Social Issues (Part 9): Socialism

Social Issues

Socialism is the political ideology that a central, national government ought to oversee and control all aspects of the economy rather than leaving private businesses and individuals to conduct their business and affairs as they see fit. It is rooted in the notion that all property and wealth are to be shared and the national government is the entity which determines how they are to be shared. Of necessity, socialism demands a strong centralized government to be able to function in this way.

Those who argue in favor of socialism will often claim that it is the fairest way for a society to function economically and that it protects poorer citizens from oppression by wealthy individuals and big corporations. Many will even attempt to use the Bible in order to defend this idea (hence the reason why we are discussing it here). One alleged example of socialism that is commonly given is that of the early Christians who sold their property to share with those who were in need (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35).

Facts & Statistics

A 2018 Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans had a positive view of socialism.

Among young Americans (ages 18-29), 51% have a positive view of socialism compared to 45% who view capitalism positively.

Socialism requires civil government to take on a greatly expanded role. Therefore, socialism imposes a greater tax and regulatory burden on the people.

Basic Bible Principles Relating to This

God has ordained a limited role for civil authorities – This is important when people start attempting to make Biblical arguments about what government ought to be doing. The divinely-ordained role for civil authorities is simply to punish evildoers, protect the innocent from those evildoers (Romans 13:3-4), and maintain an environment in which people are free to serve the Lord (1 Timothy 2:2). While it may be true that all governments do many “good” things that go beyond this limited role (such as operating a postal service), we ought to be very cautious of expecting, requesting, or demanding anything beyond what God ordained.

The Bible warns of dangers presented by a strong, centralized government – When the Israelites called for a king, God told Samuel to warn them what it would be like to have a king – he would “take” from them everything he wanted to fulfill his own purposes (1 Samuel 8:9-17). The wise man warned: “If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them” (Ecclesiastes 5:8). He was describing how large bureaucracies are inefficient and ineffective, regardless of their intention. This type of centralized power and bureaucracy is necessarily inherent in socialism.

The blessings that we enjoy in this life are from God, including the abundance of the wealthy – The wise man described the riches of the wealthy as “the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Paul told Timothy to remind the rich – incidentally, Timothy’s primary audience would have been Christians – that God is the one who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Socialism, due to the size and scope of the government needed for it, naturally results in civil authorities attempting to usurp the authority of God over the people – This has been a problem throughout history (cf. Genesis 10:8-10; Ezekiel 28:2; Acts 12:20-23). Too often, man wants to be in the place of God. Rulers who attempt to portray themselves as a benevolent god-like figure to the people often expect the allegiance, obedience, and praise that ought to be reserved for God alone.

Socialism gives incentives/rewards for sinful behavior to the harm of those who do what is right – Paul wrote, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Yet socialism is built upon a system of taking from the productive to give to the unambitious. The wise man said it was “evil” and “a severe affliction” for possessions to be taken from one who received them as God’s blessings and given to another (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2). Rather than one having his possessions taken by force to help others, he should be encouraged to sell what he has that others need (Proverbs 11:26) – a voluntary free-market interaction rather than a forced confiscation of property to be redistributed in an inefficient and bureaucratically wasteful manner – or give of his own free will to help others (Acts 4:32-35).

Bottom Line

Nearly all human governments go beyond the limited role that God ordained for them. However, the political ideology of socialism is built upon the premise that human rulers can take the place of God over the people. This provides special challenges for Christians living in such a society.

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