Guthrie's Gospel

Economic justice from a Christian perspective

Category: Faith

No Christian can support the GOP’s attacks on immigrants and refugees

It is the duty of Christians to welcome and embrace refugees and immigrants regardless of where they’re from and what faith they hold. This is made clear throughout the Bible.

The Old Testament is full of exhortations to the faithful to treat foreigners and refugees with the same justice and compassion we would want for ourselves.

In Exodus, God commands the Hebrews not to mistreat or oppress foreigners:

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:21-24)

This point is also made in Leviticus:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Deuteronomy tells us that God loves the foreigners who reside among his faithful, providing for their material comfort, and that the truly faithful are to love foreigners as He does:

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:16-19)

Deuteronomy reiterates this point by cursing those who ignore the Lord’s command:

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:19)

The books of the prophets continue to reiterate this central duty of those who worship God.

In Jeremiah, the we are warned against empty religion that does not fulfill the Lord’s teachings:

Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:1-7)

Zechariah also condemns oppression of foreigners:

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ (Zechariah 7:8-10)

Malachi warns that the Lord will put on trial those who deprive foreigners of justice:

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.  (Malachi 3:5-7)

The New Testament continues this theme. In Matthew we are shown that Christ Himself and His holy parents were themselves refugees in the time of Herod:

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  (Matthew 2:13-16)

And in His parable of the sheep and the goats, Christ makes clear the gravity of treating those in need, which certainly includes refugees, with a hard heart:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

Upon those who live their faith through practical compassion He will bestow heavenly rewards, but those who turn away strangers Christ will likewise turn away.

Paul too speaks about the importance of welcoming strangers with open arms. In Hebrews, Paul exhorts us to show hospitality to strangers and to remember those, like refugees, who suffer:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:2-3)

All this is reflected in Christianity’s central moral precept that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Luke 10:27). “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’,” as Paul teaches in Galatians 5:14, “for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8).

Those who do not exercise practical love for their neighbor, even their foreign neighbor, even their neighbor who lives beside them without a visa, have renounced Christ and His teachings. It is to them that Christ says “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

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St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer of Surrender

Lord Jesus Christ,
take my freedom, my will, my memory.
All that I have and cherish, You have given me.
I surrender it all to be guided by Your will.
Your grace and Your love are wealth enough for me.
Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more.

Attributed to the sixteenth century founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, this simple prayer reminds us that we are called to live as Jesus lived, obeying the will of God alone.

I’ve have loved this prayer since I first came across it several years ago. It is a hard prayer for me to say, because I am proud, willful and sinful, which is part of why I love it so much. It helps to remind me to be less proud, to be less willful, that I should not live for my own desires or be puffed up by my own achievements, but that I should recognize all is vanity unless I am living in full submission to the will of Jesus Christ who became incarnate to save all humanity. I pray that someday God will fully cleanse me of my willfulness and pride and I might be able to live and not just say the words of this prayer.

I pray also that this prayer may be as inspiring to others as it has been to me.

The Tea Party and Ayn Rand versus Jesus Christ

This video imagines what a false Jesus would preach today if he were to stand on the National Mall and espouse the values of tea party Repbulicans and then contrasts those teachings with that of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The video is entertaining and manages to draw a clear line between Christianity and the tea party movement. However, it only tangentially alludes to the root of this difference when false-Jesus calls Ayn Rand his prophet. Herein, I will endeavor to make clear the foundational importance of Ayn Rand to tea party ideology and the contradictions between her philosophy, Objectivism, and authentic Christianity, which many of Rand’s admires still claim to confess.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is inextricably linked to the ideology of the tea party movement, and much of the contemporary Republican Party and many conservative political organizations. Paul Ryan, a professed Catholic, claimed Ayn Rand was the reason he got involved in public service and has said that:

“I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are…It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged…It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding principles are…there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.” (Audio available here)

Ron Paul, a professed Baptist, said Ayn Rand had a lot of influence on him.  His son Rand Paul, a Presbyterian, calls himself a “a big fan of Ayn Rand.”  Ted Cruz, a professed Baptist, read from Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged during his filibuster against Obamacare. Marco Rubio, a Catholic (or maybe a Baptist), read Atlas Shrugged twice during his first term in office. Ron Johnson, a Lutheran, called Atlas Shrugged his “foundational book.” Michelle Malkin, a professed Catholic, hyped the links between the tea party and Ayn Rand. Rush Limbaugh, a Methodist, is fond of talking about Rand. Many tea party groups promoted the 2011 movie Atlas Shrugged, based on Rand’s most famous novel. The Heritage Foundation hosted a special screening of Atlas Shrugged. FreedomWorks claimed it helped bring the movie to the big screen. Even where these groups draw their ideas from sources other than Rand, they usually manage to find thinkers who largely reinforce a worldview espoused by Ayn Rand and her disciples.

Some of the tea party’s canonized saints, like St. Ronald Reagan the Great, a member of the Disciples of Christ and later the Presbyterian traditions, and St. Barry Goldwater the Forerunner, an Episcopalian, have expressed appreciation for Ayn Rand. Even some more “establishment” Republicans have voiced their appreciation of Rand.

But what is the trouble with Christians drawing on the ideas of Ayn Rand? Surely many Christians have drawn on philosophies outside of Christianity to clarify their faith. While that might be the case, there are two major problems with any attempt to marry the philosophy of Ayn Rand with Christianity. The first is that Rand’s ideas fundamentally contradict the teaching of Christ, his apostles, and the prophets. Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27,35; Matthew 5:44). Ayn Rand said: “I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty” and that “You love those who deserve it.”

Another area where Rand diverges from Christ is on the issue of charity. Charity and giving are central to the Christian faith. Moses taught the importance of charity (Deuteronomy 14:22,28-29, 15:7-11, & 24:19-22). Christ commanded that we “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42) and St. John the Baptist proclaimed “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11). St. Paul also taught the importance of giving (Hebrews 13:16) and Isaiah declared that aiding those in need was the form of worship God desired (Isaiah 58:6-7). Furthermore, Amos condemned those who ignored or exploited the poor (Amos 2:6-8) as did Christ in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31 ) and when He warned of His judgement to come (Matthew 25:31-46), St. John also condemns those who are uncharitable (1 John 3:17–18). But Rand told Playboy that:

My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

Rand also differs with Christianity on the issue of wealth. St. Paul taught us the desire for wealth is evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10) as did Christ in his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21). St. James condemned the wealthy (James 5:1-6) as did Amos (Amos 6:1,4-7) as did Christ when he told his disciples  about how difficult it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23-24),  and when he declared “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:20). Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged:

So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

Christians are called to love all people and to do good for others even if it means suffering or death for oneself. Christ taught his disciples “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). St. Paul teaches “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Ayn Rand calls altruism and self-sacrifice “evil,” “immoral,” and “cannibalism”:

The second problem is that Ayn Rand was a vitriolic atheist. She openly hated Christianity and religion. In her novel Anthem Rand proclaimed that people should worship themselves: “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.'” She told the pornographic magazine Playboy that she believed faith was a “negation of reason” that was “very detrimental to human life.” In a television interview, she declared she was “against God” and calling religion a psychological weakness:

And Rand’s atheism isn’t some quirky side note of her philosophy; atheism is the corner stone of her philosophy; atheism is the root from which her philosophy grows. Rand once condemned the National Review as “the worst and most dangerous magazine in America” for daring to try and link capitalism and Christianity. Ayn idolized human reason and human wisdom as the wellspring of her philosophy. Rand goes so far as to specifically disparage Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross:

According to the Christian mythology, [Christ] died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors.

To preach the gospel of Ayn Rand while proclaiming oneself a Christian is an act of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy. It is an open rebellion against God. Those who do so are false prophets, the wolves in sheep’s clothing Christ warned about and we know them by their evil fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). The dark, twisted, greed-driven philosophy of Ayn Rand can never be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus Christ, not even if we ignore her atheism. As Christ our Lord taught “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). We must either choose Christ or Rand. Let us pray that those who have fallen into the blasphemies of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy will repent and return to the Lord in both word and deed. Let us pray that those in the Republican Party and in conservative organizations across our nation publicly repudiate Rand’s philosophy and work to expunge her demonic teachings from their political goals and political works.

For more on how Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is antithetical to Christianity, check these out:

Christians Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus

Ayn Rand Versus Christianity

Chuck Colson’s Two-Minute Warning: Atlas Shrugged and So Should You:

Christianity versus Objectivism

You Can’t Reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus

Satanism and Objectivism

Ayn Rand’s Wikiquote page

The rich young man in context

Matthew 19:
16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”

Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Not long ago I was at a local church where a woman interpreted this passage as applying only to this specific rich young man. She said Jesus’ statement should be understood in its context. She elaborated that Jesus said this to the young man because He knew it would grieve the rich man’s heart to give up his wealth. She saw it as a specific statement meant to elicit a specific reaction from a specific person. Her interpretation was met with general murmurs of agreement.

While I agree with her that it’s important to understand Jesus’ words in context, I disagree with her interpretation. Firstly, such an interpretation ignores Jesus’ words that follow in verses 23 and 24:

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

He does not say it is hard for this one rich man, but for “a rich man,” for any rich man to enter heaven. He universalizes this particular incident with one rich man to speak to all rich people.

Such an interpretation also ignores Jesus’ words as recorded in Luke 12:

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Here again Jesus speaks of a rich man in generic terms, making him a symbol of all wealthy persons. Here he tells not only the rich, but all His disciples to sell all they have and give to the poor.

To pretend that Jesus’ words to the rich young man applied only to that rich young man is not to put His words into context, but to intentionally ignore their context. But why would a faithful Christian go to such lengths to misinterpret the word of the Lord? To understand the appeal of such a false interpretation, it is important to view such an interpretation in it’s proper context. The interpreter was middle-class, white woman who worships at one of the oldest congregations in town. Those who vocally supported her were also middle class and white. These were people who, while perhaps not as wealthy as the Biblical young man, had much to lose should they follow Christ’s command in search of perfection. They were privileged people and to follow this particular command to the letter would likely grieve their hearts enormously. Understandably so, it is a harsh command that few follow.

But should such a command be brushed off so lightly as not applicable just because it grieves our hearts as greatly as it did the rich young man’s? Should we go away sorrowful from this unpalatable command? Matthew saw fit to record this incident in his gospel, something that seems unlikely if the early Church saw this statement as meaningless. To presume that this passage holds no applicability for Christians leaves open the door to suggest that other passages of the Bible can be dismissed with the same sort of exegetical gymnastics.

In it’s proper context the command to sell what one has to give to the poor fits perfectly with God’s teachings of economic justice, which pepper the Bible from Genesis onward. Christians ought to be poor both in spirit and in wealth. When we have excess, it is our duty to share with those who lack. As Christ, our Lord God, taught, “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back” and “You cannot serve God an mammon” (Luke 6:30, Matthew 6:24). When we are tempted by mammon, by wealth, by our middle-class comforts, we risk accepting facile interpretations that miss the depth of God’s word. We risk making a god in our image rather than living our lives as icons of Christ.

Now, of course, not all of us will give up every cent we have and trust in God alone to provide for us. Not all of us will seek perfection, but even for us, this passage still holds relevance. It reminds us that to serve God we must give up whatever we cherish more than the love of God and neighbor, even if it is not wealth, and that we must share our excess with those who lack, for the Lord taught:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).

On Faith and Works

St. Peter of Damascus once wrote:

The fathers … kept the commandments; their successors wrote them down; but we have placed their books on the shelves. And even if we want to read them, we do not have the application to understand what is said and to put it into practice; we read them either as something incidental, or because we think that by reading them we are doing something great, thus growing full of pride. We do not realize that we incur greater condemnation if we do not put into practice what we read … And we should remember what the Lord says about the servant who knew his master’s will but failed to carry it out (cf. Lk. 12:47).

St. Peter of Damascus (The Philokalia Vol. 3 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 169)

Quoted from: Milk & Honey.

St. Peter makes clear the centrality of actions, of works in the Christian life. Too often our emphasis seems to be on personal, spiritual salvation, on faith and prayer. All these things are good and necessary in a Christian life, but we must not make idols of them or emphasize them so much that we forgot that Christ preached a religion of doing for the salvation of all Creation, not just for you or me.

St. Peter reminds us that it is easy to abstract what was written long ago in the Bible and in other pious works into mere words which we do not live out. We read. We declare our faith. But we do nothing. And that is the problem because our faith cannot and does not exist separate from our works. When we read the word of God, but do not do it, we become like the servant who does not do his Master’s will and heap condemnation upon ourselves. One who believes as a Christian must necessarily act as a Christian or deny Christ’s teachings. We all, of course, fall short (I most of all), but it is important to acknowledge that we must try to live by deeds of faith, to fulfill Christ’s commandments to act with love and mercy toward others. St. James the Just taught “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17) and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself tells us in Matthew 25:31-46 that we will be judged by Him for the things we do to others in this life, in this world.

Now, all this is not to say that Christianity is a mere set of actions, that one can curse God with each breath so long as they are charitable and kind. Good works may be done without faith, but faith cannot exist without manifesting itself in good works. This is what St. John the Theologian teaches when he writes, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). When we have faith in the Lord, God abides in us, but when we do not act according to our faith, God does not abide in us. Faith is not merely hearing the word of God, it is doing the word of God, for as Christ Himself declared to his disciples in Luke 6:47-49, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.” When we do not enact Christ’s teachings through actions, we build our hope for salvation on a foundation of sand.

Good works are the manifestation of faith and are an inseparable part of faith. Faith without works is not merely dead, it cannot exist. If we love Christ, we must feed His sheep (John 21:16) and offer up the fast to God that He asked of us through his holy prophet Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
(Isaiah 58:6-7)

A Christian Case for Socialism

Some Christians in America have taken to raging against the threat they believe socialism poses to America and to Christianity.  They see socialism as the antithesis of all things Christian and they are not entirely off base in their fears.  Some movements and countries that have called themselves socialist have been explicitly anti-religious.  The former Soviet Union is a clear example of this.  Religious people (as well as many others, it is worth noting) were oppressed, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their beliefs.  But even so, does it stand that Christianity and socialism must always be opposed?  No, it does not.  Christianity and socialism actually have much in common.

In the book of Acts, Christ’s Apostles lived in a communal way.  The book states that “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” and “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:32).  Holding things in common, giving to anyone who had need, that seems very similar to the radical socialist notion of mutual aid, often expressed in the phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

The accounts in Acts are born out in the Pauline and the Catholic epistles.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians, reiterates the egalitarian spirit of the early Christian commune, saying, “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;  but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.  As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” (8:13-15).  In 1 Timothy, Paul condemns greed, proclaiming “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” before exhorting Timothy to “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (6:10, 6:17-18).

And Paul is not alone in his epistolary encouragement of equality and charity.  James says “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (2:15-18).  Peter writes in his first epistle, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (4:9-10).  In 1 John, we are again told “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (3:17-18).

From the Acts of the Apostles through the Epistles it is clear that the Apostles and the early Church believed that charity and a striving for material equality were requirements for being a good Christian.  However, this parallel between Christianity and socialism did not arise from Jesus’ followers, but rather from their faith in God’s teachings.  Christ himself is the wellspring for Christian socialists.

Christ, in His teachings, repeatedly condemns the rich and the accumulation of wealth.  In Luke, Christ declares “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation” (6:24).  In Matthew He states, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (19:23-24, 6:24).  In describing the final judgement, Christ tells of how He will deal with the greedy by saying, “‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’…And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-43,46).  Christ’s wrath against greed also takes tangible form when He drives the merchants from the Temple, crying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” and “Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (Mark 11:17, John 2:16).

By the same token, Jesus extols generosity and sharing throughout His teachings.  In Mark, He tells His followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (12:31).  In Matthew, He tells a rich, young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (25:21-22).  In Luke, He advises giving to those who cannot give back when He says, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (14:12-14).  He further promised eternal salvation to the generous, saying “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me…Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34-36,40).

Through His teachings and actions, Jesus made it clear that to be righteous the prosperous must distribute their wealth to the poor.  This teaching was not some new innovation, but a continuation of God’s teachings as given through the Prophets, David, and Moses.  Indeed, in declaring His mission, Jesus cites Isaiah, announcing “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). As Christians, we must strive to emulate Christ’s example.