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Jim Driver: Was Jesus a socialist?

Other Voices
Jim Driver

Today, many people, both Christian and non-Christian, believe that Jesus was a socialist. Even the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said: “Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.”

Many believe that the Bible disapproves of acquiring wealth. In Matthew 25:14-30, didn’t Jesus say: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”? And didn’t Paul, Jesus disciple, say that the love of “Money” was the source of all evil?

Today, many church leaders seem to believe that capitalism, if not to be condemned, is a necessary evil.

But, was Jesus a socialist?

In order to answer that question, we must go to the Bible; the actual source of Jesus’ words. With regards to wealth and money, Jesus gave us the Parable of the Talents.

Here is what Father Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has to say about this parable:

“The parables of Jesus teach eternal truths, but they also offer surprising practical lessons for worldly affairs. In the Gospel According to St. Matthew (chapter 25, verses 14-30) we find Jesus’ Parable of the Talents … Its essence relates to how we are to use God’s gift of grace. As regards the material world, it is a story about capital, investment, entrepreneurship, and the proper use of scarce economic resources. It is a direct rebuttal to those who see a contradiction between business success and living the Christian life.

A rich man who was going on a long journey called his three servants together. He told them they would be caretakers of his property while he was gone. The master had carefully assessed the natural abilities of each servant. He gave five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to the third—to each according to his ability. The master then left on his journey.

The servants went forth into a world open to enterprise and investment. The servant who had received five talents went into business and made five more. The servant who received two made two more. But the servant who received one hid the master’s property in a hole in the ground.

The master returned to settle his accounts. The servant who had received five talents came forth. ‘My lord,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents; see, I have made five more!’

‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ the master responded. ‘You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your lord!’

Then the servant who had been given two talents approached the master. ‘My lord,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have made two talents more!’ The master praised the servant in a like manner.

Then the one who had been given one talent approached his master. “My lord,” he said, “I knew you to be a hard man; you reap where you have not sown, and gather where you have not scattered; and being afraid I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours!”

The master’s response was swift and harsh: “You wicked and indolent slave! You were aware that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered; you ought for that reason to have invested my money with the bankers; then, on my return, I should have received my own with interest.”

The master ordered that the talent be taken away from the lazy servant and given to the one with the 10 talents. “For to everyone who possesses not” said the master, “even that which he has shall be taken away. Cast that useless slave into the outer darkness; there shall be weeping and the grinding of teeth!”

This is not a story we often hear from the pulpit. Our times still exalt a socialist ethic where making a profit is suspect, and entrepreneurship is frowned upon. Yet the story relays a readily apparent ethical meaning, and even deeper lessons for understanding human accountability in economic life.”

Does this parable suggest that Jesus was a socialist? Obviously it does not.

Visit http://www.FEE.org for a full reading of Father Sirico’s article “The Parable of the Talents: The Bible and Entrepreneurs.”

Jim Driver lives in Rough and Ready.


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