My article “Paul Krugman Says It’s OK for Governments to Steal” got more than 200 comments. Sometimes I comment, but for the most part I try to stay out of on-line debates. Commenting on comments can be very time consuming, especially when you’re dealing with hard-headed know-it-alls who are allergic to facts, logic, and history. Often times, however, there’s a comment or two that needs a response.
I found the following comment typically ill-informed:
“The teachings of Christ just happen to dovetail nicely with socialist principles of taking care of the least of us and requiring much from those who are given much. There is no inherent deterrent to achieving wealth in a society with some socialist principles. The only requirement is participating in the country that made you wealthy by giving back one’s fair share. I know it galls you to have to deal with the fact that you are part of a nation, a society, a community, not just a lone individual.”
This isn’t the first time someone has tried to equate New Testament social theory with modern-day socialism in an attempt to turn Jesus into an advocate of wealth confiscation and redistribution.
It’s true that Jesus did say that we should care for “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40). Who are the “these”? The context makes it clear that Jesus’ scope is limited to “these brothers of Mine.” In addition, there is no mention of government programs, legislation, or mandates. The directive is aimed at individuals, not faceless and nameless bureaucrats. Certainly Rome had the power to tax (Luke 2:1; Matt. 22:15–22), and yet Jesus never appeals petitions the Empire to force people to pay their “fair share.” Jesus believed in limited government.
The Good Samaritan is an example of how aid should be handled. The Samaritan took care of the “half dead” man out of his own pocket. He “bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn. . . .” And “the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’” (Luke 10:30–37).
Even the story of the Rich Young Ruler is not about socialism (Mark 10:17–27). Jesus didn’t use the example of the rich man strangled by his wealth to appeal to Rome to tax the rich so the poor will benefit. If that had been Jesus’ objective, then why didn’t He say the same thing to Joseph of Arimathea who is described as a “rich man” (Matt. 27:57; Mark 15:43)?
Appeal cannot be made to Acts 2:44–45 and 4:32–37. These early Christians voluntarily sold their property and used the proceeds to help those in need.
John R. Richardson writes:
“No one was forced into giving up his goods and possessions. It was not socialism legislated either by church or state. It does not resemble modern communism in any respect. . . . Ananais was free to keep or sell his property. When he sold it, he had the right to determine whether he would give all of it, or part of it, or none of it, into the treasury of the church for the alleviation of the needs of poor Christians. J. W. Lipscomb is certainly correct when he says, ‘The program was a voluntary expression of Christian concern for the needs of fellow Christians, and was not a program for compulsory collectivism such as we hear advocated all too often today.’” ((Christian Economics: The Christian Message to the Market Place (Houston: St. Thomas Press, 1966), 60.))
On this Thanksgiving Day, we all should remember the failed socialist experiment that nearly brought an end to the great American experiment. The Pilgrims were initially organized as a Collectivist society as mandated by contract by their sponsoring investors. No matter how much a person worked, everybody would get the same amount.
William Bradford, the acting governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote the following in his first-hand history of events:
“The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years . . . that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God.”
“For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without [being paid] that was thought injustice.”
“This [free enterprise] had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.”
Not only doesn’t socialism work; it’s immoral.