According to Bitter Winter, in 2020, the local franchise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the city of Dandong, ran a sermon contest among its CCP approved Three-Self church pastors to see which one could provide the most ‘socialist’ sermon.
The contest, outlined in a CPP document entitled Implementation Plan for the Preaching Competition on Sinicization of Christianity in 2020, told the pastors they were to look “for elements in the Bible that are relevant to the core socialist values and traditional Chinese culture.”
The local branch of the CCP was trying to syncretize communist values with the Christian message, and convince believers that communism and Christianity are inherently compatible.
One Christian told Bitter Winter, “It is so devious. They are poisoning people of faith bit by bit, eroding their belief. By doing so, the CCP aims to justify its control over religion.”
We see a similar thing occurring in the West, where some now suggest that socialism best supports Christian ideals.
But does it.
I want to look at four areas where Christianity and socialism diverge.
Providing for the poor
If you define socialism as solely providing for the poor, then Christianity was socialist before socialism became popular.
But on this single issue, God wanted believers to give out of a heart-felt desire, not out of compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). This compares to socialism, where the government forcibly redistributes wealth from the rich and gives it to the poor.
But even though the Bible encourages believers to be generous, there were limits on how much they would help the poor.
Because of the early church’s partiality to helping those in need, Christians quickly became targets for freeloaders. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians not to provide assistance to anyone who was unwilling to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
There is a difference between being unwilling or unable to work. If a man was capable of working and refused, the church would offer no assistance.
In her article, 5 Reasons Socialism Is Not Christian, Julie Roys notes that while the Bible preached personal responsibility in this regard, Karl Marx said that was irrelevant, writing, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
In that regard, she adds, Karl Marx practised what he preached. The founder of communism was a lazy freeloader sponging off others. He was unwilling to work and failed miserably to provide for his family’s basic needs, which the Bible also soundly condemns (1 Timothy 5:8).
Christianity does not condemn the wealthy
Secondly, while socialism demonizes the rich, Christianity has no problem with people being rich provided they got their money lawfully.
In fact, some of the Bible’s greatest heroes were wealthy, including Abraham (Genesis 14:14) and King David. But not all, some were also poor.
But when it came to dealing with the rich, the law required judges to show no partiality to either the poor or the rich.
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15 NASV)
It would be easy during a court case, to think a person is so rich, he won’t miss a few dollars and award a judgment favoring a poorer person who did not deserve it. Or visa versa, show partiality to the rich, because of their wealth.
There was to be no favoritism either way.
Jesus’ parable of talents also revealed that some people have the ability to generate wealth, and others simply do not (Matthew 25:14-30). Some people are wealth creators and there is nothing wrong with that.
As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once quipped, “all men (and women) are not created equal, at least in regard to their characters, abilities and aptitudes.”
There was nothing wrong with being rich, as long as the money is not controlling you (Matthew 6:24).
The Bible also warns the rich not to oppress or to use their wealth to take advantage of the poor (Proverbs 14:31).
The Bible believes in the ownership of private property
One of the major components of Marxism is that no one is allowed to own private property. It all belongs to the state.
We know that Abraham, who was living a nomadic life, bought a cave from the Hittites to bury his wife Sarah. The Hittites are described as people of the land, or the ones that owned it (Genesis 23:1-7).
We also know that Peter owned a home in Bethsaida (John 1:44) and as well one in Capernaum (Mark 1:29).
Since Peter’s family also owned several fishing boats in partnership with others, it indicates that Peter came from wealth, so multiple homes would not be out of the question (Luke 5:5-12).
And the Bible also tells us that prior to starting His public ministry, Jesus owned a home in Capernaum (Mark 2:1), and it was here that the Lord came in contact with Peter and Andrew who were operating fishing boats in this area as part of the family business (Matthew 4:13-18).
And when it came to the ownership of private property, God utterly condemned King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, when they used the power of the state to steal a vineyard from Naboth, after he refused to sell it (1 Kings 21:1-16).
Christianity and the family
One of socialism’s goals is to end marriage and the family unit. Friedrich Engels, who co-authored The Communist Manifesto along with Karl Marx, said it was the state who should be raising children, not the family:
“The single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.”