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Is Jesus a socialist?

Michael Moore, famous for movies like Fahrenheit 9/11, has made the claim in his upcoming film, Capitalism: A Love Story, that Jesus would consider capitalism sinful. The hypocrisy of Moore's net worth (gained from capitalism) aside, it seems worthwhile to ask the question, "What form of government does God prefer?"

Crucifix DollarIn a recent Bloomberg interview, Movie Critic Rick Warner asks, "Several clergymen in the film say capitalism is anti-Christian and that Jesus would have deplored such a dog- eat-dog system. Yet you hear from the right that capitalism and Christianity go hand in hand. Are they reading different Bibles?" to which Moore responds, "The number one thing in the Bible is redemption. The number two thing is how we treat the poor. All the great religions talk about this. The right wing hijacked Jesus 30 years ago. It was all a big ruse, but people fell for it. I don’t think people are falling for it so easily now."

Moore got the first point right, absolutely. The focus of the entire Bible is redemption: God paying for the sin of the world by sending Jesus to the cross on our behalf. The entire Old Testament lays out God's preparation for His coming, and the entire New Testament focuses on that singular event and its repercussions.

Is Moore right about how we treat the poor? Yes. "All the great religions" may be an exaggeration if you consider the Hindu caste system, but yes, Christians all should agree that we need to help the poor as much as possible.

But the question comes down not to "whether," but to "how." In the United States, the Democratic Party holds essentially that we can best help the poor by giving our taxes to the government, which can then redistribute the wealth where it's needed. The Republican Party doesn't generally trust the government to do this properly or efficiently and prefers to encourage people to give of their own free will according to their consciences as they see need.

Of course, both systems, because they're designed by sinners, fall short of perfection. "Wasteful government spending" is a household expression, so kudos to the Republicans. On the other hand, every time I refer someone in need to a government aid organization, I think of the Democrats. Plenty of other smaller political parties have other ideas which would be best.

So what form of governmental economy would Jesus endorse? If we were to only look at the Bible for governmental advice, we see only monarchies, but even those don't get God's stamp of approval. (1Sa 8:7-21) In fact, when Chronicles evaluates the various kings, their economic policies never enter into the equations. Rather, their faithfulness to the Living God is the sole scale by which they're judged.

The Bible, rather than endorsing a specific form of government, focuses on hearts, not legislation. God wants us to help the poor, but out of love, faith, and gratitude, not compulsion. (2Co 9:7) We can debate about how this can best be done, but God will stay out of that discussion until the last day when He raises the dead and gives us the riches of His Kingdom because of the poverty of Christ. Meanwhile, we rejoice that He has given us the riches of His undeserved love and the promise of eternal life as we live as citizens of both heaven and earth.

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