Does the Bible Promote Communism and Socialism?
Introduction: Karl Marx and His Misguided Ideas
There is a lot that most people don't know about Karl Marx, the father of modern Communism. For example, two of his daughters and a son-in-law committed suicide. Three of his children died of malnutrition. Marx felt no obligation to care for his family. He often begged money from philosopher and partner Friedrich Engels.
He fathered an illegitimate child from his maidservant. Marx also drank heavily and was a paid informer for the Austrian police. He would spy on revolutionaries and tell the police what they were doing.
Even though he and his wife were poor, he often invested in the stock market and lost much through it. His wife left him twice but returned. Sadly, when she died, he wouldn't even attend her funeral.
His correspondences with Engels were full of obscenities.
Marx's favorite daughter, with his full permission, married a man who worshipped Satan and advocated blasphemy against God. His daughter Eleanor committed suicide and Karl Marx ended up dying in despair.
Yet this is the man many people idolize in their quest for a better government. His Communist Manifesto and other works have been cherished by the many people who have sought to implement its precepts since it was first published by Marx and Engels back in 1848.
Sadly, the ideas of these men have been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of people and they have never worked in any regime in which they have been implemented. However, with the rise the radical left in America and other countries, the ideas of Communism, and it's close cousin Socialism, are being resurrected by a new generation of would-be patriots who are espousing them under the guise of helping the poor and needy.
In order to make Communism and Socialism more acceptable, many have said that these ideas are Biblical. Surely God wants us to help the poor and needy, doesn't He? Surely the Lord created all of us in His image and wants us to treat each other with compassion and see each other as equally valuable? Using God's care for the poor and needy, many "Christian Socialists" have claimed that those who don't promote Socialism or Communism are somehow anti-Christian. But is this true? Does the Bible promote the ideas of Communism and Socialism? If not, what does it advocate?
I. The Bible Doesn't Promote a Certain Government
Let us begin by defining Communism and Socialism. Communism is a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
Socialism, though similar, is different in that it teaches that there is not only a lack of private ownership of property but the State owns and controls the means of production.
To Marx and Engels, Socialism was an intermediary period that would eventually lead to the withering away of the State when people no longer had to be coerced to act in a way that benefits society. However, that was after a period of dictatorship.
While these concepts may be interesting in theory, they have proven to be horrible in practice. But does the Bible promote these ideas?
If the truth is told, Scripture doesn't really promote one particular government system over another. There will come a time when King Jesus will be the unquestioned Sovereign in the universe, during the Millennial Kingdom, and into the Eternal State. This will be a theocracy, which simply means that God is the ruler.
For a period of time, Israel had a theocracy and followed the Mosaic Law given by Yahweh Himself. However, they failed miserably because they needed a new heart which can only come through faith in Christ. Since that time, God doesn't favor any form of government. All of them are said to be ordained by Him for protecting the good and punishing the evil (Romans 13). It is when they forget this that trouble starts and the persons who are meant to be protected become abused by their so-called protectors.
However, that is not to say that there are not better forms of government than others. And both Communism and Socialism are bad forms of rulership simply because they ignore the sinfulness of mankind and believe in a Utopia that cannot ever happen apart from the intervention of Christ into this world at the end of the age.
Mankind as sinners will constantly seek power and prestige. Communism and Socialism say that they are looking for some sort of classless society in which everyone has all that they need and no more. As long as there is greed and pride, there will always arise some dictator or dictatorial form of government that will not allow this to ever happen. The best forms of government will seek to prevent this as much as is humanly possible and will protect those who might otherwise be trampled on by those who want to abuse their God-given power.
II. The Facts About Communism and Socialism
Before we can answer the question as to whether or not the Bible promotes these forms of Government, we need to see what they actually are. Communism and Socialism are economic and political structures that supposedly promote equality and eliminate social classes.
In a Communist society, the working class is supposed to own everything, and everyone works toward the same communal goal. In theory, there are no rich and poor people. Rather the community distributes what it produces based only on need. Nothing is to be obtained by working more than what is required. Since there is no incentive to improve self, Communism leads to low production and mass poverty.
And, of course, because the theory never works out as planned and there is still a Communist government that must enforce everything. And it always seems that the dictators who run these governments are much better off in every way than the citizens that they govern.
In Socialism, the main focus is on equality. The workers earn wages they can spend as they choose, However, the government owns and operates the means of production. Because of this, once again there is little incentive to achieve more. And so, as with Communism, we have mass poverty.
III. The Bible Does Promote Helping the Poor
There is absolutely no doubt that God cares for the poor, the needy and the downtrodden. And He expects His people to do the same. Over and over again in Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testament, the Bible tells us not to neglect the poor. We could write a whole book on this topic. Here are just a few verses that speak on this subject:
"Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Proverbs 14:31).
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9).
"Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will arise", says the Lord. "I will protect them form those who malign them." (Psalm 12:5).
"Learn to do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17).
"If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need." (Deuteronomy 15:7,8).
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (I John 3:17).
"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:11-13)
So the problem isn't whether or not we should do all in our power to promote and aid the poor. It is obvious that Christians need to do that. The question is: "Are Communism and Socialism the types of governments that can do this?" And the answer, everywhere they have been tried in all of history is a resounding: "No!" If anything, these systems of government create more poor and needy. And they create those who are dependent upon the government in order to survive. Sadly but inevitably those in power eventually abuse their power and kill the people whom they claim to be helping.
Venezuela is a heartwrenching example of this where we have seen their militia and national guardsmen attacking caravans trying to feed their starving citizens. It is said that the dictator Nicolas Maduro appeared on state television afterward that weekend dancing the salsa.
IV. The Bible Does Not Promote Communism or Socialism
Looking at Scripture, we can see that it clearly does not promote Socialism or Communism. We can glean this, for example, from the eighth and the tenth Commandments of the Decalogue that state:
"You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15).
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house, You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's." (Exodus 20:17).
Implicit in these laws is the right of private property and the prohibition of another person from taking that from someone else by force. Unlike what those who preach Socialism or Communism would tell us, the Bible sees nothing wrong with the accumulation of things per se by individuals. As long as those things are seen as gifts from God and are used for His glory and not our own, they are legitimate possessions to have.
Scripture has a balanced view of wealth. It warns those who would get rich that the riches could corrupt you and cause a person to fall into temptations (I Timothy 6:9). However, the Bible also says that it is the Lord who causes a person to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). It speaks of how the rich can oppress the poor (James 5:1-6). But it also talks about great wealthy men such as Abraham, as well as King David, who was called a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 13:14). And of course, there was the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, who buried the Lord Jesus in his own tomb after our Lord was crucified (Luke 23:50-56).
Once again, we could name many others. But the key is that God gave some great wealth and they stayed wealthy their whole lives. And the Lord was pleased with them, even if they didn't distribute it evenly.
We can also see some poor people whom the Lord commends as well. One example would be the widow who gave her last mite. Christ commended her for giving more than anyone, having given all that she had (Mark 12:41-44). However, Jesus never advocates that this woman should get wealth distributed to her by those who had more money. As far as we know, she remained poor for the rest of her life. However, her riches in Heaven are far greater for having used her earthly wealth wisely, even though that wealth was meager.
The Law indeed makes provisions for the poor, but it doesn't include a mass redistribution of wealth like Socialism and Communism. in which the government takes the money from each citizen and does the redistribution. God's people are supposed to love the poor and needy and give to them out of their hearts, just as God has given to us.
Some would see the idea of the 'Year of Jubilee' as a form of Socialism. The Year of Jubilee was a part of the Jewish Law. It was the year at the end of seven cycles of Sabbatical years and, according to Biblical regulations, had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel. According to the Book of Leviticus, Hebrew slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.
To be more clear, every seventh year, all debts are canceled. The land is not subjected to organized cultivation or harvest; whatever freely grows from it may in that year be freely gathered by any family for its own food. What has been stored before is shared.
In the fiftieth year, the land rests again, and every family returns to the equal share of productive land that it was allotted when the Israelite society began. The poor become equal, and the rich give up the extra wealth they had accumulated.
While the concept is nice, it was originally meant to be used in a theocracy, or a government-controlled by God. This was a form of rule in which everyone knew that God owned everything anyway. Israel was God's chosen people and they all were given, by the Lord, a certain inheritance in the land which could not be taken from them.
And, it must also be noted that all this was to be done, not by a central government's taxation or police power, but by the direct action of each family, each clan, each tribe in its own region.
In the New Testament, some would look at the early followers of Jesus Christ in the book of Acts as attempting Socialism or Communism. For instance, one verse in Acts tells us:
"And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them." (Acts 4:32).
Two things keep this from being either Socialistic or Communistic. The first is that the early believers here were looking forward to Christ coming back to earth soon and ruling in the ultimate Theocracy. And secondly, we don't have a centralized government here taking away money and property. This was all voluntary. The people giving wanted to give and freely did so.
We see, later in chapter 5 of Acts, that Ananais and Saphira, who were punished by God for lying about how much money they gave, were not asked by the Lord to give up anything. This couple just wanted to look good without relinquishing all their wealth. Here is what Scripture says of Ananais:
"With his wife’s full knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds for himself, but brought a portion and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the proceeds from the land? Did it not belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How could you conceive such a deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God!” (Acts 5:2-4).
And later Ananais' wife gets confronted with the same lie. And they both get the death sentence, carried out by God Himself. But it was not for holding back money or property. Rather it was for lying to God, the Holy Spirit.
So, as we can see, the political theories of Communism or Socialism cannot be supported in any part of Scripture.
I can think of two quotes that are appropriate to conclude this study. The first is from the writer and philosopher George Santayana who said:
'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.'
History has proven that the two political theories of Communism and Socialism absolutely do not work. But, more importantly, implementing them always brings disastrous results. And you may be able to vote these governments in. But you'll have to fight your way out of them. We need to teach our young people true history and let it speak for itself, especially when it comes to these deadly systems.
The next quote, from Albert Einstein, tells us that:
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Our country seems to be going through what can only be described as temporary insanity. Sadly, we are seeking to take these tired old concepts and are trying to revitalize them in order to fundamentally change our country to something none of us will be able to recognize one day.
We face a war of values and we cannot allow people to use the Word of God in order to espouse ideas that God never sanctions. These warped beliefs threaten to take away from us the Judeo-Christian value system that has lead to, arguably, one of the freest and most economically successful countries the world has ever known..
Let us never give in to those who would destroy us. May we stand on the true Word of God and allow it to govern our personal attitudes, words, and actions.
And, with the help of Almighty God, let us consign the concepts of Communism and Socialism to the garbage can of history where they both belong.
© 2020 Jeff Shirley