Because he’s not.
If there’s one that makes my eyes roll right out of my head, it’s when some prog leftist tries to tell me how Jesus Christ of Nazareth fame, is a pro-government, tax the rich, #UniteBlue kind of Lord and Savior.
This is usually followed up with the often laughable phrase that I get from people who like to cherry pick Bible passages in order to make a political point, “Maybe you should read the Bible sometime.”
Well, there’s reading the Bible, and then there’s understanding the Bible. Anyone can throw Biblical text around, but Biblical text is just words on a page if you don’t put forth the effort to understand what they were talking about.
Now I’ll admit straight up that I’m no theologian, nor am I a Bible expert. I’m horrible at memorizing, and the internet has really helped my understanding along. People raise questions that I sometimes don’t know the answer to, but I have learned that the Bible always contains the answer. In fact, I feel like I learn something new about the Bible every week. Sometimes I’ll forget things and learn them again. I love hearing how historical studies reveal some new insight to certain stories within the Bible. As a Christian, that stuff excites me. You could memorize this book from cover to cover and still learn something new about it all the time.
Despite this, the Bible is still pretty static. Time may change cultures. We may lose touch with certain meanings. Socio-economic shifts may change the way we perceive the word, but at the end of the day the messages are still pretty concrete. There’s an overall feel the Bible imparts that sets off your BS flag whenever someone makes some weird Biblical claim.
And one of those red flags that goes up is the claim that Jesus was a statist. He was a kind, charitable, and giving man, yes, but Christ wasn’t pulling the lever for more government. People who are all too ready to render unto Caesar would do well to read some of the upcoming examples.
1st the 10th
First I’ll point you to the one of the most well known of Christian rule books, the 10 Commandments, wherein God’s all…
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Now socialists and communists are notorious coveters of thy neighbor’s stuff. They can wax poetic about it’s not about wanting what your neighbor has, and it’s about being equal, but let’s call it what it always is: hatred of the rich. It’s “us vs them.” The “We are the 99%” crowd want to “tax the rich,” and make sure folk “pay their fair share.” This is just distribution of wealth so that you get more, regardless of what you do to earn it, and they get less regardless of the lengths they went to acquire it. The objective is to grab that wealth using government, so that the socialist or communist can then, with good conscience, accept that stolen money in the name of “fairness” or “equality.”
This runs contrary to the 10th Commandment. That’s not your wealth; it belongs to another. Your involvement of it being taken, even if just in advocacy, is coveting their possessions. Socialism and Communism is exactly that: the coveting of other’s things to make your life easier. It’s a very general commandment, but we’ll get a little more particular as we go on.
The Camel and The Needle
This is one of my personal favorites that socialists like to use when condescending to me about Christ’s view on the rich. The story, as told in Mark 10:17-27 goes like this…
A young rich man runs up to Jesus and asks him how to get into the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells him that he needs to keep the commandments, to which the man replies that he has kept the commandments since his youth. Jesus then responds by asking if he wants to be perfect, then instructs the young man to go sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, then follow Him. The young man was pretty dejected.
Jesus then turns to his disciples and after some words says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
To the socialist, this is the nail in the coffin for capitalism. According to them, Jesus just rejected the rich out of his Father’s kingdom. Proof that wealth is evil.
But it’s not. Wealth is not inherently good nor evil, it’s just wealth. The good or evil comes with how you use it.
See, Jesus hung out with rich people from time to time. He had dinner at their tables, and stayed at their homes. His ministry was financed sometimes by well-off people like Mary Magdalene. While Jesus’s quest operated on a skeleton budget, it had the backing of some wealthy folk. All this to say, Jesus had zero disdain for anyone with jingly pockets, but he wasn’t a fan of people valuing their wealth over God.
Jesus telling the young man to sell everything and follow him was very poignant for that man in particular, because that young man loved his wealth more than God, and Christ knew it. He wanted to go to Heaven, but he wanted to go to Heaven with his wealth and status in tow. Jesus was essentially telling the man to pick a side, saying he could have one, but not the other. This depressed the man because he loved his possessions so much.
But let’s address Jesus’s final comment on the matter, in regard to the camel and the needle by referring to something Jesus said in Luke 17: 31-33. “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
What Jesus means is that your Earthly possessions mean jack squat in the long run, and that when you die you can’t take the Earth with you. Yes, it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven, because there is no such thing as rich dead people. Furthermore, if you valued your Earthly treasure more than your Heavenly one, God will grant your heart’s desire, which is bad news, but he leaves that choice up to you.
Greed for Earthly possessions isn’t exclusive to rich people. I’ve seen selfish poor, and selfless rich, and it had nothing to do with their bank balance. To cherry pick the camel through the needle bit to mean that Jesus hates the rich is lazy politicalization.
“But Brandon,” says the socialist, “Jesus supported the payment of taxes when he told his people that they should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s.”
For those who don’t know the story, or need a refresher, Mark 12: 13-17 tells of how some Pharisees approached Jesus in order to catch him with a clown question. They asked him if the Jewish people should pay taxes to the Romans, to which Jesus asks one of them to produce a denarii and tell Him whose picture is on the coin. They reply with “Caesar” to which Jesus says “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
This is proof positive that Jesus was all about paying taxes…to anyone who takes what Jesus said at face value with zero context and a desperate need to make an uneducated Christian do their political bidding.
This short episode in the Bible carries a lot of weight and backstory, as most episodes do. The entire, and best, explanation behind Jesus’s actions and words in this exchange with the Pharisees was given by Attorney Jeffrey Barr which you can and should read here, but to sum it up…
Jesus was doing political jujitsu with Pharisees. The point of their question was to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place. If Jesus had just said “no, don’t pay taxes” then it would have prompted Rome to use force against him and the people who would have readily (as they were currently in tax revolt against Rome) taken Jesus’s words to heart. If Jesus would have said “yes, we must pay taxes” then Jesus would have lost all credibility with his audience and his ministry would have failed. Instead, Jesus first asks the Pharisees to produce a denarii.
Now the denarii was a product of Caesar’s own mint. It was his personal currency, and a currency he paid his soldiers and servants with. On the coin was the phrase “Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of the God, Augustus.” That Jesus asked the Pharisees to produce the coin says two things. One, that the Pharisees even possessed the coin does not speak well about whose side the Pharisees are on, and second, to show that Caesar had put himself up as a deity deserving of worship apart from God.
In Jewish tradition, everything belongs to God, and if all things belong to God, then nothing can belong to Caesar. What Jesus was doing, once again, was telling his questioners to pick a side. Either give to God, or give to god. This wasn’t Jesus taking a pro-tax position, this was Jesus taking a pro-God position against an Emperor who was claiming he was divine. In fact, in this context, the message was anti-tax if you want to get political.
Sorry, Mr. Socialist. Try again.
Tax Is Not Charity
One of the most general arguments that socialists try to make is that Jesus was a big fan of caring for the poor. This is true. Christ is the kind of guy who looked out for the little guy. He encouraged people to give often in order to help them. In fact to sweeten the concept, He told us that helping the needy is the same as helping Him.
Most Christians I know are educated enough to understand that when Christ encouraged folk to give to the poor, that he encouraged folk to do so by their own volition. When confronted with the argument that Jesus wants you to give up money to the poor via tax, Christians will usually rapid-fire a response telling the socialist that it’s not giving up money voluntarily if you’re giving up that money by force. It ceases being charity, and starts being, frankly, robbery.
But even the Bible has a tier system in place for charitable giving, and it goes like this.
First, your charity should be directed at your family. If any blood relatives are in need or are destitute, it’s the families duty to see to them first. 1 Timothy 5:8 says: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Those are pretty harsh words, but it’s harsh in order to underscore how important inter-familial charity is. Taking care of your own is more important than taking care of others.
Secondly is giving to the church. This is in the form of tithing, where an individual or family may give an amount of their earnings to the church, but even that is for a different purpose. You give to a church in order to fund ministry, theological research, missions, and Biblical expertise. The church itself will then turn around and use that money in order to grow in these ways, but also, of course, use that money for charitable projects.
Thirdly comes person charity. Only after the first two are covered should you be looking out for the poor on your own, but even then, there are stipulations. 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10 has Paul saying…
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.””
Notice, not one time, do any of these rules mention giving to government. That’s because taxation is not charity, it’s lawful seizure of finances.
Firstly, higher taxes would hurt your ability to help your own family. The socialist would argue that you still are by helping fund government programs, but then that would be the government helping your family with government money. Money they got from mandating it from the citizens. It’s not charity if it’s law.
Second, the Christian typically trusts the church beyond any governing body, and rightfully so. The church primary concern is the understanding, spread, and use of the Gospel. Once those expenses are covered, then it turns it’s attention to charity. This in turn has produced more in charitable acts from the individual, to the church, to the individual. In fact, most charity is seen in highly religious areas due to this Christian mindset. Each church provides charity on different levels and to different places. The Economist says the Catholic church in particular gives charity somewhere in the hundred billions. Either way, charity is a key factor, but ministry comes first. In fact, the Bible urges the familial giving before anything to make sure that gap is filled.
Third verse the same as the first. If your money is being forced out of you via taxes in order to fund programs, it’s not charitable giving. Furthermore the government likes to fund in sets. Sometimes that set really does contain people who are needy, sometimes it funds people who would rather sit back and just collect welfare. Either way, the Christian is instructed not to give to those who can, but won’t work, but the government isn’t shy about doing this at all. If a Christian individual was looking to give to a charity that helps the poor, the Christian individual containing any common sense would immediately head in the opposite direction of our government. Hell, I hope anybody with any common sense would do that.
The Socialist Christian
So, no, Jesus is not a socialist or a communist, but in a perfect Christian world you would see something very akin to socialism, but with no government in sight. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity pondered what one would look like, and I’ll let him finish with his thoughts, and a good summation of this article.
“All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one’s work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no ‘swank’ or ‘side,’ no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist. On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience-obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls ‘busybodies.’
“If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, ‘advanced,’ but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old-fashioned-perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: everyone is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.”
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for voice acting and authoring scripts. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has heard about or seen. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.
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