What does it all MEME #1 – Jesus was a Socialist, NOT!
Early in his career as a columnist, George Will was discussing with his mentor the worries he had about being a columnist. Will was worried that he would run out of ideas for his articles, three a week. His mentor told him: “Just find things that annoy you, and you will have plenty of material.” As I have been in a dry spell lately, I decided to take the advice given to Will, and the ideas did indeed flowed.
I have a presence on social media, but I am careful with what I consume in that arena. One of the elements of social media that annoy me in particular are MEMEs. If you don’t know, a MEME is a picture or a graphic that has a short saying to make a point. Sometimes they are funny, but most times, they are profoundly annoying and terribly incorrect. Fallacies abound, and false information is ubiquitous. Therefore, I thought I would start a series breaking down some MEMEs that especially irk me. With that, let’s get to this edition’s disaster.
I first saw this MEME on a friend’s Facebook post. I love that friend and have great respect for him. Although we come to politics from a completely different perspective, I have always enjoyed his company. However, this MEME is just all kinds of wrong. I’ll start by addressing the first part of the MEME – “when Jesus feeds the poor, it’s Christianity.” This part is absolutely correct. Looking at scripture, there were two instances where Jesus fed the poor. The first is feeding the 5,000 found in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). Here are some observations on these passages:
- Although Jesus was to perform a miracle, He told the disciples, “You feed them.” He enlisted the disciples to be participants in the miracle.
- The bread and fish were freely offered. They were not forcibly taken. The owners of the bread and fish were not coerced to hand them over.
- What started out as extraordinarily little was exponentially increased. A little, freely given, was multiplies thousands of times over.
- 5,000 men were counted, so that means we can estimate that this was primarily a Jewish crowd (only the men were counted) and that the total size could have been 3-4 times larger.
The second instance is feeding the 4,000 found in Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-13. Jesus is now on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – Gentile territory. The same elements are also found in this story, except the count is not limited to just the men. Therefore, this was mainly a gentile crowd.
The point for both of these stories is this: Jesus was establishing another element of His divinity. He was Lord and provider for every human on the planet – Jew, and gentile. By freely offering what we have to Jesus, He will take that and bless others exponentially to bring them into a relationship with Him. By submitting to Jesus, we are actively taking part in the building of His Kingdom. The primary ethic of that Kingdom is love. Love is why Jesus healed. Love is why Jesus taught. Love is why Jesus fed the multitudes. Love is why Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and sent His Holy Spirit.
Now, let look at the second part of the MEME. The first thing we need to establish is exactly what Socialism is. The definition tends to be a moving target depending on whom you talk to. But the essence of Socialism is wealth distribution to bring all citizens of the state to an equal level. Scandinavia flirted with Socialism – a kind of Socialism lite. But after nearly bankrupting each country, they quickly bailed on those policies. Venezuela and Bolivia have adopted Socialist governments. Both countries are in economic ruin.
Let’s kill this myth right now – politicians do not feed the poor. Politicians may enact laws that assist the poor, but they do not feed the poor in any way other than maybe their personal lives serving in shelters, food banks, etc. But their job is not to feed the poor. Their job is to represent the people who elected them.
When a politician enacts socialist policies of wealth redistribution, it is VASTLY different than what Jesus did. The government takes by force and coercion money form those who have earned it. That money is then cycled through the layers of bureaucracy and eventually comes through in programs with minimal impact other than dependence. The government takes, consumes, and then spits out a few pennies for each dollar taken. That is Socialism. The government takes and expands its power and encourages dependence on its services.
It is at this point some Christians who identify as socialists point to Acts 4 in defense of their position:
Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need. Acts 4:32–35 (CSB).
This lifestyle of the disciples is not, in any way, shape, or form socialism. It was a community. People were not forced and coerced to give; they did it out of love to spread the gospel. There was no need in the community because there was a love tie that bound them all together. What was freely offered to the community was increased by the eliminating of need. The leaders did not forcibly take the offerings, consume 99% of what was taken in, and then give back a tiny portion to people. The truth is, out of love, not power, the need was eliminated by free offerings that were equitably distributed.
Let me make it perfectly clear, the gospel of King Jesus is entirely incompatible with Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, Democracy, or any other human-made governmental ideology. The creed of the Christian is “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). Whatever government is in place is secondary. We need to participate in our republic. We need to vote our consciences. We must speak for the marginalized, the poor, the widow, and the orphan. The Church of King Jesus has the mandate to feed the poor and care for the marginalized. But the government forced theft of funds to consume and make a class of people dependent on it is not Christianity. It is Socialism. It is idolatry.