Taking Scripture out of Context
Somehow, and for some reason, many people are ignoring the historical facts of the evils and impracticalities of socialism. It’s as if everyone failed high school history. Even worse, the Left are claiming Jesus was a socialist and even advocated for socialism. They do this via proof texting, which is to comb through the Scriptures and take verses out of their context that seemingly fit your agenda or belief while using it to argue your agenda.
One simple example of this from a non-political perspective are many Christians and non-Christians who take Matthew 7:1 out of context, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” They read this and say, “See? Jesus said not to judge! So you can’t judge me” Yet they ignorantly neglect to read the rest of the context, vv. 2-5:
“For with the judgement you pronounce, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Here, Jesus is prescribing what proper judgement looks like. First of all, He gives a warning about judgement that when you judge, you will be judged in return. When you say, “Hey, what you’re doing is wrong,” the other person is bound to say, “Yeah well you did this!” Or, “Well I did this because you did this!”
Secondly, Jesus is condemning hypocritical judgement, then He calls the hearer to self-examination before he judges the other person. This is how we are called to judge sin. If I want to judge my friend’s promiscuity to bring him to repentance, I better examine myself first to make sure I’m also not committing promiscuity or some other sexual sin.
Jesus also says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement” (John 7:24). So there’s that. Apparently, Jesus expects us to exercise right judgement, which He has taught us how to do in Matthew 7.
Caring for the Poor out of Freedom, not Compulsion
All that being said, what verses do the Left take out of context to support their socialist agenda? I will cover some of the popular ones, but this list is by no means extensive.
One verse is Mark 14:7, “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have Me.” This is one of many places where Jesus calls Christians to care for the poor. The Left make the argument that socialism is how we can care for the poor, despite historical evidence to the contrary.
This verse is not so much taken out of context as it is grossly misinterpreted. The key difference between socialism and Jesus’ command to care for the poor is that the dogma of Democratic Socialism purports the government will help care for the poor. Aside from the fact that this is completely untrue, in this verse, Jesus is not sanctioning the government to care for the poor. Socialism takes away from the worker class and distributes it to the poor. In this verse, Jesus clearly says whenever you want, you can do good for them.
Whenever you want and whenever you are able, Jesus says, give to the poor. He does not call for government interference by any means in this verse. After all, considering the context, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, not the Roman government. In fact, if anything, Jesus would directly oppose socialism.
Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:13-15
The poorer brother demanded Jesus to tell his brother to distribute the inheritance with him, but Jesus rebukes him because He is not concerned with such earthly things. The true root of socialism is covetousness, not love for one’s neighbour.
Christianity is not about passing over its duty to the government when it comes to aiding the poor. The Left—and many on the Right as well—have a narrow view of what it means to help the poor. We think that to help the poor means to give them food and money here and there—or, under socialism, forcing the worker class to pay the poor.
Rather, to care for the poor is to help them overcome poverty, not paying them to remain poor through government (i.e. taxpayer) funding. It has been the Church’s arduous endeavour for over 2,000 years to help the poor overcome their plight, not pay them to remain where they are. That’s what socialism does. Socialism enables their plight rather than helping them overcome it.
St. Paul also echoes what Jesus commanded about individual giving, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Socialism compels people to give to the poor and always to the point that it’s beyond what they are able to afford, thus creating a vicious cycle of more and more people entering poverty.
St. Paul too, then, would condemn socialism since, with apostolic authority, he commands the Corinthians and all Christians by extension to give out of generosity and one’s heart, not with reluctance or compulsion. Socialism makes this giving tyrannical rather than joyous.
The Anti-Socialism of Scripture
Consider also the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus tells a fictional story of a man who entrusts his wealth to three servants. When he returns, he discovers that one of the servants buried what he gave him whereas the other two had invested it and made more money. The man does not commend the poor man who squandered the money given to him, but the richer one who made the most money. He scolds the poorer man for squandering the money he gave him, then he takes what the poor man squandered and gave it to the richer man!
Then the man says this in the parable, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 29).
Not very socialist, is it?
Keep in mind, however, that this is not a parable about economics; it is a parable about the end times. While this parable does not advocate for socialism, we should not use it as a model for economics since Jesus told the parable to illustrate the end times.
Another parable to consider is the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). While I maintain that Jesus was neither a socialist nor a capitalist since neither economic system existed in His day, this parable actually upholds capitalist values. (Keep in mind, also, that this parable is describing the kingdom of heaven, not how economics are to be done.)
Jesus tells the story of a master of a house who hires some labourers to work for 1 denarius a day in his vineyard. Several hours later, he hires more men with the same contract, then he hires more men several hours after that, and then again. It would seem logical that the first men who worked longer would receive more wages than the men who came later. This is how our capitalism works, after all (at least with minimum wage jobs). In fact, the first men demand this, but the master says, “‘Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity’” (vv. 14-15)?
Under capitalism, an employer has the right to do what’s agreed upon in the contract, whereas socialism would take this out of the employer’s hands and instead force a rate of wages upon them. The master’s contract was for 1 denarius a day, regardless of how long one worked that day. The men who worked longer felt they were owed more since they worked longer that day, but the master was generous and had told all the men he hired that he would give them each 1 denarius for the days worked, regardless of how many hours they worked.
This would be similar to two employees on the same pay scale with the same job under the same employer. They both make the same exact salary. Yet let’s say employee A puts in more hours than employee B, yet they both get their jobs done adequately. Noticing this, employee A complains to their employer to pay him more since his colleague puts in fewer hours. But the employer, as is her right, denies employee A’s request since it is her right as the employer to do as she sees fit with her money under the same contract both employees have taken. Under the contract, it doesn’t matter how long they worked, just that they worked and did their job.
Love Your Neighbour
Other passages taken out of context are Deuteronomy 6—the Great Shema—in conjunction with Matthew 22:36-40, particularly God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself.”
It honestly confounds me as to how the Left think these verses support socialism. Truthfully, it’s through the complete and utter twisting of words. Contextually, not only does Deuteronomy 6 have absolutely nothing to do with the distribution of wealth to the poor, neither does Jesus’ repetition of the Shema here.
One could argue, “Well, to love your neighbour as yourself is to treat them as you would like to be treated, right? If you were poor, wouldn’t you want someone to help you by giving you money, food, and clothing?” Yes, I would, but not under compulsion. I would prefer them to do it out of the generosity of their hearts. Which, as we have seen, is the biblical view of giving to the poor—giving out of your freedom to do so rather than under compulsion. To enforce or desire compulsion is, in actuality, sin.
In short, yes, we are to love our neighbour, but this is in the landscape of Christian freedom (recall Mark 14:27), not compulsion.
One Last Annoyance
Lastly, one passage liberals love to use is Matthew 25:35-40:
“‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirst and give You drink? And when did we se You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’”
When cherry picking this out of its proper context, it appears this supports socialism, but this is really easy to debunk. One of the passages I covered was vv. 14-30 of this chapter, the Parable of the Talents, the very parable that is very anti-socialist. Even if vv. 35-40 were socialistic, Jesus would be contradicting Himself, which would make the Left’s usage of these verses a moot point.
Yet as we know, Scripture does not contradict itself, and neither does Jesus since it is His Word. His words here are also to be viewed in the greater context of Mark 14:27 when Jesus said to give to the poor whenever you want. Christians are to do these things with their Christian liberty, not under compulsion, as Paul says, but with their generosity of heart.
Jesus was not Political
Stop using Jesus to push forward your political agenda! Just stop it. Jesus was not a socialist, capitalist, Democrat, or Republican. Jesus is the Saviour of the world whose will transcends your meagre political beliefs. Jesus was not political. Jesus did not prescribe political beliefs. His main concern was to do the will of His Father in Heaven, which was to die for your sins and rise from the dead that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life and likewise rise on the Last Day (John 6:38-40).
That is Jesus’ will. What does this have to do with socialism or any other political matter? Absolutely nothing. So, stop using Jesus’ name to push forward your political agenda, for by doing so you violate the 2nd Commandment and profane His name. Rather, use His name for what He came here to do: to proclaim His salvation to sinners who, regenerated by the Holy Spirit as baptised Christians in the Triune name of God, are called forth to live with the freedom to love the Lord their God and their neighbour as themselves.