Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1142 MP3 Audio File Video File

Christian Socialism: Is it Biblical?

(Luke 18:18-30 & Acts 2:42-47)

Robert Cruickshank Jr

Delivered 11/20/22

In my message on "Why Preterism is Important," I talked about how the Bible applies to every area of life and, consequently, how we should be impacting and influencing the culture in every area of life. One of these areas would be the area of economics. While many Christians would agree with this, it is unfortunately the case that some see socialism as the closest modern equivalent to the teachings of Jesus on the subject. For example, this is the headline statement on the website of the Institute for Christian Socialism:

The Institute for Christian Socialism is an ecumenical institute founded on the conviction that the socialism of the Gospel is irreconcilable with capitalism and demands Christian participation in the emergence of new forms of political economy today.[2]

Dawson Richard Vosburg, of the Evangelical Labor Institute,[3] describes himself as both a "democratic socialist" and "an evangelical Christian."[4] He claims: "You can say with your chest that Christ has died and risen for your sins and that we can do better than capitalism."[5]  Now, we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and we’re thankful for our freedoms. With that in mind, these statements should be alarming to anyone who loves freedom.

According to Kevin Swanson, a recent Lifeway survey reveals that evangelicals today "are more committed to socialism…than they are to the pro-life position."[6] Richard and Maureen (they don’t give their last names), of the Bruderhof Community,[7] claim that Socialism is "after all, right there in the Gospels."[8]  

And those who hold such views hit the ground running and start right away, in the very beginning of the Gospels themselves, with the nativity. For example, Pat Nichols writes:

"At the core, the story of Christmas is about a homeless couple about to have a baby. It is a story about poverty that most of us never experience, people with little more than they carry on their backs and a donkey to provide transportation."[9]

Likewise, the Reverend William Sterrett says: "The true Christmas story is about the poor and needy. We have a very clear picture about the whole thing…But the truth is Mary and Joseph were homeless. She gave birth to Jesus in a barn. This image captures the essence of a Christmas story because you cannot get any poorer than that."[10]

You wonder if these people have ever read their Bible? I doubt it.  Socialists don’t really read the Bible—they use it.  The story of the nativity in Bethlehem isn’t a story about "a homeless couple" who had no wealth; it’s a story about an oppressive government plundering people of their wealth.[11] Joseph and Mary had a home, but they were forced to leave their home because of a decree from Caesar that all the Roman empire should be taxed (Luke 2:1).[12] Yehsua’s earthly father was NOT an unproductive member of society. He was a successful carpenter (Matt. 13:55) whose business was shut down while he took his very pregnant wife on a wild goose chase concocted by the Roman Empire to raise additional tax money. To make matters worse, they are forced to flee from there, into Egypt, because of another oppressive ruler, Herod, who was trying to kill their newborn son (Matt. 2:15-18).

The irony in all of this is that these Christian Socialists are using the Nativity Story to promote a philosophy which seeks to empower modern-day Caesars and Herods all the more and oppress productive members of society, like Yeshua’s earthly father. It is the ruling class, the government officials, who are the villains in this story. And it is this same ruling class that Jesus is at odds with throughout the Gospel narratives in His pronouncements against wealth and riches. It is those who acquire wealth off the backs of those who actually earned that wealth, through entrepreneurship and hard work, that are the targets of His criticisms.

The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30)

A good case in point is the story of the Rich Young Ruler. The Rich Young Ruler was just that –he was a "ruler." The word being used here is ἄρχων (archōn), and it means "one invested with power and dignity, chief, ruler, prince, magistrate, leader, official." It is generally agreed that he was a member of the Sanhedrin.[13] The Sanhedrin was basically the Supreme Court of Ancient Israel.[14] So, the word "ruler" is very important in understanding what’s really going on in the passage. But that’s not the only word we need to pay attention to.

When the Rich Young Ruler asks Yeshua what he must do to inherit eternal life, Yeshua answers: "You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother’" (Luke 18:20). These are all part of the Ten Commandments. Mark, however, adds this detail which is not: "Do not defraud (ἀποστερέω <apostereō>)" (Mark 10:19). This is a rare word in the New Testament. It’s only used seven other times. Interestingly, one of those seven other occurrences is by Our Lord’s half-brother James, who writes:

Come now you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud (ἀποστερέω <apostereō>), are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you (James 5:1-6).

Connections in James

There is so much going on in this passage that ties directly into the story of the Rich Young Ruler. Earlier, James tells us precisely how the rich, ruling class defrauded the poor: "Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?" (James 2:6).  As members of the high court of the land, the Sanhedrin persecuted Yeshua’s followers just as they had persecuted Yeshua Himself. And it was within the courts that they withheld the wages of those who mowed the fields. As Jerry Bowyer remarks:

The nobility used corrupt cronies in civil offices (such as those of the court system) and corruptible legal scholars to defraud the working poor who harvested their country. What we see is this was a system tied to the land, exploited by a landed gentry. That is exactly what the Gospel text implies about the rich young ruler. "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. —Mark 10:21–22"[15]

Notice that James also uses another word used by his half-brother, Yeshua, when he was speaking to the Rich Young Ruler: "treasure."[16] As Nicholas Perrin explains, this word "usually refers to the treasure room at the temple. The treasury (thesauron) was where not only temple assets were stored, but where the currency wealth of the elites was kept on deposit: two thousand talents (worth almost $1.1 billion in today’s dollars.) That’s right, the temple was also a bank, and not only a bank, but a bank that played a key role in a system created by the legal scholars, administered by the temple elite, and used by wealthy elites to extract wealth from the poor."[17]

Treasure in the Last Days

James says these establishment elitists had "stored up their treasure in the last days." Jesus is offering the Rich Young Ruler the chance to withdraw his securities in the earthly temple in Jerusalem and place them in the true heavenly temple by giving back to those who earned this wealth. As the war escalates, the Jewish Zealots are going to raid and deplete that treasury. And within a generation, the Romans will come and level the temple, along with its treasury, and burn it to the ground. Not one stone would be left upon another (Matt. 24:2).

And this is another area where Preterism really makes the Bible make sense. In Luke 6:24, Yeshua says: "Woe to you who are rich." But throughout the Old Testament, wealth is a sign of blessing from the Lord. Why all of a sudden does it seem like the New Testament is switching gears? Why pronounce a "woe" against something that used to be a "blessing?" It’s the same reason He says, "Woe to you who are pregnant and nursing babes in those days" (Matt. 24:19) – something else that is supposed to be a blessing.

It’s because of what was coming down the pike. It’s because of what was about to go down in that Generation when the Romans come to level the city. They’re going to need to "flee to the mountains" (Matt. 24:16), and that would be pretty hard to do if you’re pregnant or nursing a child, and impossible to do if you’re trying to lug all your gold and silver with you. There’s even a passage in Josephus where he talks about people swallowing their gold coins and stuffing their "empty bellies" with them "till they burst."[18]

The point is that things that used to be a blessing were now a curse, and Jesus’ followers had to learn to let them go. But this is not normative for all people at all times. The same thing can be said about people eating and drinking and marrying, like in the days of Noah, which would usually be a good thing, but not when the flood is coming, or when Jerusalem is about to go down (Matt. 24:27-39). Remember when Paul said it was better not to marry due the "present distress" (1 Cor. 7:26)? This is all in light of the coming tribulation in AD 70.

By the time it’s all over, Jerusalem will become a field of blood and its real estate a graveyard. And Jesus’ followers need to sever their ties to it, so they can flee from it, before that time comes. This would be especially hard for the ruling class, holding political power –harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:24). We have to understand these texts in their historical context, and this includes the things that the New Testament has to say about wealth and riches.

Contrary to the Way Socialists Use the Passage

Everything about the story of the Rich Young Ruler runs contrary to the way "Christian Socialists" want to use it. This isn’t a productive member of society who is supposed to spread his hard-earned wealth around. This is a governing official who profited off productive members of society by defrauding them of their hard-earned money. And Socialists want to give the modern-day equivalents of these rulers even more money and power than they already have.

This is the exact opposite of what Jesus was actually saying. Those in power should be giving the money back to the people who actually earned it. And just like the Day of Reckoning came for the Sanhedrin in AD 70, their day will come as well if they don’t heed God’s word. "Do not be deceived," says Paul, "God will not be mocked" (Gal. 6:7).

The Biblical Standard of Political Leadership

We’re reminded of Exodus 18:21:

Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens (Exod. 18:21).

The formerly enslaved Hebrews were now free but they needed political leadership, and the burden of leadership was too great for Moses to bear alone. His father-in-law, Jethro, then gives Moses advice about both political delegation, and the qualifications of those to whom that political authority should be delegated. There are three primary qualifications. They need to be 1) able men who fear God, 2) men of truth, and 3) men who hate dishonest gain.

This was as true in Moses’ time, as it was in Jesus’ time, as it is in ours. At one point in our country’s history, we realized this. According to historian Daniel Dreisbach:

Convention delegates occasionally invoked the Bible in surprising and interesting ways. During debate on the qualifications for public office, the venerable Benjamin Franklin spoke in opposition to any proposal that, in his words, "tended to debase the spirit of the common people.… We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers." He invoked Jethro’s advice to Moses regarding qualifications for prospective Israelite rulers, "that they should be men hating covetousness."[19]

In the Story of the Rich Young Ruler, Yeshua is returning to this standard by calling upon him to stop defrauding people. We need to hold our leaders accountable to this same standard. "Drain the swamp" is a good slogan, and I like the idea behind it. But what we really need to do is purify the swamp with living water –the living water that comes from Christ and Christ alone. This is why it is so important for believers, who do fear God, and do love truth, and do hate dishonest gain, to seek political leadership in our own day and age. And we, as their fellow believers, need to support them when they do. We need godly men and women in office in this country.

The Demands of Earthly Discipleship

Getting back to our text, the next thing that happens in the storyline of the Rich Young Ruler, is that Peter says: "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You" (Luke 18:28). To which Yeshua replies: "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:29-30). Earlier in Luke, Yeshua says: "…no one can be my disciple if he does not give up all his possessions" (Luke 14:33).

In light of such statements, modern progressives claim: "Jesus Christ believed in many things that Karl Marx believed in. He believed these things long before labels on this ideology came to be… When you allow someone to talk badly about socialism, you allow them to get away with twisting the message of Christ."[20] But this is confusing the demands of temporary, earthly, missionary discipleship, which were for a limited group for a limited time, with the normative life of believers in general for all other times.

A classic case in point is Luke 12:33. According to Christopher M. Hayes: "Without qualification, he [Jesus] commanded ‘Sell your possessions and give alms’ (Lk 12:33)."[21]

Using this as a proof-text for socialism, he goes on to lament the fact that "US evangelicals were more likely than non-evangelicals (Christian or not) to favor cuts to federal spending on aid to the poor (foreign and domestic), unemployment and health-care, and less likely than non-evangelicals to favor an increase in federal spending on aid to the world’s poor, health care, and unemployment."[22] 

He assures us that, "Christians can remain in lucrative employment" (which the disciples didn’t, by the way), but they must "practice the theology of the cross in denying themselves the trappings of success, the fancy house, car, clothes, and vacations their affluence affords them, in order to live simply and support the needy."[23] And all of this is because Jesus is supposedly saying this "without qualification."

But, there is a qualification here. This is a qualification for earthly, temporary, missionary discipleship, and Hays fails to make the distinction. In Luke 12 verse 1, Jesus is speaking to "many thousands of people who had gathered to hear him."  In verse 13, He is still speaking to "the crowd." But verse 33, "sell your possessions and give alms," is spoken after He addresses His disciples specifically, beginning in verse 22. In context, these words are not instructions for the crowds in general, but demands for His earthly disciples in particular.

And even for them, things started to shift rather quickly once the events leading to Christ’s death began to escalate. In our text here in Luke 12, Yeshua says: not to worry about what they will eat, what they will drink, what they will wear (vv. 22-23), or even to take moneybags with them – He says: "sell your possessions" and "provide yourselves with moneybags that don’t grow old" (vs. 33). On the night he was betrayed, all of that changes, and it changes fast:

And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing."  He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one (Luke 22:35-36).

The point is that these demands (to not worry about your life, what you will eat, what you will wear, to sell your possessions, etc.) were for a select group of individuals, for a specific purpose, and for a limited time ­–even for them. To imagine that this is how everyone is supposed to live their lives, from that time forward, is unsustainable. And God doesn’t expect us to do this.

From that point on, believers weren’t expected to adhere to the rigid demands of temporary discipleship, and they didn’t. How do we know this? Well, by simply looking at what Peter said. He said, "We have left[24] our homes and followed you" (Luke 18:28). Like their master, they had no place to lay their heads during their time following him throughout His earthly ministry (Matt. 8:20).

As David Chilton said: "This was a small band of itinerant, full-time missionaries who are constantly living together and have no place of permanent residence. But this was a special circumstance, for a limited time, and should not be considered normative for most Christians."[25]

Indeed, believers in general, throughout the New Testament, did not abandon their homes and give away all of their possessions. We know this because, in the rest of the New Testament, the body of believers met in people’s homes (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon 1:2).  If all believers, of all time, were supposed to live like nomads, abandoning their homes and possessions, the early church would have never even gotten off the ground to begin with. Believers would have had nowhere to meet.

Of course, the Christian Socialists even abuse this. The early believers met in each others’ "homes" to have church. What could this mean? What implications does this have for us today? According to Ronald J. Sider, in his highly influential and damaging work, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:

An ideal house church arrangement is to have several families or single persons purchase houses within a block or two of each other…Living across the street or down the block from each other makes it convenient to share such things as cars, washers and dryers, freezers, and lawnmowers (or gardening equipment). Living close also encourages Christian community by creating open relationships that foster honest, mutual searching for a responsible standard of living.[26]

So, if you’re a Capitalist, you can’t win. Jesus and His disciples left their homes and possessions, so this points to socialism. But the first-century believers met in each other’s homes, and this points to socialism as well. So much so that we shouldn’t even own our own appliances and gardening equipment! Like I said, leftists don’t read the Bible, they use the Bible. And they use it to their own advantage to push their own agenda, no matter what it actually says.

What the socialist neglects here is the fact that the early Church was just starting out. They didn’t have Church buildings yet. Where else were they going to meet? And the fact that these early believers did in fact have homes and possessions means the obligation of earthly, temporary, missionary discipleship (to abandon their homes and possessions) was neither universal nor perpetual. It ended rather quickly.

The last two usages of the word "disciple" occur in Acts chapter 21, and this is significant. This is when the disciples, in the city of Tyre, see Paul and Luke off for the final time before they head to Jerusalem. At this point, we see that the disciples were now reunited with their families, and Luke goes out of his way to point this out. Remember, Luke’s Gospel informs us that the disciples had left their homes, wives and children (Luke 18:29), and now all three elements are back in possession for them (Acts 21:4-5). Paul and Luke are heading back to Jerusalem, and everything comes full circle when they return to where it all began. Luke is signaling to his readers that this aspect of the overall mission is now complete, and following Christ will begin to take on a whole new dynamic.

As The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia says:

The word "disciple" never appears a single time in the NT outside the Gospels and Acts. Because the writers of the epistles saw in the meaning of the words "disciple" and "follower" a teacher-disciple relationship no longer possible in the new era, they dropped them from their vocabulary lest those requirements for the disciples of the earthly Jesus –to leave one’s trade, his home, his father and mother, his wife and children, etc.–be universalized and made general requirements for those who would believe on Him now as the exalted heavenly Lord.[27] 

This recognition is important in not only combating the claims of Christian socialists, but also in combating the attacks of non-Christian critics of the Bible. In other words, it’s also a matter of apologetics (defending the faith), something that we’re all called to do (1 Peter 3:15). For example, David Madison writes:

"Certainly this teaching has not stood the test of time. Even the most faithful believers pay little or no attention to it—sure evidence that Christians wish Jesus hadn’t said it… These verses make it clear that half-hearted obedience to Jesus is not okay. But since so few Christians come close to giving what anyone could reasonably consider all, shouldn’t these requirements be reasons to ask if the Jesus plan really works?"[28]

Likewise, Bart Ehrman writes:

"…the apocalyptic Jesus we’ve uncovered is a far cry from the Jesus many people in our society today know. The Jesus of history, contrary to modern "common sense"…was not a proponent of "family values." He urged his followers to abandon their homes and forsake their families. He didn’t encourage people to pursue fulfilling careers, make a good living, and work for a just society for the long haul…"[29]

"Follow the teachings of Jesus and you’ll be broke, homeless and miserable within a year –guaranteed!  Most modern day…Evangelical Christians are completely repulsed by these Haight-Asbury hippy ethics of their Jesus. They silently agree and believe these commands of Jesus are better off ignored, and at least that’s one belief they actually practice…For most Christians, common sense about marriage and money overrules anything Jesus and Paul might have said."[30]

In matter of actual fact, we’re not "repulsed" by Jesus’ teachings. We don’t "ignore" them or "overrule" them. We recognize them in light of their proper historical context and in terms of audience relevance. And we are thankful for these first-century followers of Jesus who, for a limited time, sacrificed everything to pave the way for the rest of us. In a spiritual sense, yes we’re still His disciples or followers today, and we need to put Christ above everything else in our lives. But the New Testament never calls upon believers in general to give up everything else in their lives.

There’s an obvious difference between us and those who literally gave up everything to accomplish the first-century mission for the sake of all of us who would come after. And once we understand the temporary nature of earthly, physical discipleship (for the purpose of that original mission), almost all of the so-called "Christian Socialism" passages are taken off the table, and the atheist’s argument here is frivolous.  The requirements were not normative, and they did not continue.

The Community in the Book of Acts

Another thing that was not normative, and did not continue, was the communal situation in the early chapters of the book of Acts (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37). This has been called "communism in the early Christian Community."[31] In these passages, we are told:

And all the believers were together and had all things in common; and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need (Acts 2:44-45).

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. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each to the extent that any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), owned a tract of land. So he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37).

This situation, in the early chapters of Acts, has been used as a proof-text by Christian Socialists for centuries. Believers had "all things in common," they "sold their property" and "shared" their possessions. "There was not a needy person among them" and no one "claimed anything belonging to him was his own." Christian Socialists refer to this as the "Jerusalem Model."  Christopher M. Hays says:

The Jerusalem Community, portrayed as the early and faithful instantiation of Jesus’ teaching, practices a fellowship that is comprised not only of collective worship, learning, and prayer, but also of table-fellowship and redistribution of goods from the ‘haves’ to the ‘have-nots’ (Ac 2:42−47; 4:32−35).[32]

Isn’t this the way we should live our lives? Isn’t this "Christian socialism?" Isn’t this the model for all people for all time? Isn’t this the ideal way of living –the Bible’s example of the way things should be each and every day? Shouldn’t we be following the "Jerusalem Model?" Not at all!  Just like the example of earthly discipleship, this was temporary and speaks to a very specific circumstance for a limited time.

Here's the situation:  On the day of Pentecost, Jews from all around the Roman Empire had gathered in Jerusalem, and Peter launched into a sermon which immediately added 3,000 new believers to the church (Acts 2:41). Next, 5,000 more were converted in chapter 4 (Acts 4:4). Because of the urgent necessity of being instructed in their new-found faith, these new converts decided to stay on in Jerusalem much longer than expected (2:41-42). They brought enough with them to stay during the feasts, but they didn’t plan on staying in Jerusalem indefinitely. Nonetheless, there they were, and the early church was now faced with an immediate economic crisis of gigantic proportions. And God does command us to aid the needy (the truly needy). The Jerusalem Christians stepped up to the plate to help their new brethren in the faith. And, I might add, this was voluntary and was not a matter of coercion–government coercion or otherwise.

It was a special situation that required special measures to deal with it. So, believers in Jerusalem who owned property, liquidated that property as the need arose, and used the proceeds for charity. In addition, all land in Jerusalem was "condemned property" anyway. Yeshua told His disciples He was coming on the clouds to destroy it within a generation (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). And they knew they would have to prepare to leave when the Romans surrounded it. They sold knowingly to Jews who would lose everything in the city when that time finally came.

"In short," says David Chilton, "it was ‘tough luck’ for the rebellious, crucifying Jews of that generation. God’s new people used ‘inside information’ about the future to rip them off."[33]

When I was working on this message, Don Preston shared a story with me about a time when he was traveling and stopped to attend services a very large church. Don says:

In the Bible Class the teacher was saying that Christianity promotes Socialism, because after all, the early saints sold their goods and gave them to the poor in Acts 2-5.

I raised my hand and asked if it was okay to comment / respond. The teacher enthusiastically said, "Sure!"

I explained that the reason the saints in Jerusalem sold their goods -- even their land (something forbidden under Torah)-- was because of the coming destruction: Real estate values were getting ready to plummet!

The teacher stood there, literally stunned and speechless. Someone in the back said "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!" When I asked for the reasons why it was so untenable, he literally had not a word to say.

The teacher finally mustered up a word and said, "Actually, I don't know how to respond to that! It actually makes a bit of sense" but then just moved on.[34]

Mike Sullivan sums the whole thing up like this:

"This is the exact opposite of what Jeremiah was called to do - BUY real estate in the land to prove God would bring them back under God’s faithfulness in the old covenant. This time, they’re not going back. It’s a New Covenant with new promises, and God’s New People were tipped off in advance!"[35]

Thus, rather than being a "model" for Socialism, the "Jerusalem model" gives us an example of some very shrewd, early Christian capitalists. They were truly "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16).

To put this in modern terms, the situation in the book of Acts would be the equivalent of 8000 Christian, legal immigrants showing up at our Church doors. Yes, we should help them. God expects us to help those who truly, and deservingly need help. And we should consider lucrative financial ways to do this. Of course, 8000 Christian, legal immigrants showing up at once isn’t a realistic scenario, but it does bring us to our next point.

Godly Concern for the Truly Poor

None of this is to say that we’re not to be concerned for the poor. We are. But it is the truly poor or the worthy poor, in the Biblical sense, for whom our concern should be directed. In other words: the lame, the blind, the orphaned, the widowed, etc.  It was people who truly could not help themselves or earn an honest living. It was those who were unable to work, not those who were unwilling to work. The Bible has a name for this second class of people, "sluggard," and it has nothing good to say about them.

According to the Bible, "sluggards" lack self-discipline (Prov. 5:23), they waste opportunities (Prov. 6:6-11), they are negligent and bring poverty upon themselves (Prov. 10:4), they are unproductive (Prov. 10:26), their hands are slack (Prov. 12:24), they are wasteful (Prov. 12:27)[36], they lack ambition (Prov. 13:4), they don’t plan for the future and then beg from others who do (Prov. 20:4), they make excuses for themselves (Prov. 22:13), they are lazy and don’t even take care of what they do have (Prov. 24:30-31), and they are self-deceived (Prov. 26:16). In the end, "…their laziness will consume them (Prov. 24:30-34), paralyze them (Prov. 26:14), and leave them hungry (Prov. 19:15)."[37]

Solomon sums it up well in Proverbs 21:25: "The lust[38] of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to work." So, ultimately, in the case of "sluggards," their spiritual poverty is the root cause of their physical poverty. And no one is helping to truly solve their problems by underwriting their sin. In Proverbs 19:24, Solomon uses a little humor and says: "The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and won’t even bring it back to his own mouth."

And while the Church should be a light to the world, and we should be reaching out to and helping those who are truly in need, we should in no way subsidize the laziness of those whom the Bible calls "sluggards." Brian Abshire puts it well. He writes:

These people have no call upon the Church’s resources. Our response should not be to feed and clothe them, and to subsidize their sin, but rather to admonish and discipline them (cf. 2 Thess. 3:6-12). This sounds harsh and cruel. But pain serves a very important function in a fallen world. It is a sign that something is wrong and changes need to be made. If the Church attempts to relieve the pain without changing the behaviors that caused the problem in the first place, we are acting against the best interests of the person and sinning against God (cf. 1 Thess. 5:14).[39]

Yes, Yeshua said: "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). The Christians who promote Socialism love to latch onto this verse, but He didn’t say: "Blessed are the sluggards." We need to distinguish between the worthy poor (who cannot work and truly need help), and those who are sluggards (who either will not work, or will not work enough, to help themselves).

The late Ron Sider who, again, was a Christian Socialist, taught that God is always on the side of the poor (without distinguishing between the worthy and unworthy poor) and is always working to overthrow the rich and redistribute their assets to the poor (regardless of the reason for their poverty). And Sider taught that this is the program that we, as God’s people today, should be on board with.

It’s the program that Karl Marx called:

"The permanent revolution," or "the revolution that never stops," as Leo Tolstoy called it. In other words, we must be constantly and continually working to overthrow the rich and "spread the wealth around," as Barak Obama put it. According to the Christian Socialists, this is the economic philosophy that we as believers should be supporting, and many of them openly admit to voting for politicians who endorse these ideas because that’s the economic philosophy of Jesus Christ Himself, or so they tell us.[40]

Again, we’re supposed to believe that this Marxist ideology has its roots in the teachings of Our Lord and Savior.[41] Jesus was supposedly a Marxist or a Socialist long before it had a name. In today’s terms, it’s called "progressivism" or "social justice." In theological terms, the phrase "liberation theology" was in vogue a few decades ago. Whatever label you want to put on it, this is not what Yeshua endorsed, nor what the Bible teaches, all claims to the contrary. As only he could do it, David Chilton’s response to this misunderstanding of the Biblical view of economics was timeless and priceless:

Actually, this notion of permanent revolution brings up an intriguing point: the "see-saw philosophy of history" is apparently required here. When God overthrows the rich, they become poor, and the oppressed become rich. Since God always sides with the poor, and regularly overthrows the rich, He must side with the formerly wealthy against the nouveaux riches. In Sider’s social theory, everyone is miserable: if you’re poor, the rich oppress you; and if you’re rich, God overthrows you. Sort of like Cosmic Hot-Potato-up, down, up, down, up, down; the last one with the money goes to hell. [42]

The poor, whom God "sides with," are the worthy poor (or truly poor) who cannot work, or generate an income, through no fault of their own. They are not young, able-bodied people who would rather sit home and collect Covid money. And the rich, whom God opposes, are those who acquire their wealth through fraud and dishonest gain. They are not honest entrepreneurs and hard-working people who are trying to do something productive and useful with their lives.

And we fall under God’s judgement when we turn a blind eye to those who are truly in need and legitimately cannot help themselves. But we likewise fall under God’s judgment when we support an economic or political policy that subsidizes sin by aiding and assisting unproductive people to continue in a lifestyle that feeds off of productive members of society. And most importantly, we fall under God’s judgment when we seek to empower the politicians who promote this philosophy all the more.

In the Gospels, Yeshua wasn’t coming against hard-working people for making something out of themselves, He was taking on the political establishment for preventing hard-working people from making something of themselves. And if you don’t think that goes on today, just take a good look at your paycheck in terms of what you actually make, and what the government takes. When the Israelites wanted a king, God warned them that the king would take a tenth of their seeds and vineyards (1 Sam. 8:15) and a tenth of their flocks (1 Sam. 8:17). Uncle Sam takes a lot more than one tenth out of our paychecks today. One way we can apply the Bible to every area of life is to call our leaders out and demand they take no more of our earnings than what God himself legitimately allows for in His Word.

If this were the case, socialism would be impossible. This, in and of itself, should be enough to demonstrate that "Christian Socialism" is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. Christianity is based on the Bible, and the Bible does not support socialism. But the Bible does speak to every area of life, and we need to speak to people about what it says in all of these areas. And this includes what it has to say about economics, wealth and poverty.

And some really good resources that can help us here would include:

Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, by David Chilton. A classic that is available for free online in PDF form.

Bringing in the Sheaves, by George Grant. Also, available in PDF for free online.

The Marker Versus the Takers, by Jerry Bowyer. And God Versus Socialism, by Joel McDurmon –both of which you can get from Gary DeMar at American Vision.

[1] I am indebted to my good friends, Amy Castillo, Mike Sullivan, Don K. Preston and Kirk Cameron for all of their invaluable input regarding much of the content of this message (none of whom are responsible for any errors it may contain). And many thanks to the editing/proofreading work of Karen Rogers, Chris Peterson, and Pete and Rachael Wrue for cleaning up my many grammatical errors and other such blunders in the transcript!

[5] Ibid.

[9] Pat Nichols. "It’s Time to Offer a Helping Hand," The Berkshire Eagle (December, 12, 2004), cited by Gary DeMar The Christmas Story is Not about a Homeless Couple - The American Vision

[10] Cited by Gary DeMar, Ibid.

[11] Bowyer, Jerry. The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics (p. 26). Fidelis Books. Kindle Edition.

[12] The word for "world" here is οἰκουμένη (oikoumenē), meaning the (inhabited) world, (Roman) world; humankind. Additionally, many translations us the English word "census," rather than "tax." As Jerry Bowyer points out, however, the word here is apographo ,(ἀπογράφω) and  "it literally refers to an act of writing, when viewed in the historical context," and "implies the purpose is taxation. That was the purpose of a Roman census at that time" (Bowyer, Jerry. The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics [p. 26]. Fidelis Books. Kindle Edition).

[13] See: Bowyer, The Maker, p. 49.

[14] See: D.A. Hanger, "Sanhedrin," in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1976), pp. 268-273.

[15] Bowyer, Jerry. The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics (p. 53). Fidelis   Books. Kindle Edition.

[16] The word in Mark 10:21 is θησαυρός (thēsauros), and the word in James 5:3 is the cognate θησαυρίζω (thēsaurizō).

[17] Nicholas Perrin, Jesus the Temple (Ada, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010), p. 123; cited in Bowyer, The Maker Versus the Takers, p. 53.

[21] Hays, C.M., 2012, ‘Provision for the poor and the mission of the church: Ancient appeals and contemporary viability’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 68(1), p. 3.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] The word used for "left" (ἀφίημι <afiēmi>) means to "remit, cancel, or abandon." It’s theword that’s used in the Parable of the Lost sheep, where the shepherd leaves (ἀφίημι <afiēmi>) or abandons the ninety-nine sheep to go and search for the one that is lost (Matt. 18:12). It’s the same word that’s used in the Our Father: "Forgive (ἀφίημι <afiēmi>) us our depts, as we forgive (ἀφίημι <afiēmi>) our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). In fact, it’s the common word for forgiveness of sins (e.g., Matt. 9:5, 6; Mark 2:7, 2:10).

[25] Productive Christians, p. 169.

[26] Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005), p. 147.

[28] Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn't Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 35, 38). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

[29] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 240.

[30] Mark Smith, Broken Promises: Jesus and the Second Coming (Amazon Kindle Direct Press), pp. 132, 134).

[31] As cited by Chilton in Productive Christians, p. 168.


 Hays, C.M., 2012, ‘Provision for the poor and the mission of the church: Ancient appeals and contemporary viability’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 68(1), p. 2.

[33] Productive Christians, p. 169.

[34] Personal email (November 2, 2022).

[35] Facebook Messenger (November 2, 2022).

[36] Roasting prey or game most likely refers to preserving the meat from a kill. On the difficulties surrounding the phrase, see: Milton P. Horne, Proverbs-Ecclesiasticus: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2003), p. 167; Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 10-31: Yale Anchor Bible Commentary (Binghamton, NY: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 559-560.

[37] Rev. Brian M. Abshire, "Dominion through Service: The Diaconal Ministry of the Church" (The Chalcedon Report, No. 355, February 1995), p. 28.

[38] תַּאֲוָה (ta.a.vah) desire, lust, appetite, covetousness 

[39] Ibid.

[42] David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1981), p. 84.

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