Let’s continue our conversation from a previous post called, “The S Word.” Today, we’ll briefly discuss why Christians who hold to the tenants of socialism are mistaken.
“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined way among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a role model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either,” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 NASB).
- The Apostle Paul’s use of the term, “anyone’s bread” is possessive in that it implies private ownership of private property. In this case, bread belongs to someone else.
- “Without paying for it” implies the same idea as the eighth commandment found in Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” This principle is also reiterated by Paul in Ephesians 4:28.
- “With labor and hardship we kept working night and day” carries this idea that Christians should be determined and intentional to put forth every possible effort to legitimately provide for themselves. This is so that they do not place a financial burden on anyone else even if that means personal hardship to themselves in doing so.
- Paul tells the people of Thessalonica and by extension, us, that we should follow his example. We should do whatever is legal and necessary to provide for ourselves even if we incur a personal hardship in doing so. Paul equates being unwilling to work to an undisciplined life. Those that are able and not willing to work are not to eat for this is laziness. Many proverbs warn of the consequences of laziness (Proverbs 6:6, 10:4, 10:5, 12:11, 12:24, 13:4, 14:23, 19:15, 20:4, 26:15). Paul was doing ministry work in Thessalonica, which doesn’t pay. But he purposefully set an example of working for his food night and day with labor and hardship so as not to be a burden on anyone else.
This text presupposes private ownership. This means that we as individuals have that which belongs to us, like bread. This can be expanded in a broader sense to us working for and possessing property, wealth, and our own means of production.
Christians that hold to socialism like to argue that it is a Christian imperative that we are required to give of our property, wealth, and means of production to those that are in need. Of course, I agree there are many Scriptural commands to give and to take care of those in need. However, the point of contention is not whether we should give but how we should give. Socialism says that the government should give to those in need for us, the Bible commands otherwise. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Should the government take our private property and redistribute it as they see fit or should we, as Christians, be responsible to love our neighbor as ourselves and provide for those in need directly? In a socialist society, how can a Christian give of their own volition when the government has compulsorily taken their wealth and redistributed it for them according to their own determinants of who is “in need?”
Therefore, socialism is inherently coercive while the fruit of the Spirit in a Christian’s life is volitional. In other words, socialism makes the government responsible for distributing the benefits of one’s work. Meanwhile, it is the work of the Holy Spirit who volitionally urges a Christian to cheerfully give the benefits of their work.
The problem with socialism is its’ underlying fundamental fallacy: it promises what it cannot possibly deliver. It promises to deliver a utopia that is devoid of personal responsibility. I’ve best heard socialism described as, “feeling virtuous without having to get off the couch.” Socialism promises to do the good works that you are personally and morally responsible to do yourself. So, if you can work, then you must be willing to work for your own bread. If the Holy Spirit compels you to share your bread with your neighbor, then you do so as an act of obedience to Christ. This is contrasted with the government taking a large portion of your bread and giving it to your neighbor for you, so you don’t have to get off the couch.
This is why Christians who hold to the tenants of socialism are sorely mistaken. The Bible does not command us to elect officials to the civil government so the government can care for those in need. Instead, the Bible commands us to directly care for those in need. In a free-market, or capitalist, society in which the government helps individuals keep their own wealth, this is much more possible.
- An exposition of 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 gives us a biblical example of working for our own bread.
- Socialism essentially gives the government control to take this bread and redistribute it as they see fit.
- Therefore, Christians that believe socialism is a biblical imperative are mistaken because they neglect to accept personal and moral responsibility to care for those in need. Instead, socialism enables them to be “virtuous without having to get off the couch.”