Matthew 25