No, Jesus Was NOT a Socialist

Peter Dreier in the Huffington Post declares that "Jesus Was a Socialist", but the very scriptures he cites to support that claim demonstrate the opposite.

“Jesus Was a Socialist” declares the headline of a Huffington Post article published on Christmas. “As people around the world celebrate Christmas, it was worth remembering that Jesus was a socialist,” writes Peter Dreier in the lead paragraph.

Was Yeshua, a.k.a. “Jesus”, a socialist? To borrow from the apostle Paul, certainly not!

Dreier cites some scripture to try to support his contention:

1) “‘No one can serve two masters,’ Jesus says in Matthew 6:24. ‘Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’”

Does this demonstrate that Yeshua was a socialist? Certainly not! In this passage, he is telling his audience not to store “wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal”, but to “store up for yourselves wealth in heaven”. He explains that if you have a “good eye”, meaning if you are generous, “your whole body will be full of light”; but if you have an “evil eye”, meaning if you are stingy, “your whole body will be full of darkness”. Then he makes the remark about not being able to serve two masters.

­So is Yeshua here advocating the abolishment of private property? Is he advocating that the means of production be owned by the state? No, he is not.

Rather, he is simply making a point about being generous rather than stingy. Naturally, one cannot be generous toward the poor if one is likewise poor. It takes a person with disposable income to be able to give money away.

Elsewhere, Yeshua speaks about serving others. Dreier rails against “American-style capitalism”, which throughout his article he erroneously mistakes with free market capitalism. In the existing system, powerful financial elites can profit through their crony relationship with powerful political elites. They can profit through the state’s threat or use of force to compel a desired behavior from the public. Not so in a free market.

In a free market, businesses must compete by offering the greatest value to their customers. Entrepreneurs must serve others. That is how they gain something for themselves. Sure, a stingy person could come along and try to profit by cheating others, but that is a sure way of guaranteeing that his business won’t be around for very long.

The successful entrepreneur builds a lasting business by creating value and competing to offer the best products or services for the lowest cost. When capital is invested into advancing the means of production to be able to do so, that is where economic growth comes from—and it is economic growth that best helps the poor by increasing their standard of living as goods and services once out of reach become affordable.

The central fallacy of socialism is this: government bureaucrats making decisions at best arbitrarily (assuming only the very best of intentions and no corruption) do not know better than the free market with its pricing system how to direct scarce resources toward productive ends as determined by the will of consumers (that is, by all of us).

So the lesson from Matthew 6:24 is not to surrender your private property rights and to serve the state, but to maintain a mindset of serving others in all that you do, including how you run your business. Yeshua would certainly condemn “American-style capitalism”, but by an equal measure would advocate liberty in the marketplace.

2) “In Luke 12:15, Jesus says, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”

­So is Yeshua here advocating the abolishment of private property? Is he advocating that the means of production be owned by the state? No, he is not.

In this passage, he is merely reiterating the same point made in Matthew 6:24 about being generous rather than stingy, about serving others rather than only thinking about oneself. The context is that a person in the crowd asked Yeshua to “tell my brother to share with me the property we inherited.” Yeshua responds by denying the request: “My friend, who appointed me judge or arbitrator over you?” Then he told the crowd to “guard against all forms of greed, because even if someone is rich, his life does not consist in what he owns.”

To illustrate his point, he told a parable about a man whose land was very productive—so productive he didn’t have enough storage for all his crops. So he decided to build himself new barns to store all his wheat and other goods, and he told himself this would allow him to “Start taking it easy! Eat! Drink! Enjoy yourself!” Then God speaks to him and calls him a fool because he will die, and then who will own the goods he prepared?

Yeshua’s point is not that one should not be productive or create wealth. He is simply pointing out that the creation of wealth is not an end in itself. The landowner in this case was thinking only of himself. He didn’t have a proper mindset of being productive for the purpose of serving others. He was thinking about how he could live for many years off of the goods he’d stored up, rather than, for example, how he could serve others by meeting the market demand by selling his surplus of those goods at a lower price than consumers would otherwise have to pay.

3) “Jesus not only urged people to be kind to others in their everyday lives. He was also talking about those in government who ruled over others, including the priests who ruled Judea for Rome and the rulers of the Roman empire.”

Indeed. But when he talked about the institutions of religion or the state, did he advocate that property rights be invested in them or that they control all means of production? Certainly not!

On the contrary, Yeshua was a strong critic of the religious establishment and posed a challenge to the state’s authority—so much so that these two institutions deemed him a threat to their power and control over the people and so conspired together to murder him by crucifixion! He openly called the religious leaders hypocrites while wisely speaking in parables to teach lessons about serving God—not the state. At one point, the state and religious authorities conspired to try to trick Yeshua into speaking treason against the state so as to have an excuse to put him to death. But Yeshua knew what they were up to and outsmarted them.

The trap was a question: They asked whether taxes ought to be paid to the Roman Emperor or not. To answer “Yes” would have been to elevate the state’s authority above God’s, which would have discredited him as a Torah instructor, while to answer “No” would have been deemed treason against the state. Instead, Yeshua asked why they were trying to trap him and asked to see a denarius. Once in his hand, he asked whose name and picture was on the coin, and when the answer came back “The Emperor’s”, Yeshua wisely instructed, “Give the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor. And give to God what belongs to God.”

This is a highly relevant lesson for us today with the state’s control over the currency supply via the government-legislated monopoly known as the Federal Reserve! Obviously, Yeshua was not saying that the Emperor was right to use force to confiscate wealth from the people of Judea (as a simple “Yes” response would have implied); rather, he was making the point that if people chose to deal in the Emperor’s currency, they had to play by the Emperor’s rules.

Of course, such state control over the currency supply and forcible redistribution of wealth—which Yeshua clearly disapproved of—is anathema to a free market. Between the use of state force and liberty in the marketplace, Yeshua clearly came down on the side of a free market while being wise enough not to directly challenge the authority of the powerful institutions of the state that would kill him for doing so. (In the end, he was indeed killed, but this was for posing a direct challenge to the authority of the religious establishment rather than the Roman Empire. Recall how Pontius Pilate actually insisted on his innocence and only agreed to put him to death to appease the mob demanding at the behest of the religious leaders that Yeshua be crucified.)

Actually, the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day were the Judean equivalent of today’s crony capitalists, which is why Yeshua railed against their hypocrisy. A famous example was his overturning the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. Pilgrims to the Temple turned to merchants for the animals they needed for sacrifices, but restrictions placed on business in the Temple area required them to first exchange at a premium their Roman coinage for Tyrian shekels. What Yeshua was objecting to was the extortion of pilgrims by seeking to profit by placing such obstacles in the way of people seeking redemption.

And that’s it. Those are the only three pieces of evidence Dreier provides from the scriptures to support his contention that “Jesus was a socialist”. Much more could be said about the rest of his article, but given his failure to provide any evidence for his claim, it would be superfluous for our purposes here to do so. It suffices to say that, if we are to determine what kind of economic system Yeshua would advocate were he alive today based on what he taught 2,000 years ago, he would clearly favor freedom in the marketplace over the abolition of private property and state control over the means of production.

Jesus was most certainly not a socialist!

Invariably, opponents of a free market don’t understand what a free market is and mistake it for the existing economic system. If you want to unlearn the propaganda designed to manufacture public consent for the state’s various interventions into the market and understand how the economy really functions, you need to check out Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom (along with my free bonuses)! Click here to learn more.

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