Was Jesus a Socialist?

In my last post, Was Jesus a Refugee?, I talked about how we live in a world that is confused about God, the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ. The confusion shows up in many areas, and even finds its way into current culture. Some countries in the world have adopted some form of Socialism with the focal point offering free healthcare along with other government benefits. Again, this post is not about the best solution for affordable healthcare. It is about the person of Jesus, and who He is regarding this issue. Frankly, people are confused when they say, “Jesus was a Socialist.” Whether displayed on a sign, in a hashtag or meme. The person communicating this might be an atheist, spiritual or they might profess to be a Christian. But, the point of their message is simple. To either persuade Christians to be more supportive of socialism or as ammunition to attack Christians for not going along with their ideologies, and agendas. The latter seems to be the more common use.

In many cases, they will use stories from the life of Jesus or various scripture verses to support their claim that Jesus was a Socialist. When you read the gospels, one can easily find many instances where Jesus spent time with outcasts of society, healed the sick, and fed the hungry. He saw needs and met them. There is no doubt about that! However, if you truly believe that Jesus was a socialist then you mostly likely don’t understand socialism and/or you truly do not who Jesus is. So, let’s start with a brief look at socialism.

Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community. Synonyms: leftism, welfarism; policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.

So, we can see immediately that socialism has more to with equity of outcome & control rather than free healthcare or the well being of the people. It is political. It is an ideology that ultimately is rooted in communism. It involves a stronger government, and more dependence on the government by the people. So practically, Jesus does not fit into the definition of a Socialist.

But most importantly, let’s be very clear when it comes to Jesus & politics. While the U.S. has roots in Judaeo-Christian teaching neither Jesus nor the bible is political in any way, shape or form.

God is neither conservative nor is He liberal or anything in between!

Humanity tends to have a finite view of God. Even the Jewish people who waited for the Messiah expected Jesus to come fulfill the role of an Earthly king, and save them from the oppression of the Roman government. Jesus is not just a person, but He is the Incarnate Word. Jesus is fully human & fully God.

So, what about the acts of Jesus healing people & feeding the hungry? In the gospel of Matthew, we read, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (Matt. 6: 23)

When Jesus begins His earthly ministry, He does not start with an attack on capitalism and call for everyone to get free stuff. He is not walking around just healing & feeding people. He begins with the gospel. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17) He addresses humanities greatest need which is to be reconciled to God the Father. That we are all separated from God by our sin, but God has come near to us. The miracles & acts Jesus displays are not merely acts of compassion, but there also to demonstrate He is who He claimed to be. That He is God, and He is the Messiah. This is shown to us in Matthew 9:

2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your heart

s? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”-then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

The greater issue for Jesus is not that the man is paralyzed, but the man’s sin. Jesus being divine could see their faith, and their belief that He could heal the paralytic. When Jesus tells the man “your sins are forgiven” it’s a shock to everyone! Why? Because they all know that only God the Father can forgive sins. So, when is questioned Jesus displays His authority to them by declaring the man free from sin, and healed from the paralysis. Mic Drop! It’s important to draw attention to what the crowd does in response to Jesus. Matthew tell us that the crowd responded by being amazed, and giving God glory. This is the proper God honoring response that He deserves from us.

Big one here! So, what about feeding the hungry?

In Matthew 14, we see that Jesus learns about John the Baptist being killed. So, Jesus goes off to a secluded area by Himself, but a large crowd follows Him on foot. Jesus in His humanity is mourning the loss of John but now has a group of about 10,000 people to consider. Scripture says that He “felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” It continues with.

15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

There is important symbolism going on in this passage. Much like the Israelite’s being led by Moses wandering in the desert; the crowd is in a desolate place, and hungry. Moses is not the hero. Jesus displays that He is the new & better Moses. Jesus blesses the loaves, and breaks the them. He then gives them to the disciples who pass them on to the crowds who ate and were satisfied. Later Jesus at the Passover feast will take bread, bless it, break it, and give to the disciples saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22) Thus symbolizing His body being broken on the Cross as payment for our sins, and the true source of life. Jesus did not use this as an opportunity call out the wealthy, and shame them. He also doesn’t place the responsibility of feeding the crowd on the wealthy, or government but directly on His followers. Who by the way only had a small amount of food themselves.

While governments have a role in caring for their citizens the message in the bible is clear. Our ultimate dependence should not be in governments, social assistance or programs. Yes, they have their place but we should seek God & trust in Him first (Matt. 6:33). Second, the primary responsibility of providing care for others falls on people. First for your family (1 Tim. 5:8), next for your local church (Acts 4:32-35), and the finally for others (Luke 10: 25-37, 1 John 3:17, Matt. 34-36). The care described here isn’t just kind deeds, charity, and philanthropy. It’s out of the overflow of Christ in us that results in sacrificial caring & giving through us to others.

Like I said before, Jesus & the Bible should never be used as propaganda to further someone’s political views or purposes especially when they neither know Jesus and/or have a hatred toward God. Like I said before you can’t say the bible is a fairy tale book, and then use it to mock Christians. The miracles found in the Gospels point to Jesus as God in the flesh, and to point to Him as the Messiah. To show all of humanity that we are spiritually bankrupt, and in desperate need of a Savior. That savior is not a leader, political party, ideology, or government. It is Jesus, and that should be the message.

 

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Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

I recently read through Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp for our book club. Reading this book came at a time when God was dealing with me in a very real way about relationships. I realized that I had a few sin issues, and possibly idols when it came to relationships. I had developed both a fear of being alone, and a dependency on being with or around people. Ultimately, it was the Holy Spirit working in my heart that brought repentance, peace, and healing to me in when it came to these things.  I have to say that this book did have some really good points along the way.

“If I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely, listen to you too intently, and need you too fundamentally.”

The reality is that we were meant to be in relationship. First, with our Heavenly Father and then with each other. We are meant to live life together, but our sin gets in the way. We bring baggage, and unrealistic exceptions into any relationship. We also try to fill the emptiness in us that only Christ can fill by seeking this fulfillment from people. I saw this first hand as I dealt with my identity and my relationship with Christ. I placed too much emphasis on how I viewed myself, and how others viewed me. I had to turn from myself to Christ, and place my identity solely in Him.

“What do you think God typically uses to regain our affection? Ironically, He uses other people! That is one of the blessing of conflict.”

The reality is that after The Fall relationships are difficult, and take work. We are selfish & prideful at times which produces conflict in ourselves and with others. God uses other people to turn us back to Him. Our relationships expose sin that we may not have seen on our own. We can then repent, and we can turn to Jesus. When this happens I not only have a deeper relationship with God but He has used those times to help sanctify me. It is God working in me for the glory of Christ Jesus to be part of His redemptive plan.

“Your relationships will take you beyond the boundaries of your normal strength”

In Christ, we see the model of love for all of humanity. It takes sacrificial love to make relationships work, and the fact is that we do not possess this capability on our own. We are to display fruits of the Spirit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” in the midst of conflict and difficulty in relationships. We can see how easily we can fail in these areas. The hope is in Christ! That we can give up on ourselves, and turn to Him in humble dependency. This is a good place to be.

“Gratitude for God’s loving pursuit will always lead us to pursue others – even when they don;t want to be pursued.”

I feel like this sums up the entire book. When I look at how God pursed us and entered our “messy world”  we, out of thankfulness, will be willing to enter someone else’s.  I can easily have an attitude that says I won’t pursue someone that doesn’t care to be a part of my life. But that is not what Jesus did and it is not what we are called to do either.  I could not imagine living in isolation to avoid the difficulties that relationships bring. I know that we were created for relationship, and in doing so God has made provision for us, through Christ, to have relationship with God the Father and with each other. We have the power to love our heavenly Father, and others in ways that we could never do so on our own. And that gives me hope and encouragement over fear regardless of how messy it gets.