It is common for people, of a left persuasion, to say that Jesus was a socialist before the word even existed. The reason is primarily for his defense of the poor, sick and downtrodden and his warnings of the dangers of being rich. Additionally, he healed the sick and fed the multitudes for free. Socialists believe these values are championed by “free” healthcare and a redistribution of wealth via higher taxes.
At face value this is appealing for many. But is it correct? I want to illustrate some core differences that gets lost in this simplified view of what Jesus stood for.
An example of a Biblical text often used to support socialism comes from the Acts of the Apostles. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, a group of believers sold their property and possessions, and shared what they had with everyone according to their needs. They were of “one mind” (Acts 2:46) in the Temple where they worshiped and they shared meals from house to house, praising God.
The difference here with socialism is that this was done voluntarily by each person in smaller groups with a mission beyond equal food distribution. Their goal was to spread the Gospel. It was not a policy decision by a government. Making a personal choice to do this is not a small distinction but something that makes all the difference. Paying taxes is not giving or sharing from your heart and every single person who pays taxes tries to pay as little as possible.
Because I grew up in a socialist country, I have some firsthand experiences of more centralized power which includes higher taxes plus a discouragement of private institutions/businesses. The last year my father worked, as a private dentist, before moving to do research in the U.S. later in his life, he paid 70% of his income in taxes. He was not treating Hollywood gazillionaires, he was a regular small-town dentist who had a private practice. At one point, a famous Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren, paid over 100% in taxes. Sweden has since moved away from those radically high taxes because it didn’t work. For example, many people who made a lot of money just left the country to more tax-friendly places. Let us remember too that the government does not only tax our income, but everything they can like property, sales, inheritance and so forth.
The Bible encourages work and goes as far as to say that if you do not work you shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:19). The creation story tells us that God worked 6 days and rested on the seventh which is not only why we should keep the Sabbath but why we should also work. But, if people feel like it makes no difference whether you work, work hard or barely do any work, motivation plummets. When you strip people of incentives to make a difference and do things on their own, you treat fellow grown-ups like children. That is both counter-productive and wrong. In addition, one of the sins in the Ten Commandments is jealousy, and forced redistribution often fosters that because it encourages a high level of entitlement. As Thomas Sowell said, “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
Additionally, when you pay taxes, the government chooses who gets what, and how much. This always becomes a problem because most people in power misuse this power on way or another because they are not spending their money, but others.’ The cheating also often goes both ways. Most of all, the bigger and more powerful the government is, the more susceptible it is to fraud and control that stretches far beyond serving people’s basic needs such as infrastructure, food, housing, and health. For instance, healthcare now often includes abortion, euthanasia, and trans-surgery. In other words, the welfare system uses tax-money for other agendas, and in these examples, it is the pretext of “health.”
Another example of a story used to defend socialism is when Jesus said that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom (Mt 19:24, Mk 10:25). The rich man here declined to leave everything behind to follow Jesus because he could not sell everything he had. If he had done what Jesus told him, he would have a treasure in heaven. The point of the story is not that money is bad since you can also use it for many virtuous reasons. Likewise, people are not automatically evil if they are rich or good if they are poor. God’s faithful servant King David was a rich man for example. The message is that money is incredibly seductive, and often more so for those who have much. If that becomes a block to serve God with all your heart, then material prosperity is your god.
Advocating for, and helping the poor, can be done in other ways than through a socialist government. There are countless charities for example. Christianity has served the needy since its inception and there is no church that is not involved in this because it is part of what Jesus taught his followers to do. Again, the difference is that it is voluntary. Part of advocating for this is selling the idea that you are independent if you are dependent on the government, instead of relying on family or charity which is false.
It is not wrong for the government to help the poor or institute a progressive tax and many governments do without being socialist. But, when socialism slants nearly all responsibility to the government, socialism interferes with personal responsibility on a high level as well as individual freedom. Also, those in power who redistribute others’ wealth are nearly always quite wealthy because they are paid by the taxes they advocate for plus as soon as people get into power positions it is easier for them to get rich in other ways as well.
Because socialism creates a bigger government with more control it vastly affects culture, especially the nuclear family which is the cornerstone of civilization and a creation by God. Children and the elderly were in biblical times, as well as all throughout history, in every society on the planet, the responsibility of the family until the industrial revolution. It was children’s duty to take care of their elderly parents, and parents’ duty to take care of their children. For that reason, the Bible, and Jesus, then speak of others’ responsibility to help those who do not have family such as widows and orphans.
An example of how socialism has translated into reality that directly clash with Jesus came during the industrial revolution. For instance, the push for women to work outside of the home created the need for daycare. This became a key feature of socialism, as well as its cousin communism, for ideological reasons. Marx and Engels were communists/socialists who believed in “free love” and the abolition of the family because they blamed the nuclear family for the creation of private property. At first, they accused the capitalist bourgeois as hurting the family once factories were on the scene because women and children worked there in horrible conditions. However, they later changed that because their deeply anti-family values could be promoted with the changing economy. Engels, who was a man, saw monogamy as the establishment of slavery of women, even though monogamy primarily benefits women because we carry children. These early communists were also intensely anti-religion because that creates an allegiance between people and God that competes with human leaders.
Most of all, if the state raises the children, the government has far greater control over what they teach them via day-cares and public schools. Women working instead of raising children is therefore sold as an advancement for women which liberates them and makes them independent from a man. Hence, you encourage a split instead of a cohesive unity.
But what career is more important than raising your own children? Especially, when they are in their early most formative years, and need you the most. The three first years lays the foundation for the rest of your life. The one thing children need is your time. Also, relying on a man to make the money is only bad if it is a bad man. It is also bad for a man if he has a bad mother raising his child. It is a two-way street. Incentivizing the government to take more responsibility instead of parents is counterproductive and has concrete consequences when the many ways spouses and their children need each other decreases. One symptom of this is skyrocketing divorce rates which, aside from abusive situations, is not good for children. It is also the result of secularization/atheism in the post-Christian west.
The irony is that socialists claim to be anti-capitalists, yet their stance promotes the pursuit of money over family when both parents work full-time. What is best for children comes last and money first. A heavy focus on making money instead of raising a family is also materialistic which creates another major discrepancy between what they say they stand for and the results of what they push for since they campaign on being both anti-wealth and anti-materialistic.
Another advantage for the state in socialism, and of course communism, is that the more people that work the more taxes go to the state, which translates to more power for the government. Simultaneously, they rarely, if ever, acknowledge that women have always worked. Child rearing was, and is, just one of the many chores women did before working outside of the home. But the work they have traditionally done throughout the ages have not become more appreciated, but less. Until the very recent modern age, with all our machines, and grocery stores, taking care of a household was physically demanding and involved much knowledge like growing food, harvesting, and preserving, sowing, weaving, washing clothes by hand and much more. It was no small feat. It is still hard work to raise children and the modern era presents different challenges, but women are now more than ever measured by men’s standard which means we count if we work to earn money. Only then do we gain status in society. That is not progress.
Another aspect is that when the family, such as children and elderly parents, are primarily the government’s responsibility along with required redistribution of your money, it changes people’s hearts. Not everyone of course, but many become less giving and generous because they are already paying high taxes and therefore have less control over their own money and less to give away. Plus, they are taught that the government is supposed to take care of people instead of us taking care of each other and that causes people to feel less personal responsibility in society, not more. This is the opposite of what the earliest Christians did where there was no government involved at all.
When it comes to comparing “free” healthcare with how Jesus healed people for free, that is also a false analogy. Doctors are not miracle workers like Jesus and must go through years of expensive education to be able to do their work and Jesus never required people to work for free (slavery). Neither are “free” because if you do not pay out of pocket you pay via taxes and those who have more pay more. Also, health insurance and the government both have limits on what they will pay for and cover in healthcare.
For healthcare to be accessible to all without high taxes, or high insurance costs, you must make it cheaper and only a complete overhaul of the current system would take down the costs. If they really wanted to do so they would prescribe things such as preventative care, food as medicine, exercise, natural alternative remedies/treatments and end the pharmaceutical industries’ monopoly on medicines and treatments which carries with it enormous costs along with profit and corruption.
There is also a profound danger for anyone to have exclusive control over healthcare, and especially the government because it can be intertwined with political objectives. This was evident more than ever during covid. Instantly, many regimes took totalitarian domination and decided what people could say and do, including doctors, where we could go, who to see, what to buy, if you could have your business open, if you could work, forced masking, and what medicines to take and not take, among many things. Fear was the tool they used to do it. In Michigan where I am, the state government ordered things like putting up crime tapes around seeds in a hardware store. So, you could buy a hammer but not tomato seeds. Abortion facilities were open, yet you couldn’t get lifesaving health screenings. People died because of that as the government just virtue signaled. This was done to prepare the way for even more control for WHO’s upcoming “pandemic treaty” which is the first step towards socialism/communism on a global scale because they, among other things, want to decide what medicines the rest of the world can and cannot take, and all of what you can, and cannot do. No one who operates that way cares about our health.
Let us remember here that the Nazis, who were socialists—National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozilistische Deutsche Arbeiterparte)—began their genocidal policies via their government-controlled health-care system and doctors were the first ones to start killing people. They began with getting rid of the handicapped because they saw them as a menace to society under the guise of a life not worth living, and then came the racist identity politics where they, as we all know, primarily, but not only, targeted 6 million Jews in one of the world’s worst—and likely the most horrific—genocides ever committed. The only two others who have outdone Hitler in numbers were Stalin and Mao Zedong. Mao started it by silencing the opposition, controlling the media, and nationalizing farmers property, setting the stage for man-made famine, and Stalin via famines, executions, and gulags. Both were communists because again, the more centralized power which includes control of the media, the bigger the chance for abuse combined with incompetence. We are now facing this via the Great Reset which is basically a re-do of the Great Leap Forward but on a global scale.
The only policy that outnumbers these—also done under the guise of healthcare—is abortion. According to the World Health Organization who calls it “health intervention” about 73 million unborn babies are killed every single year around the globe. There is nothing comparable in all human history (Abortion (who.int)).
Speaking of socialists like Hitler, it is relevant to mention here that there is now a massive antisemitic movement after Israel just experienced the most brutal horrifying terror attack by Hamas since WW2. This is so shocking it is hard to find words. And, aside from the Muslim world it is almost exclusively the far left—socialists/communists—marching and openly chanting for the destruction of Israel and the extermination of Jews while people in high places protects them.
All this is in stark contrast to the Bible which champions everyone’s inherent worth, prohibits pre-meditated killings, and instead emphasizes the value of life in all of God’s creation, particularly the unwanted. When Jesus healed people, it was done via the power of the Holy Spirit, his prayers to God, and others’ prayers, that God heard and answered (Mt 9:22). People still get healed today by the same power accessed through prayer, for free. It is far more common in areas such as Africa that are less well off, less secularized and often have more people with stronger faith.
Lastly, the most important aspect of socialism that makes it irreconcilable with Jesus is that socialists promote secularism/atheism in all areas of life. Pop culture/media then follow suit in countries they control and inevitably it becomes anti-Christian. Sweden, which was a Christian country for a millennium, started this process when I grew up. We first had prayer in school and Christianity was taught as a subject. That was then dismantled, and you instead had “religion” classes and Christianity became increasingly mocked. The sexual revolution, happening at that time, facilitated the speed of these changes. Though the Evangelical Lutheran Protestant church was not separated from the state until 2000, Sweden had turned deeply atheist long before that. The former state church had already abandoned many fundamental Christian beliefs replaced by whatever the current culture promoted. I was reading one interview not too long ago with someone who had been a priest for forty years in the official church of Sweden, who said that—not one single time—had he counseled a couple who were getting married that waited to have sex until marriage. The former Swedish Archbishop Ante Jackelen even called abortion “good.” You have the right to believe that, but it is in direct opposition to the Bible and an adoption of secular/atheist/socialist moral values. That should not be what guides you if you are a priest, much less the head of the church. However, replacing biblical values with secular ones is a theme with both socialist minded churches and political parties.
Socialists, as well as communist regimes do not mind churches so long as the churches go along with what the government teaches and decides. If they disagree and follow the Bible on issues that matter to them, then they are understood as a threat, demonized, and therefore oppressed. In that sense they want to replace God, and they do for countless people voluntarily who take their ideological/moral cues from them, over any religion. Socialists also demand ideological purity. There is zero tolerance to deviate from them and diversity in beliefs is not allowed. We see this today where differing with their viewpoints on sexuality and gender is considered “hate” and even speech that they disagree with is becoming criminalized.
Atheism is almost always portrayed as a neutral stance, but it is not, because no ideology is. Also, atheism is not a conviction with certain guardrails like the Bible. Instead, what is good and evil, right, and wrong, is fluid with ever stretching boundaries because there is no such thing as objective truth since that requires a Creator.
Also, since socialism/communism champions more centralized power for the government it is worth reminding everyone here that Jesus was executed by the government— Rome —who ruled with brutal control. He was handed over by his own disciple Judas to Israel’s religious hierarchy and they in turn turned him over to Caesar. When the high priest asked him if he was the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus answered, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). That did it. The charge was blasphemy but the main thing here is that the Son of God instantly made him a threat to their power as that title was a crossover for an emperor. Also, Caiaphas the high priest was appointed by Rome as this imperial power infiltrated the Sanhedrin in typical political fashion. They would obviously pick someone to be used as a line of defense against any threat to them. However, Jesus was not seeking to overthrow those in power, he was seeking to change people’s hearts to turn to Yahweh. This is why Jesus said that “My Kingdom is not of this world” (Gospel of John 18:36). However, that was enough for those in power, then as now, because they seek to capture people’s minds and if rebels who are not part of their controlled puppets gain a large following—which Jesus did—they pose a threat to their power.
This is why heavy propaganda and censorship is a part of every dictatorial-minded government and the more centralized it is, i.e.—socialism and communism—the easier it is for them to do this. If people stop to conform and comply en masse they can be a real threat to their authority. That is why control of the mind is the ultimate power grab and why the real battle today is mind control via the media, education system and pop culture, social media and more.
God has given us free will and to properly be able to use it we must hear all sides of every issue to think for ourselves and find out what is true. It is the Devil who is against free will, not God. That is why he is the Deceiver because he must resort to lies. This is likewise why those in power who are on the side of evil use censorship to gain power and keep people in the dark because otherwise most people will not agree with them. Most of all, God is intrinsically tied to free will because God is love and you must be able to choose it, or it does not exist.
In a world where you have material security —which is the carrot stick for socialism—that only goes so far. Comfort and pleasures are great—within boundaries—but that is not the goal of life. Jesus made that point repeatedly. For instance, he said that “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mk. 8:36). The spiritual aspect is always first because life does not end when your body dies. Socialism never answers the deeper existential questions and an atheist society that actively encourages the idea that there are no answers to our existence becomes superficial at best. For instance, not knowing why you are here and what your purpose in life is, is one of the major causes of depression. Missing the most important part, which is God, is missing everything. This is why the first commandment given to Moses, by God, was to have no other gods beside Yahweh. If you place Him first, which means you follow what He teaches, everything else falls into place. God is the answer to everything.
Jesus advocated for a personal responsibility to care for others. You will never be good just because you live in a society that cares for the poor or bad because they don’t. It is what you yourself do that you will answer to before God, not what others have done.
Jesus was/is the opposite of an atheist. When he walked the earth 2000 years ago he was a Torah-abiding Jewish Rabbi—and for Christians—the promised Messiah, who always placed God first. He passed on evangelization to his disciples to do so to the whole world so that everyone would know about the gospel and be saved, advocated for personally helping others and caring about all life with boundaries of what is right and wrong.
These things make it impossible for Jesus to be a socialist because as a power structure it consistently denies God’s existence and aims to take Him out of the equation. By promising to help the poor in exchange for their allegiance, they buy people—not with their money but others’ via taxes. That is not what Jesus did or stood for. He gave of himself and paid the ultimate price for it: his life. He was faithful to God and served people. If you ask socialists, particularly those in power, if they are willing to give up all their possessions, give them to the poor, and evangelize about God, I think we will have our answer.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). Poor in spirit refers to a state of mind. One that is humble, not taking anything for granted, not looking down on others, and not being preoccupied with earthly riches and prestige. It is not determined by your circumstances. Socialism on the other hand, does not promote a change of heart. They see money as both the problem (poverty) and the solution (forced redistribution) and simplifies the answers to poverty. Jesus appeals to the individual to know God, and God will change you from within because that is where the everlasting answers are. When you love God, you become personally responsible because you answer first and foremost to God, not other people that you can deceive. Knowing that, changes everything.