FLOWER MOUND, TX: A lively debate over the specter of socialism in American politics has raised the already overheated political arena to the boiling point. What was out of the question a decade ago, the mainstream, the Democrat party has suddenly embraced. Since the 14th District House seat in New York elected Democratic Socialists, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the DNC has elevated her to rock star status. Ocasio-Coretz influence moves the DNC farther to the left despite the obvious benefits of capitalism.
Perhaps one social media observer represents the sentiments of some Americans:
“I believe mainly in capitalism, with a bit of socialism thrown in. Socialism makes a country in disaster become a poor yet stable country, and then capitalism takes over, making it rich.”
Another voice speaks with a more cynical approach:
“The reason capitalism always wins over socialism is because capitalism encourages individuals to work hard and strive to be the best, and they will reap the rewards. Socialism, on the other hand, encourages society to become lazy over time and to rely on the government to help them get through life.”
Socialism and capitalism – economic systems’ influence in society
There is some confusion over the definition of a political system and an economic system. Fascism, communism, monarchy, theocracy, and democracy are forms of government. Socialism and capitalism are economical systems.
Socialism is an economic system in which the state owns the common property and the means of production. Capitalism is an economic system in which private owners control the means of production and a free market determines the production, distribution, and prices.
Those receiving government-sponsored benefits of social security, Medicare, or other welfare assistance readily accept the values of “socialism.” Those who own businesses or are receiving benefits from free markets see value in “capitalism.” An accurate description of America’s economic system is a democracy which is a capitalistic nation embracing social programs.
Claims for biblical support for capitalism or socialism are often shared via social media.
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat” – 1 Thessalonians 3:10.
“If we are supposed to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, then unregulated greed-motivated capitalism is NOT the answer.”
“Capitalism was God’s plan…. He gave Adam (Eve also) dominion over all the earth and living creatures, as well as the resources and freedom that would help him produce and invent.”
“The regulations about the year of Jubilee in the Old Testament do not sit very easily with capitalism.”
“The book of Acts (2:42-5, 4:32-7) makes it clear the early Christians functioned according to what modern thinkers call communism.”
“Well the biggest problem with their argument is that socialism puts the State above all, even God. Socialism is almost always secular in the end and God is pushed out and replaced with the State.”
The Bible’s teaching on capitalism and socialism
In Israel’s long history, they lived both as free people and as slaves. During some periods people were scattered. Or they were carried off into captivity living under authoritarian regimes with varying degrees of freedom.
While they dwelt in the land of Israel, they supported a theocracy (a form of government) under divinely appointed representatives.
Under Moses, they answered to the prophet Moses and the priests. Later the judges, kings, and prophets acted as God’s representatives. Under each form of government, excluding captivity, there was a measure of economic freedom to own land and practice free trade with each other and their neighbors.
Regardless of their freedom or restricted living, they had to take care of their own.
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
The Church in the first century lived under the oppression of Roman tyranny. Because of persecution, the Church promoted protecting each other. Sharing was common. From an event in the Book of Acts, some claim the Bible teaches socialism as an economical system.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:32-35)
Believers did not sell nor share everything all the time—only when necessary.
“…that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales.”
It would appear one social media writer may be stating it more correct when he says,
“The terms ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Socialism’ are meaningless in discussing the pre-industrial revolution world.”
The Bible speaks descriptively not prescriptively. The Bible is a record of what is. The bible never says the Church must practice capitalism or socialism. However, it is clear we are responsible for the needy, poor, and downtrodden.
“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.” Deuteronomy 15:7
The Bible teaches neither socialism nor capitalism as an economic system. It generally practiced private ownership and free trade but the Scriptures charged its followers to provide for those in need.
Americans must decide by political means which system of economics is the best for them. America is a democratic, capitalist society with social programs. America is fulfilling the extent of the Bible’s teaching. The question is not should America remain a capitalist nation but how to balance the blend of capitalism and socialism.
History suggests that an authoritative socialistic form of government fails its people—a dangerous alternative to democratic capitalism. America’s choice of economics for her future is and always will be at the ballot box.