If Jesus Was a Socialist, He Would’ve Stayed in the Tomb

Socialist Jesus

Since the new poverty-worshiping Pope recently spoke out against the ‘tyranny of Capitalism’, there has been an upsurge in the voices which insist that Jesus was a Socialist. Now before you tune out, thinking that this debate is all about both sides attempting to read ‘political philosophy’ into the teachings of Jesus, let me say very clearly that the central points of Jesus’ ministry had very little (if anything at all) to do with political affiliation.

It's Not About Politics. It's About Morality.

But this debate is not about political affiliation. It is about moral foundations -- which inevitably give birth to political systems. Therefore, this issue is far from irrelevant to those who do not wish to ‘get involved in politics’. It isn’t about politics; it’s about the morality of the Christian worldview, and the central moral principles upon which Christ, the Son of God, operates. These aren’t different views of Government; these are different views of Christ -- and therefore different views of God, and of all of reality.

When someone claims that Jesus was a Socialist, he is not primarily claiming that Jesus advocated State-run charity and wealth re-distribution (though that is certainly included and implied); he is primarily claiming that Jesus practiced and advocated that morality which underpins (and inevitably demands) Socialism: the morality of altruism. Altruism is the moral code which, at its best, states that meeting the needs of others is the ultimate moral imperative; and at its worst, states that self-sacrifice, as an end in itself, is the ultimate moral imperative. While it is understandable that a highly selective and biased reading of the Gospels could result in the belief that Christ taught and practiced this morality, there is no excuse for a truth-seeking, context-respecting Christian to leave the New Testament with that thought.

The Atheism of ‘Christian’ Altruism

Notice that those who claim that Jesus was a Socialist always use the past tense: “Jesus was a Socialist”. Jesus was -- as in: isn’t any more. Jesus was a historical figure, or a good teacher, or a moral leader. Was. Implication: Jesus isn’t around anymore. I realize that it is possible that they simply use the past tense as a convenient figure of speech, but whether it is a figure of speech or not, speaking of Jesus as if He were still dead is absolutely consistent with that moral ideal of altruism. For Jesus to come back to life from the dead would imply that His death, His self-sacrifice, was not an end in itself; it would imply that He might have had something to gain in His death; that His death wasn't entirely altruistic. If Jesus was truly altruistic -- if “Jesus was a Socialist”, He would have stayed in the tomb (i.e. He would have stayed dead). But He didn’t. His death was not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end -- and it is that end which the altruist must consistently deny and evade.

Stop Evading, and Keep Reading

In fact, it is always the end, the ultimate, the big-picture, the goal, which the altruist tends to evade when discussing morality (whether in the Bible or elsewhere). Show me any argument that "the Bible teaches altruism", and I will show you an argument which ignores or evades the ultimate context and reality of what is being taught:

- “Jesus said 'Blessed are the poor'” ... in spirit. Jesus is commending those who see and acknowledge their own spiritual poverty -- not those who lack material wealth.

- “Jesus said 'It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God' -Mt.19:23”.

Keep reading: the disciples responded “then who can be saved?”. Jesus replied “with men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Both Jesus and his disciples make it clear that they understood Jesus to be saying that it is impossible for men, in general, to enter heaven apart from God. The talk of the ‘rich man’ is meant to emphasize ‘the cares of this world’, referred to in other parables, as being one of the main reasons that men do not want to think about eternity. That is the theme, taught here and throughout the Gospels by Jesus: that men who are too easily pleased with the ‘here and now’ will never have the appetite for eternal things.

- “Philippians 2:1-8 says that we should not be selfish and that we should be like Christ who humbled himself to the point of death”.

Keep reading:...for this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name...” Christ’s humiliation, from the beginning of eternity, was always aimed at His exaltation. “He endured the cross despising its shame, for the joy set before Him” (Heb.12:2).

But these poverty-peddlers are not only plucking words out of context (as demonstrated above); they are gutting Christianity of its ultimate end, its ultimate value: glory -- and reducing Christianity down to a naturalistic, here and now, make the best of what we’ve got, atheistic worldview. To focus on self-denial apart from the context of ultimate self-gain is to turn self-obliteration into the ultimate moral goal of life, and the ultimate end of the universe; to focus on the suffering of Christ apart from the eternal exaltation of Christ is to rob 'the passion of Christ' of His ultimate passion; to focus on God’s love for men apart from His omnipotent and eternal love for Himself, is to gut God of His highest and chief value.

Love the Poor, But Not Like an Atheist

This doesn't mean that God doesn't care for the poor -- or that Christians should neglect the poor. It simply means that caring for the poor must be understood in the context of ultimate morality and ultimate reality -- rather than being made central to morality. It is very true that God cares about the poor, that Jesus demonstrated great care for the poor while on earth, and that Christians ought to follow suit -- but it is atheistic to stop there. God’s care for the poor is not an end in itself (because nothing but God’s enjoyment of Himself is an ‘end in itself’) and Jesus’ care for the poor was always aimed at something higher, more ultimate, and eternal. Therefore, if Christians wish to imitate God and Christ in their care for the poor, they had better begin to think long and hard about those ultimate and eternal things toward which ‘care for the poor’, and everything else, is to be aimed; i.e. they had better figure out how ‘loving the poor’ can be done in a way that is ultimately aimed at eternal values and self-gain. But before they can do that, perhaps they will need to come to terms with the fact that Jesus was not, in fact, the perfect altruist; that Christ, the Son of God, is risen from the dead in glory because He values His own glory as ultimate. He is risen, and therefore He is not a "Socialist".

Related Posts:

Egoism Or Communism: Christians Must Choose

Selfish Love: With C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand

The Egoist God

The Galt-Like God

13 thoughts on “If Jesus Was a Socialist, He Would’ve Stayed in the Tomb

  1. Wow this was a refreshing read.I love your quote is Jesus was a socialist he should have stayed in the tomb. Very well written and thought provoking.

  2. Bruce

    I don't think you really understand just what the purpose of socialism is. Socialism, in a Marxist definition, is the transitional system from Capitalism to Communism that is achieved through a revolution of the proletariat (working class, exploited peoples, or the poor in this case). Socialism aims to create full Communism, which is achieved when the state, operated by the proletariat, controls all means of production. The state, after Communism is achieved, diminishes, leaving a stateless and non-exploitative existence. You see, socialism does not aim to simply "give money to the poor because it is the right thing to do." This is a one-sided approach to it. Socialism intends to end class conflict through control of the state and means of production; to end the pattern in which the bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat. Socialism does not simply address the problems that the proletariat is poor and needs more material things. It addresses why they are poor; as a result of the Capitalist system, which allows those who control the means of production and profit to remain in power over those who do not control or possess these powers. So no, Jesus was NOT a socialist, but not because the purpose of his message was for personal Glory. He was not a socialist because he did not try to change the system through which the bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat.

    1. Oh, I know very well what the aims of Socialism are -- but I have elected to focus more on the root of Socialism (and by extension, Communism -- and any variant thereof), which is: altruism. The morality of altruism is the seed and root of Socialism, Communism, and Collectivism. It is the morality of altruism which drives one to refer to voluntary exchange (Capitalism) as "exploitation" and to refer to personal achievement as "control" over others.
      It is the morality of altruism which condemns ability, achievement, and productivity. It is the morality of altruism which condemns the individual -- and thereby condemns the God in who's image the individual is made. And, it is therefore the morality of altruism which must be wiped from the slate of history -- *beginning* within the Church.

      1. Bruce

        Socialism isn't solely based in altruism. Utopian communism is a little closer to your definition (a system in which all people produce unequal value but are compensated equally). I am not trying to criticize you, I was also a little too vague.

        Socialism attempts to create a system in which the proletariat, or those who work to produce things, are fairly compensated for that which they produce. The proletariat, or the working class, have value in the labor they output to make the goods they produce. In order to make a profit in a capitalist system, the capitalist or bourgeoisie, those who employ the proletariat, must sell their goods for more than the use-value (the value of the labor and commodities) of those goods. This profit can be achieved in one of two ways:

        1. The price of the final product must be increased; the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.This makes little sense, however, because the amount of labor needed to produce the product is already included in its use-value. The price of the product would likely be outrageous.
        2. The price of the labor must not be paid in full. Simply making the process of producing the good cheaper will not create a profit, because it will decrease the value of what is being produced.

        Typically, the second method must be used to create an adequate profit, along with the first slightly to maximize profits. Those who produce a product must be compensated for less than the amount of labor necessary to produce this product, otherwise, no profit is made besides the original markup (1st type of profit I listed).

        It is because of profit, in general, that the proletariat is exploited. The capitalist, or the one who sells these goods, makes the remainder of the capital lost from those who made the product (the lost labor-value). The capitalist does not produce anything, in terms of what is actually made. In a materialistic view, the capitalist literally has no value at all. You can argue, however, that a capitalist's labor value is derived from inventing or "creating" the product. This role does not materialize the product, however; the product does not have value until it is made and exchanged. This is why it is the communist's view that the capitalist has no value. (Karl Marx, an important founder of socialist economics, was a materialist)

        Socialism is not a matter of altruism, it is a matter of economics and labor-value. Socialists argue that the proletariat are getting the short end of the stick because the capitalists, who in reality, produce nothing, achieve wealth by taking what is actually made by the proletariat. This is why socialists argue that the proletariat must control the state and the means of production; so that they are compensated exactly for what they produce. Communism is the total embodiment of this.

        While I do think there is value to inventing something or finding a usage for something that is produced, I do not think it should be valued that much higher than the actual production of the particular goods. This is also why I do not think that full communism is even possible; who invents and plans the production of goods...? Somebody who doesn't fully take part in making them, of coarse!

        So you see, socialism is not about simply giving everything to everybody else for the sake of humanity and kindness, or altruism in general. While your average angry liberal sure likes to make it seem that way (and then goes to say ridiculous things, like "Jesus is a socialist"), socialism actually is just a fair approach to the compensation of those who produce goods.

        I hope I explained that clearly enough. While I do not expect you to believe everything that I explained about the economics of socialism as word of God, I ask that you take it into consideration when trying to compare the "roots" of socialism to anything.

        1. Dick L

          While there are too many errors in the whole socialist theory ( and it is a human constructed theory), the major problem with it today is like so many theories it is limited by the context of the time it was developed. Your explaination of it shows that very well. Socialism is bounded by the focus on production and the workers verses the capitalists. This might have been a very appealing argument from 100 to 1960 but today we have many examples of high value "products" that are largely the product of the owner and there is little or no labor. In cases like, Facebook the "workers" also in most cases rewarded with a piece of ownership. The biggest problem with socialism is that it presumes that some will work to produce more than they receive. Why? Why do they do that? The fact is they don't for very long. So that leads to complete breakdown of the system and forces the "authority" who or whatever that is to use force or the system collapses. You see the simple human mind can not see the future which means we can not see what is coming. Contrary to liberal belief we have not learned all there is to know and therfore it is impossible to have heaven or the perfect world here on earth. Fundamentally, socialism denies the weakness of human nature and fails for the very reason capitalism is the only system in the history of man to lift more people out of poverty than any other. That reason is man's basic self interest. Is capitalism the perfect solution that will solve all problems not because again we are humans and we are not and never will be perfect. That is reserved for God and those who believe in God and an after life recognize that nothing here on earth is perfect or will be.

  3. Joe foot

    The above is the result of applying a staunch atheist's and capitalist's worldview to the Bible. Ms. Rand would be proud and may even go out and spend her social security check to read more of your bent ramblings.

  4. You need throw away the teachings of this atheist philosopher. Everything in the Gospels and the letters says we must empty ourselves as Christ did and you must know this deep in your heart. The way you are headed is going to lead you to hell. It is not to late for you to repent.

    1. I assume you are referring to Ayn Rand when you speak of "this atheist philosopher", but I didn't mention her once in this post. I DID quote and exposit Scripture a number of times, though.

      I do know that we ought to 'empty ourselves as Christ did', but I know it in my head -- not just my heart. I also know that Christ 'emptied Himself' *for the joy set before Him*, and that it is atheistic and blasphemous for us to attempt to 'empty ourselves for God' in a way that is ultimately altruistic.

      Have you ever thought about how offensive it might be to God for you to treat Him and His commandments as though you have no personal value in Him and them; as though you have no delight in Him; as though you merely do what you are told out of duty -- rather than for personal gain?

      I would suggest reading the posts under "Christian Egoism" above, and I would also highly suggest looking into the ministry of John Piper (www.desiringGod.org). If you are truly concerned about getting Christianity right, you may want to look a little deeper into the meaning of the things you think you understand... You may find that you are the one in need of repentance.

      1. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
        I said nothing of having no personal value, but if you obey God for personal gain, you are putting yourself above God. And I know I am in need of repentance, but it remains to be seen that you do.

        Don't you see that you have let a thinker who was fundamentally opposed to Christianity poison your mind, and what worse, that you are using her teachings to lead others astray, which is one of the worst sins one can commit. Turn away from this path while you still can.

  5. "If you obey God for personal gain, you are putting yourself above God"

    Where did you get this absurd idea? Certainly not from the Bible.

    "For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him" - Hebrews 11:6
    Seeking gain in God is the essence of obeying Him and pleasing Him; it is the essence of coming to Him as a needy child who enjoys the presence of his Father. The kind of 'obedience' you advocate, on the other hand, seems like a stubborn child reluctantly helping his needy father - not because he enjoys it, because it is his 'duty'. But God is not served by human hands as though He needed anything. What disinterested service do you think you could render unto God to make Him happy? Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. Are you too holy to be served by God? When God asks you why you have served Him, will you answer "it is my duty. I get no personal pleasure from you or from serving you."? Is that how you would answer your wife when she asks why you kiss her? Do you think that rejecting pleasure in the service of another is somehow more noble or holy than embracing it? Why? Where do you get this idea?

    I will tell you where you got it. You got it from a philosopher named, Immanuel Kant. Oh, you've never heard of him or read his books, you say? That doesn't matter. All of the influential people in Western Culture have, and they have transmitted his morality of ultimate self-denial through every stream of cultural influence over the past centuries. Don't believe me? Look up Immanuel Kant on altruism or on morality. It is not the Bible telling you to avoid personal gain. It is the echoes of Immanuel Kant which have been force fed to you through every avenue of influence (including the Church).

    Don’t you see that you have let a thinker whose morality was fundamentally opposed to Christianity poison your mind, and whats worse, that you are using his teachings, his morality, and his dangerously faulty assumptions to lead others astray, which is one of the worst sins one can commit. Turn away from this path while you still can.

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