Many in the Christian community today align themselves with the political right or left. Some are conservative-leaning, preferring less government involvement and greater social and economic freedom. Others are liberal-progressive, leaning toward governmental control of social and economic matters. Some believe the Bible teaches socialist income equality by pointing to what Christ told a young man in Matthew 19. Some even conclude that Acts 2 and 4 endorse a communal or socialistic economic system.
Are such ideas correct? Where does the Bible stand on basic socioeconomic concepts and methodologies? Before examining these and other biblical passages, let’s first review Dictionary.com definitions of three of the 20th and 21st century’s major economic systems, which also involve form of governance—communism, socialism and capitalism.
All the economic and political systems of man’s devising and implementation are, in various ways, not in line with what God presents in the Bible.
Communism: “A system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.”
Socialism: “A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.”
Capitalism: “An economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.”
Flaws of governing and economic systems
In his early writings, communism’s founder Karl Marx put forward the theory that the communist governing and economic structure would develop into an advanced form of socialism. Yet, over the past 100 years this ruling experiment proved to be a dismal failure. Although communism still exists today in nearly its original soviet-style form in North Korea and Cuba, other former communist governments, such as China and Vietnam, have morphed into hybrids that include elements of socialism and capitalism.
Communism has been denounced as an authoritarian, atheistic system that disallows personal freedom, is dominated by secret police surveillance, government propaganda, censorship and a centrally controlled economy, which fails to meet its people’s needs.
Socialism often receives criticism because it disabuses the concept of private property rights, demands redistribution of wealth by government coercion, impedes innovation, restricts individual freedom and leaves the door open to dictatorial rule.
Capitalism, as it’s often practiced, is viewed as flawed by many as a system of elite, moneyed privilege and class rule that encourages greed and profit over people and is dominated by special interests at the expense of average citizens. Corruption and cronyism among business and government, along with currency manipulation—one of the biggest fraud and theft operations in history—interfere with free enterprise and free exchange on which capitalism is supposed to be based.
Yet we should be careful not draw some kind of moral equivalence between even corrupted capitalism and state social-ism and communism. The former, in spite of serious problems in the way it’s been practiced, has still managed, because of underlying free market principles, to create wealth on a large scale and improve the lives of untold numbers of people.
In contrast, socialism and communism have not created new wealth on a large scale and have kept whole populations in poverty, the promises of fair distribution being broken by those in power taking the greater share. Worse, governments practicing socialism and communism have been behind the largest-scale mass murder the world has ever seen—either through wars of conquest or slaughter of their own citizens.
The fact is, all the economic and political systems of man’s devising and implementation are, in various ways, not in line with what God presents in the Bible.
Jesus Christ’s view of human government and wealth
What was Jesus Christ’s position on mankind’s governing structures, which have a major impact on economics? When on trial, Jesus told the local Roman administrator Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 John 18:36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
American King James Version×). In other words, His Kingdom was not of or like the governing ideologies or systems of this age of human misrule. But in a future time, beginning at His second coming, God’s perfect government will be established on the earth to lead and guide all nations.
Before getting into this further, let’s note some scriptural instances, including two referred to earlier, that refute the idea that the Bible offers support for various humanly conceived forms of social and economic governance.
For example, some people believe Jesus taught that socialistic income redistribution is something Christians should promote. They point to Christ’s words to a rich young ruler as validation. Jesus told the young man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21 Matthew 19:21Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
American King James Version×). After this encounter the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22 Matthew 19:22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
American King James Version×).
The young man’s particular reaction expressed the very essence of the story. Because he cherished his wealth above God, Jesus told him to give it all away. Christ’s words are not an instruction advocating socialist income redistribution. Rather, it’s a vital lesson about how making one’s physical wealth more important than serving and surrendering to God can choke off one’s spiritual growth and development.
Nowhere in the Bible do we find that God condemns wealth or the gaining of wealth. In fact, a number of notable biblical figures were highly affluent and financially successful. For example, Genesis 13:2 Genesis 13:2And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
American King James Version×tells us that Abram, later renamed Abraham, “was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” Also, King David was wealthy, and his son Solomon became exceedingly prosperous (1 Kings 4:20-28 1 Kings 4:20-28 20 Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry. 21 And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. 22 And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and three score measures of meal, 23 Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. 25 And Judah and Israel dwelled safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. 26 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 27 And those officers provided victual for king Solomon, and for all that came to king Solomon’s table, every man in his month: they lacked nothing. 28 Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries brought they to the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.
American King James Version×). Some New Testament Christians such as Philemon were quite well off.
To illustrate an important spiritual lesson, Jesus employed the concept of increasing wealth through proper investments in His parable of the talents. In Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours.
26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:
27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents.
29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has.
30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×Christ told a story about a wealthy man who was preparing to take a trip to a distant country. Before leaving, he gave some of his assets to each of three servants, with the instruction that they should work to increase the size of the investments through diligent effort and wise money management.
While two of the servants prudently doubled their money, the third servant hid his money in the ground. On returning home, the wealthy man praised the conduct of the two servants but was highly displeased with the actions of the third (Matthew 25:27 Matthew 25:27You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
American King James Version×). As in the previously discussed story, the foundational lesson of this parable is that Christians must strive diligently to develop their spiritual aptitudes.
Does Scripture advocate communism?
Some people believe that the early Church endorsed a socialistic economic system by practicing a form of communism. As mentioned earlier, they base this idea on descriptions in the book of Acts. One states, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45 Acts 2:44-45 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
American King James Version×; compare Acts 4:32-35 Acts 4:32-35 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was on them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.
American King James Version×).
Does this teach that Christians should practice a collectivist communal lifestyle and economic system? The answer is no.
Many of these converts were visitors from areas outside of Jerusalem and from foreign lands. Since they desired to learn much more about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God from the apostles, they chose to stay in Jerusalem for a while. Unlike communism, which demands and commands citizen participation, and confiscates wealth from those who produce the most, the sharing of resources described in this passage was an entirely voluntary sharing on everyone’s part. In addition, there is no indication anywhere in the New Testament that a communal economy became the norm.
During Jesus’ ministry He didn’t teach His disciples to sell what they had and distribute it to others who were less well off. However, He personally set the example as to what they should do. When He encountered poor, hungry and suffering people, He did what He could to help with the means He had available. Of course in His case, as the very Son of God, His means were often supernatural and extremely powerful.
The Gospels record multiple miraculous healings that Jesus performed, especially for poor and needy individuals. The purpose was to express His, and by extension His Father’s, intense love for Their supreme creation—human beings. Christ’s example to His disciples of love, service and sacrifice for others left a lasting impression. Within the limits of their ability and resources, they too served others generously, and in doing so they truly honored God (Matthew 25:40 Matthew 25:40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
American King James Version×; Acts 3:6 Acts 3:6Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
American King James Version×).
Notice that there was no administrative edict, no coercion or demand for compliance, as would be found in communist and socialist systems. In Christ’s example, we witness only an intense personal willingness to serve and care for others from the heart —motivated by God’s love and His Spirit (John 13:34 John 13:34A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
American King James Version×).
And that’s the message for Christians today. Jesus’ actions were so extraordinarily meaningful and significant that they can reach down through time via the pages of the Bible, to affect us—if our minds and hearts are open and receptive.
The Bible’s social and economic system revealed
As has been discussed, the Bible does not condemn wealth and prosperity, especially if it is used properly and righteously to serve one’s family, one’s neighbor and God’s work. Producing wealth creates jobs, which enables others to properly support themselves. Producing wealth enables one to have the means to help and assist others, which God repeatedly encourages in His Word. Luke 8:3 Luke 8:3And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered to him of their substance.
American King James Version×compliments several wealthy women who helped financially support Jesus’ ministry.
Neither does the Bible advocate redistribution of wealth or a reduction or elimination of people’s personal liberty, such as communist and socialist systems do. Forced redistribution of wealth—government taking from one person to give to another—is actually a form of stealing and a violation of the eighth of the Ten Commandments.
Yet the Bible also doesn’t support any kind of capitalism that is rooted in deception, greed and theft and, as is all too often the case, dominated by special-interest influence and cronyism. These also are violations of God’s commands.
What the Bible does support is a society and economy based on private property, freedom of choice, personal initiative, free enterprise and especially unselfishness, generosity and compassion.
Although that kind of system has not yet been fully tried— it is coming! Its initiation will occur at the time of Jesus Christ’s second coming. From His global headquarters in Jerusalem, it will then spread throughout the entire world.
The Bible has multiple references describing that absolutely amazing time. It will encompass a period of a thousand years, a millennium, of splendid peace and prosperity for all people—unequaled in human history.
God will use the physical descendants of Israel as a model nation to show how He will teach, work with and bless the entire world. He will offer every person full, divine knowledge of Him and His generous, loving ways through His unparalleled gift of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
American King James Version×).
Scripture gives us several important indications as to the economic structure of God’s coming Kingdom on earth. The cornerstone of His economy will focus on land ownership, just as it did in ancient Israel (1 Kings 4:25 1 Kings 4:25And Judah and Israel dwelled safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.
American King James Version×).
This new Millennial economy will value and preserve private property since “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4 Micah 4:4But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
American King James Version×). All families will have the opportunity to improve and preserve their land—similar to how God instructed Adam and Eve to care for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15 Genesis 2:15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
American King James Version×). Numerous family-owned farms will generate astonishingly plentiful yields (Amos 9:13 Amos 9:13Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
American King James Version×; Joel 2:24 Joel 2:24And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
American King James Version×; Joel 3:18 Joel 3:18And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
American King James Version×).
Blessings from working, tithing and sharing
Another godly economic criterion to be taught in the Millennium is simply that of working for a living. To give some background about this vital point: God had expressed to His physical nation of ancient Israel the principles of helping those who were poor. To provide a means for the needy to feed them-selves, landowners were instructed that when they harvested their fields they should leave the corners untouched so the underprivileged could gather the gleanings (Leviticus 19:9-10 Leviticus 19:9-10 9 And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, neither shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×).
It was the responsibility of able-bodied poor individuals to go into the fields to gather their grain, rather than simply have others provide them sustenance without any effort on their part.
The apostle Paul explained this same basic model to members of the Church when he wrote, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 2 Thessalonians 3:10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout). Also, Paul instructed the brethren at Ephesus that everyone should “labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28 Ephesians 4:28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.
American King James Version×). God expects us to work to generate income—but also to be generous to others who are in genuine need.
An additional economic principle to be taught in our Creator’s future new age of prosperity will be tithing —which simply means giving back to God 10 percent of one’s increase (Leviticus 27:30 Leviticus 27:30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s: it is holy to the LORD.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×). Since government operations require expenditures—even in God’s coming society—that’s where the tithing will come into play. Everyone will delight in tremendous blessings when they pay to God His tithe. Indeed, when people give their best to God, as is due Him, He will consequently give it back to them many times over.
Proverbs 3:9-10 Proverbs 3:9-10 9 Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase:
10 So shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine.
American King James Version×explains, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” Contrasted with the oppressive taxes of today, tithing operates more like an equitable flat tax that actually encourages initiative. This is because unlike man’s current system wherein people are essentially penalized for being productive—some paying half or more of their earnings in taxes—this won’t happen in the Kingdom of God.
Even during the Millennium, however, there will be some people in rare instances who will experience difficult times financially. For them, God has provided a wonderful and reliable economic support system designed to prevent them from descending into severe poverty.
In such situations, God says in Deuteronomy 15:7-8 Deuteronomy 15:7-8 7 If there be among you a poor man of one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother:
8 But you shall open your hand wide to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wants.
American King James Version×: “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”
God’s government will work for everyone
Those who borrow money out of need will not be saddled with interest payments—which means people will not take advantage of other’s hardships. Also, there will be a release from borrowed debt every seventh year, which will give people a new, debt-free beginning (Deuteronomy 15:1-2 Deuteronomy 15:1-2 1 At the end of every seven years you shall make a release.
2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lends ought to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’s release.
American King James Version×).
Under God’s righteous government, those who lend to others in need will know in advance that they may not get their money back. And yet there is a great blessing in one’s willingness to help others. Deuteronomy 15:10 Deuteronomy 15:10You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him: because that for this thing the LORD your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to.
American King James Version×tells us, “You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.”
Jesus likewise said to “lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35 Luke 6:35But love you your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil.
American King James Version×). Those who lend money to others in need will be rewarded because any financial help they provide to the poor will be viewed as if they are giving it to God. Proverbs 19:17 Proverbs 19:17He that has pity on the poor lends to the LORD; and that which he has given will he pay him again.
American King James Version×explains, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.”
The biblical social and economic policies that Jesus Christ will institute at the beginning of the Millennium will be crucial in guiding how people conduct themselves and cooperate with others. It will commence with an astounding change in the hearts and minds of people through the power of God’s Holy Spirit—from selfishness to genuine outgoing concern, profound generosity and deep empathy toward all others (Ezekiel 11:19-20 Ezekiel 11:19-20 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
American King James Version×).
For the first time, people will begin to grasp that God-ordained methods will not only bring wonderful financial security to themselves and their families, but to all people everywhere. So unlike today’s economic and governmental systems, God’s way will work perfectly for every person at all times.
Therefore, since this world and its ills and problems will soon pass away into history, let’s be aware of issues regarding today’s human governments but not be consumed by this. Rather, let’s concentrate our attention on the wonderful future God has in store for us and all humanity. It’s coming soon! Are you preparing spiritually for its arrival?