I hang out on conservative minded websites a lot. I don’t consider myself a troll (who does?), but I do enjoy a good discussion in the comments section. I have to admit, I may occasionally try to get people pounding their keyboards. While I usually agree with most of what the commentators have to say, a fair amount of them, though politically conservative, aren’t Christian at all. The one comment that I read grabbed my attention. Someone was trying to use Scripture to support their position on some topic that didn’t have all that much to do with Christianity. Anyway, as a way to refute using Scripture as a source of defense, this other person said something like, “Oh yea? (extra expletives) Why would I agree with a book that promotes socialism?!” Then the anonymous internet commentator left the discussion with this passage:
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
I began thinking about this. I had never seen this as a defense for socialism before. But, quickly, several things started standing out to me.
- The disciples shared what they had voluntarily. They did it out of a heart that was full of love. In the Old Testament, God commanded 10% of peoples income for His service. In the New Testament, he transforms the outward Law inward and establishes morality on a heart level. He no longer requires a specific action, but requires a heart that follows Him. Out of that changed heart flows the changed lifestyle. While He no longer requires a specific law to be met, He asks us to help those in need. We do it not out of obligation, but out of love for God and our fellow man. In that way, requiring someone to give “X” amount of money or substance would not be in accordance with God’s law of Love, in that the giving wouldn’t flow out of a changed heart.
- The disciples knew each other. They were a tight knit group of believers. They probably personally knew the people who needed help. They knew the need was legitimate. While this system works with a group of people who are all committed to it and driven by a higher moral standard, to force this system on a large populace of people with no moral motivation would only encourage reliance on the community since that would be easier than producing. The individual would have no concern for the others in the group. This is why this system works the best in faith based groups, not in governments.
- They gave directly to each other, or went through the apostles. Christians aren’t perfect, but we are following God’s law of Love and out of that flows many good characteristics, among them honesty. While the apostles distributed the goods/money to people who needed it, the leaders did not keep it for themselves. This is something we have not seen to be true of secular governments through history who have tried socialism. Human nature is selfish, and the good of the community is abused as the government officials help themselves to larger portions of the community pot.
This, of course, wreaks havoc on the whole system. The individuals lose any motivation to put more goods/money in the “pot” because of the futility of the system. Church leaders, however, like I mentioned before, usually (there are exceptions) are driven by God’s law of Love and are truly concerned for the people in need. This is why they can be trusted to the “kitty”, because they will use it for it’s intended purposes. Again, this is why a form of socialism only works well in faith based groups.
So, to sum it up. In a perfect world, socialism would work? Probably. But, as we all know, this world is far from perfect. (Why do bad things happen? Here’s what I think) Anyway, those were just some of my thoughts on that. Let your opinion be heard in the comment sections below!
photo credit: © Štěpán Kápl – Fotolia.com