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Why I Am Not Socialist

imageThis is posted in honor of Bernie Sanders, whose birthday was yesterday.

This is not a treatise on the practical failure of socialism. I will not be telling you why socialism doesn’t work and capitalism does. If you’re looking for a lesson in economics, read Adam Smith1, Milton Friedman2, or Thomas Sowell3. This is an explanation of why—all pragmatic considerations and emotional motivations aside—socialism is wrong, and should be rejected by all Christians as an inherently sinful system.4

Let me assure you that I am not cold and uncaring of the needs of others. I think it would be great if everyone had plenty to eat, nice clothes, and a solid roof over their heads. I would be happy to see everyone receive a good education and quality medical service. I would like to see everyone have everything they need in abundance. I would like to do what I can to make that a reality. Wouldn’t you? I hope you would. On the other hand, I know that all people should not have what they need. Scripture tells us that those who will not work should not eat.5 The logical end of that, of course, is that those who are unwilling to earn a living should be allowed to starve. This, by the way, was not the word of the mythical harsh God of the Old Testament. This was the command of the Apostles to the New Testament Church. I am also not among the wealthy targets of the “tax the rich” mentality. This is not a crusade to protect my wealth from the IRS—although, if I had any great wealth, I certainly would protect it, guilt-free.

Socialism is often presented as the Christian response to poverty. Jesus cared for the poor, and so should we. The early church shared all things in common, didn’t they? Therefore, it is right that the entire nation share all things in common with everyone. Governments ought to redistribute the wealth of the fortunate, privileged classes with the less fortunate and underprivileged.6 There are a few problems with this thinking, however, one of which is the fundamental reason why I believe socialism is antithetical to Christianity. That problem is simply that governments do not produce and possess wealth to distribute. They must take it from those who produce it.

Now I’m going to get straight to the point. This will be short and seem very simplistic, but that’s only because it really is this simple. First, let me illustrate the difference between Christian giving and socialist “giving.”

Suppose I find someone in need and discern that their need is legitimate and they truly cannot meet it through normal means (something a government can never do). I dig into my resources and give what I can. Maybe that isn’t enough, so I alert others to the need and some of them are able to help, as well. The need is met and we give glory to God.

Or, I see people in need and think, “someone should help them.” I see that there are people who have more than they need, so I go about robbing them and distributing their money as I see fit.

You see, it’s one thing to give of your own resources and to exhort others to do the same. That is Christian charity. It’s something else entirely to give from someone else’s resources. We call that theft. We call it theft no matter how good the motivation behind it is. And when it’s done by force, we call it robbery. That’s what socialist governments do.

’Hold on, there,” you might say, “ours is a democratically elected government. They represent the will of the people, so it isn’t stealing.” Well, yes, it is. Just because the majority agrees that Joe Rich and John Middleclass should be robbed to keep Susie Singlemom in groceries—and let’s be honest, to keep Bubba Trailerpark in beer and cigarettes—doesn’t make it less than robbery. The majority does not have the right to democratically rob the minority.7

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how many people agree with you. It doesn’t matter how much good is actually done. The end does not justify the means. When you reach into your neighbor’s pocket to fund your good deeds, you are a thief. If you see a need that ought to be filled, go to it. Put your money where your mouth is. Just don’t put my money where your mouth is. I have my own conscience to deal with, and you are not it.

Now, I just know there is someone reading this and nodding, “You tell ’em, man!” Thanks for your support. But now is the time to look into your own heart and ask if you’re really practicing Christian charity. How many Susie Singlemoms8 do you know who are living on public assistance because their churches—and you—have more exciting ways to spend the money God has trusted to you? That new luxury item9—did you neglect one of “the least of these”10 within your sphere of influence to acquire it? Are you decrying the increasing socialism in America (or where ever you may be) while living like a socialist by passively letting government do your job? You also need to put your money where your mouth is.

It has been said that we ought to vote and govern as cold, hard capitalists, because that ensures the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people, but live as socialists, sharing our wealth with the needy. I agree with the first part of that statement, but the second part misunderstands what socialism is. Socialism is not giving what is mine. Socialism is taking what is yours and giving it away, and that is stealing, no matter how you try to justify it. We ought to live as Christians, following Christ’s example as we steward the resources God has entrusted to us. That is what the Bible teaches.

1 The Wealth of Nations

2 Capitalism and Freedom

3 Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One

4 Coincidentally, Chip Bayer posted on this subject the day after I wrote this article. Read his article here.

5 2 Thessalonians 3:10

6 The classifications of “fortunate” and “privileged” are Marxist inventions; but that is not the subject of this essay.

7 This is why the American founders designed a constitutional republic rather than a democracy. Democracy is nothing but a tyranny of the majority.

8 . . . or elderly widows, or families just “down on their luck” due to various difficulties?

9 I’m not advocating a monastic lifestyle. God’s normal means of preventing poverty is through work. That means the best way to fight poverty is to purchase the products and services that people produce (read the authors mentioned above for a better understanding of this principle). However, we must not neglect those who may be temporarily, or in some cases permanently, outside the normal economic process.

10 Matthew 25:31–46

First posted February 4, 2008.

Posted 2019·09·09 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Reruns

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