Jesus was NOT a socialist

In the oft-repeated (but not always accurate) words of Barak Obama, “Let me be clear”… I am not writing this blog as a way to advocate for, nor rail against, the recent healthcare reform legislation. I do have my opinion, but this is more about the way Jesus is being improperly used as a political pawn.

I have seen some comments and blogs in various places supporting the healthcare legislation by claiming it is the Christian imperative as demonstrated by Jesus. Some have even claimed that Jesus was a socialist. Jesus was NOT a socialist – at least not in the political system understanding of the term. Was Jesus apathetic about the rich hoarding money and the poor being neglected? Absolutely not. But, there is no evidence Jesus ever encouraged the governmental redistribution of wealth.

I think of the story of the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus addressed his deepest spiritual hurdle and encouraged him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor and follow Jesus. The man couldn’t do it and walked away. Never does Jesus call for any intervention to take the money from the man. His call, and likewise, the call of the Old Testament, was for the people of God to live in a radical way – caring for one another and the alien in the community by being generous with those in need. It was a call to be a witness to the truth of God so that others might turn to God. It was not as a call to make everything right in the world.

In the story of the rich young man, my belief is Jesus is heartbroken for the man and for the poor he could have helped, but he did not call for forced redistribution of the man’s wealth. Jesus was NOT a socialist. Instead, Jesus was, and is, a “covenantalist” – that’s a term I have decided best describes who Jesus is and who God calls us to be. The call is to maintain a covenant relationship with one another – a relationship that says I will give myself for your good. A call to love in a way that says, “the riches I have, the good I can do, the strength I can offer will be offered for the good of others so that they will know love,” and most specifically the love of God. It seems to me this is just what Jesus did for us.

The reality is that God is not asking us to fix the world, he is asking us to love one another. God seems to realize that leaving such decisions in our hands could result in a less than optimum outcome – like with the rich young man. It is at times nerve-wracking and curious how God allows us to be as human as we are. He allows us to be selfish if we choose. He never calls for us to be manipulated into making things right. However, the fact that God gives us such freedom does not free us from owning up to our disobedience. There will come a day when we as individuals, and we as a church, will be held accountable for our behavior. We will be asked how faithful we were to our call to be “covenantalists”. In this life were we seeking to live like Jesus, or did we go our own way?

If you want my opinion in all this healthcare / government argument, all I can say is that if the people of God would live as we are called to live and give generously and sacrificially for the good of others, the government would have little reason to get involved. You’re welcome to think otherwise, all I would ask is that you not invoke the name of Jesus to support a political agenda.

Holy high five to you, Mike

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4 responses to “Jesus was NOT a socialist

  1. Another great post Mike!

    However, I would like to say two things:

    1) I don’t think our government is going towards Socialism, more so Fascism.

    2) The federal government making you buy something from a private company is Fascism.

    Fascism is defined by Mussolini as the merger of state and corporate powers

    • You may be correct. My concern in many ways is not for the direction of the country (though I do think about that). My concern is how Jesus Christ is depicted and how we understand our call to follow. I do wonder what Jesus would say to a representative type government like ours where followers are in a position to influence – at least to some degree. Ultimately, no political system will ever function as the Body of Christ is called to function – it requires far too much trust in God (and maybe that’s why any of us struggle to follow in obedience!).

  2. I understand your very valid point. I was just adding in my two cents, because I hear” socialist” a lot and I think we are MUCH closer to a fascist system of Government than any other.

    However, great post and a great point. I didn’t like the argument about Jesus being a socialist either – I think it’s an inaccurate depiction as well.

    Happy Monday and God Bless!

  3. Mike – Kudos for pointing out the usurpation of the Gospel for political causes. I would add one caveat to the discussion involving healthcare – just an expansion of your point about Christian obedience. Jesus healed the sick and called His followers to do the same. He never suggested that we advocate for some other entity to heal the sick. That is our privilege as Christian disciples. To abdicate that responsibility to a secular political entity is something I believe we will have to answer for. No institution will ever come close to providing compassionate and generous healthcare comparable to that provided by obedient and faithful disciples. To think we have done something Christian (Christ-like) by giving the responsibility to the government is an indication of our own failure, as the Body of Christ in the world, both to understand and to accept Jesus’ calling on our talents and gifts and to be obedient to that call – and to His expectation of His disciples.

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