Social Justice in the Bible

Is Socialism Biblical?

So, in none of these alleged measures of socialism, do we find anything that genuinely earns the name “Socialism.” In no instance did the State have the power to redistribute wealth. In each instance, the “socialism” depended entirely upon individuals obeying God’s mandate for charity towards the Levite, the poor, and the disadvantaged.

God kept the State out of the charity business. There’s a good reason for this. If the power of the sword ever mixed with the power to distribute bread, there would be no end to political corruption: the State would use its powers of distribution to control the people; worse, people who grew dependent upon the State’s bread would also then be dependent upon the State’s sword. Acquiring provisions would no longer be an issue of personal responsibility, but of institutionalized force. It would teach the dependent of all shapes and sizes that deriving food at gunpoint is legitimate. Thus, State socialism would be nothing short of legalized armed robbery.

McDurmon is careful to separate the Law from the enforcement of the Law. Although he doesn’t mention it, there are many laws in the OT that specify enforcement by the community or its civil representatives, such as the judges. Yet, in the case of the “social justice” measures, McDurmon writes, “nothing is said of government power to collect these tithes or punish those who did not give. The Israelites were expected to give voluntarily and themselves knew God would punish them if they refused, and bless them immensely as they obeyed (Deut. 12:19–21).”

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3 thoughts on “Social Justice in the Bible

  1. Is he really saying that government authorities don’t have the power to govern as they deem fit? I agree that Jesus taught that Christians’ ultimate obedience is to God, but Jesus and his disciples also taught that we are obey the government, including paying our taxes.

    Thankfully, our situation in a modern democracy is much better than for Jesus and the early Christians. At least we can elect representatives who set government policy. But what if we lived under the rule of an emperor and that emperor decided to institude a progressive tax policy? Can you imagine Paul or Peter teaching against that tax policy, especially if it went toward amending social inequalities? The idea is nuts!

    Btw, please take a look at the first chapter in my book on this topic and let me know what you think: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38488533/The-Unique-Role-of-Christians-in-Society

    • “Is he really saying that government authorities don’t have the power to govern as they deem fit?”

      No, I think he’s saying that the OT doesn’t give examples of biblical laws regarding social justice where God authorized the government to punish noncompliance. This is consistent with the NT view of monetary giving as being noncompulsory, yet expected as a fruit of the Spirit.

      I would suggest that ancient Israelites, as well as Jews during the Roman occupation, did consider tithing to be compulsory from a religious standpoint. By contrast, the Roman taxation of subject peoples was definitely enforced with violence by the Roman army. Modern taxation is closer to the latter, in line with the establishment of a secular state.

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