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Was Jesus a Socialist?

Picture of Lloyd Hotinski

Lloyd Hotinski

2020 Mannkal Alumnus

Was Jesus a Socialist? Lawrence W. Reed explores not only the answer the titular question, but also what socialism is and whether it is compatible with the “Golden Rule.”

Jesus’s teachings on economics, the rich, and taxation and the law; the envy, ingratitude and pride of socialists; whether Jesus was a redistributionist and social justice warrior; what real compassion is; and theological analyses of the titular question from C. S. Lewis and J. Gresham Machen.

He defines socialism as the concentration of power in government, for it can own or direct the means of production, plan the economy, level incomes, redistribute wealth, and create a welfare state. He argues Jesus would not support the coercive force necessary to achieve this.

As a Lutheran and a philosophy, politics, and economics major, I like Reed’s book not only for what it is—a biblical analysis of socialism—but also for its exploration of what true Christian character is: grateful, compassionate, and humble. Equality, says Paul, is a desirable goal (2 Cor. 8.13–15), but not if people give, “reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9.7). We must help the weak by hard work, “not [coveting] anyone’s silver or gold or clothing” (Acts 20.35). Even if we have the right to be helped, we ought to be willing to work “night and day” so as not to be burdensome (2 Thess. 3.7–9).

Democracy does not legitimatise socialism, argues Reed, because redistribution (n.b. not taxation) is covetous theft, which the Eighth and Tenth Commandments condemn (60–61, 82). True compassion is not “feeling” moved by suffering but, from the Latin compati, “suffering with” another.

I would recommend this book not only to Christians and socialists (especially Christian socialists) but also generally to “anyone interested in […] truth, history, and economics”.

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