Let me say right here and now, I am a capitalist. I believe capitalism, “an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production” (1), allows individuals the greatest financial, intellectual, and physical freedom when compared to any other economic system. That said, I would never use my thirty years of investigating the advantages and disadvantages of economic strategies to suggest Jesus would be a steadfast supporter of capitalism. Nor would I try and speak for Jesus concerning political strategies.
However, worldwide, there is a movement by some to try and convince young people (especially teenagers) that Jesus was the first real socialist, believing that money and goods should be spread about evenly by local and national governments. Time magazine recently quoted Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, as saying, “If you really look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ – who I think was the first socialist – only socialism can really create a genuine society.” (2)
The only problem with Chavez’s analogy is that Jesus was concerned with changing hearts and attitudes, not governments and earthly leaders. Jesus did not lead a national revolution, peaceful or violent, geared toward creating a government that enforced equality among the masses. His words, deeds, and actions were influencing individuals to give of themselves. He told individuals to love their enemies (see Matthew 5:44 NIV). He told individuals to give to the needy (see Matthew 6:2 NIV). The spreading of the gospel is to be done from one heart to the next. A government controlled socialist utopia without His return is not going to happen.
If Jesus believed that it was the job of earthly governments to regulate and enforce contentment among the earth’s population, I believe He would have made his case during His earthly ministry.
Are some governments better than others? Definitely; Chavez’s own country just recently passed a defamation law that calls for anyone who criticizes a government official to be prosecuted. His country has an unemployment rate around 12-pecent. (3) Is economic stability worth losing the ability to criticize the government? And in our own country, is it okay that some children sleep on the floor of their bedrooms at night for fear a stray bullet may come through their window? Is there such thing as a balanced government?
One would have to conclude that a person who’s suffering in Venezuela or in America would not be quick to say that the economic or political system that umbrellas him is perfect.
So, my advice to teenagers who experience professors determined to convince them Jesus would have endorsed this system or that system, don’t buy into it.
When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying what must happen to redeem the world, Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan!” (see Matthew 16:21-23). And to this day, when worldly leaders tell us of plans to create that economic and political utopia, you can be sure the devil has a hand in such promises.
(1) Capitalism. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2006. HighBeam Encyclopedia. 10-4-06 Available from: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-capitali.html
(2) Padgett, Tim & Gould Erik, Jens. “The Sound and The Fury.”
TIME, 2 October 2006, 44.
(3) Unemployment Drops 3.7% in Venezuela. Venezuelanalysis.com,
Wednesday, July 20, 2005. Available from: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1695
Dan, thank you for submitting this. Jesus is in the business of changing hearts. Social reform may be needed, but that comes about best following heart reform. You are right on target. God bless. Thomas