by Providence Crowder
Wealth is Not Evil
The Bible indicated that certain believers had been entrusted with riches (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, etc.) and others had lived in poverty. Although Christ encouraged the idea of community and admonished believers to care for the poor, He never guaranteed any man an income, poor or otherwise, nor did He rectify inequalities in material wealth (see the parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30). In the book of Luke, a man from the crowd asked Christ to make his brother share his wealth with him. The man demanded, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Lk. 12:13-14).
Jesus observed men’s attitudes towards money and possessions, and He addressed the very condition of their heart, which Scripture taught was deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9). Christ rebuked men, both rich and poor; those who would make money their idol, those who suffered greed, those who coveted, and those who would seek after riches instead of seeking the kingdom. Over and over again Jesus redirected mankind away from being consumed with material possessions and the accumulation of them, because serving God and serving possessions were incompatible. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. 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” (Matt. 6:24).
Community not Communism
Certainly some modern Christian communities have taken to modeling after the first century church in Jerusalem, where the believers were said to have given all of their possessions and they held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35). This idea of a communal church in which no property was privately owned and all things were shared equally has had some appeal for modern believers. Yet, in the context of the early church, which suffered great persecution at the hands of the Roman government, community was all they had. Until the rule of fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was outlawed and Christians did not share in the wealth that is common for some Christians today. Christians held no positions of authority, they had no political power, and they did not live peacefully among other Roman citizens, and they could in no way look to their government for any type of assistance or help.
Because persecution was so severe in the land, these citizens voluntarily gave all they had for their common good, so that all of their brethren may both worship God AND eat. Consistent with the teachings in the Bible, they did what they wished with their own property. As in Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner proclaimed, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15) These early Christians did not cling to material wealth or possessions but lived each moment not knowing if it would be their last.
The early church’s communal experience in Jerusalem ended as early as the first century with the scattering of the saints to other regions due to persecution (Acts 8:1). And despite persecution, Christians preached the gospel everywhere. They, like their Messiah, cared for the poor in spirit above all and in addressing the physical needs of a man, that man became more receptive to God’s message of salvation and redemption. Christians were generous in giving and they served the underprivileged while sharing God’s message of love and hope to the unsaved masses. Secular governments, on the other hand have robbed and oppressed in the name of righteousness, tyrants have abused their citizens in the name of goodwill; all under the guise of equality.
Editor’s Note: Part 3 of “Does the Bible Promote Socialism?” will be published tomorrow starting with, “The Need for Evangelism” so don’t miss it!