Monday, September 3, 2012

Socialism and the Kingdom of God

Luke 3:11: "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Acts 4:32-35: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

Acts 2:44-45: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."


“The practice of landowners selling their property and giving the proceeds over to the apostles for redistribution embodies a sociology of divine grace.” - Anthony B. Robinson and Robert W. Wall(1)


What is described in these Bible passages is socialism. The difference between this socialism and the socialism we know of today is that this is voluntary socialism, whereas the socialism we think of is government-mandated. It should also be said that "Acts is not offering a proposal for political policy but a picture of a community and a congregation's life together."(2)
That being said, the central idea remains: all the people living in a certain place give their money to the leaders and the leaders redistribute it—or, “spread the wealth around”—so that there are “no needy persons among them.”

The idea of socialism is infuriating to so many people today. This can be seen by the fact that republicans use the term socialist as an insult to Obama.
The objection is somewhat like, “I made my money. Why should anyone else have my money but me?”
Robinson and Wall have observed that "most of us in twenty-first-century North America not only participate in a capitalist economy but have even internalized capitalism in our hearts and souls."(3)


This reminds me of the parable of the workers in the vineyard, in which a landowner hired men early in the morning, and then again at the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours. At the end of the day, he paid them all a denarius (Matt. 20:1-16).
And this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like (v.1).

These two cases are similar. Except instead of handing money to the apostles, the workers are handing their work to the landowner and their work is given the same treatment as the work of the others. But these amount to basically the same concept. After all, we have to earn our money.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, not only will the first be last and the last be first (Matt. 20:16), but the poor will be rich and the rich will be humbled. God’s grace will be upon us all (Acts 4:24) and will make us all equal, and there will not be a needy person among us (v.25).

Socialism: the model of the Kingdom of Heaven ;-)

Notes:
(1) Anthony B. Robinson and Robert W. Wall, Called to be Church: The Book of Acts for a New Day (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2006), 74.
(2) Ibid., 83.
(3) Ibid.

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