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This question is complex, and can be answered in different ways depending on your background. The first response is too simplistic and it mischaracterises Marx's argument. If anything, Marx is right about identity being attached to ones economic status. You see this even in churches, where the wealthy are usually given leadership roles or some kind of special attention, otherwise we would be welcoming homeless men and women as church leaders. Instead we only invite them to soup kitchens, or ask them to volunteer to clean the church. If they are to come into the church, we expect them change and be like us. Marx's characterisation of "Religion as people's opium" is linked to the church's tendency to deliberately blindfold itself from real life issues, from real suffering, from poverty, sickness, hatred, and discrimination. But instead, it focuses on promising heaven or paradise in the kingdom come. Unfortunately, capitalistic mentality has bound the church that we too compete for "souls" for the purpose of growing our "churches". Which has an economic undertone. The Bible, both OT & NT, is in fact full of socialistic suggestions and seems to promote common welfare than individual. Salvation is not just personal, but "the whole creation longs for the manifestation of God's children." We Christians in the West have brought our own preferences to interpret Christianity in our own eyes rather than God's. We have selective reading of Scripture instead of seeing the whole of Scripture as the living witness. God is not a Capitalist. He is more of a Socialist. It's time we became truthful and had an honest conversation as a church.
This question is an issue that has confused many people, but it does not need to be so. The Bible has much to say about how a Christian should govern his economic affairs, and I certainly do not profess to have a complete grasp of all It contains. However, the lack of understanding on these problems is alarming and has caused great harm to the church of God. So I will endeavor, through the prism of God's Word, to investigate a few of the underlying principles. The first error that ought to be avoided is the concept that a Christian is entitled to some participation in the kingdoms of the world. We mustn’t think of ourselves as a true part of any kingdom that has been set up by men. The Lord said before his Crucifixion, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36), and again he said, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above." (John 19:11) The kingdom of God is not to be confounded with worldly kingdoms, such as the United States or China or France. A proper understanding of this distinction will evaporate many difficulties. These kingdoms are separate and the one cannot influence the other substantially. Worldly kingdoms are given certain authority over their own people, and Christians are commanded to obey this authority at times in order to maintain a good testimony before the world. (Romans 13:1-7, I Peter 2:12-16, 3:16, etc.). The rulers of this world are to be respected and honored in the same way that Paul and the other apostles were careful to honor those that passed judgment on them. Having recognized this, however, we must realize that it is not the Christian’s place to take sides on every political issue nor to try to change the world through political activism. Paul tells the Corinthians to separate themselves from such worldly concerns (II Corinthians 6:16-17). In fact, it is not really appropriate for Christians to serve in government offices. We are part of a different nation with different laws and different governors. (Ephesians 2:19, Revelation 1:6, I Peter 2:9-10, Hebrews 11:13-16). I would also cite the example of the early church as evidence for the idea that Christians should not serve in government. When Christians begin to lose sight of the kingdoms around them, they open up their mind to recognize what the economic system within the church of God ought to be. The Bible is very clear on this topic. The members of the church, when they become part of the kingdom, consecrate all that they have to Christ. It is therefore Christ that distributes the wealth within the Body. He provides for every person’s need, and allows no individual to trust in his own riches. The early church had the testimony that all of her members "had all things in common...and parted them to all men, as every one had need." (Acts 2:44-45) This is the way that the church has operated throughout the ages. If a Christian sees that his brother needs some earthly support, it is his duty to provide what he may to that brother. This is the express command of our Lord (Luke 6:30, Matthew 5:42, Luke 3:11, I John 3:17, Matthew 25:40, Luke 18:22) The question of socialism is not really a valid issue among Christians because it is generally asked in a context that does not affect Christians. We cannot be asked to endorse something in which the world is participating. If I am asked whether any particular nation ought to be socialist or capitalist, I must answer that both of these philosophies are secular in nature and opposed to the gospel. If, on the other hand, the question is one of my personal practice, I firmly submit that I am heartily in favor of distributing my goods to those that need my help. This is something that all Christians, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, should be eager and willing to do.
In my opinion and the log of history, this doomed recycled man system that opposes God's perfect system should be viewed with great caution! Everything was created by and belongs to God and He loans it as He wishes. Socialist model the state is god, everything belongs to it and it's oracles will reward the faithful and punish their many deemed enemies. To build the utopian dream they in the name of fairness or equally must steal, beginning with the God given uniqueness of the individual. One may start with high ideals, but at it's core is the very nature of fallen man to oppress first and then enslave his follow man. The pilgrims tried a variant of this system when they first landed, in Christian brotherhood and fairness, each person got an equal share of what was produced on a common plot. You may remember from school that they starved, hard winter yes, what is not or incorrectly taught is why they did? When all shared equally regardless of their inputted labor, there were more lazy people and no incentive for the workers! The pilgrims scrapped the system returning to God's you don't work you don't eat plan, allowed each to grow and keep all he produced on his plot and trade or sell his overflow. They prospered after this correction and held a feast to honor God for His bounty with some native Indian friends. Consider that under the banner of this religion over 100 million souls have died, add 60 million more for world war two, and the national socialists of Germany. With each variant becoming harsher than the last because this system does not work, no matter the applied oppression and various educational programs. Recycled yet again in our land the elected oracles proclaim from on high what freedoms they will allow us the liberty to partake in, so long as we do it per their instructions, with a smile of course for now...... (Thou shall not drink 32oz...). The crumb of freedom men grant you today, they will return for tomorrow. "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of it's victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis in the Lord's freedom....warrior on.
All this misunderstanding on the notion of socialism is due to Western propaganda. Unfortunately, the Church has also bought into the lie. Socialism or Capitalism has nothing to do with hard work. They both involve hard work. The difference is that Capitalism is ego-centric. In fact, socialism is closer to Christianity and Judaism, than Capitalism. If you study the Torah and all Commandments to Israel, you will see that Socialism has a biblical basis. Take for instance, Proverbs 19:17, Exodus 22:25, Amos 6; pay attention to verse 13, James 1:17. If you honestly want to know more about this God's position, I would recommend you read Richard Horsley's "Covenant Economics" http://tiny.cc/5pyv7w or Walter Rauschenbusch's "A Theology for the Social Gospel" http://tiny.cc/31yv7w I personally read them for my theology class and they changed my previously uninformed position.
I view it as "it will not work". The reason that it will not work is that we live in an imperfect world and we are imperfect. The human is greedy, very self, sinful, etc....in a perfect World it might be a great solution. The human element will destroy it every time. Only Jesus Christ, whom is the only perfect one, will make it work on His return. It is the same human element that will be the down fall of any system. We are headed down in ours like the Roman Empire did. Come Jesus, Come.
I believe that the answer to this is a simple one. If God has given you the health and/or intelligence to work, then you should work if you are in a position where you need to work. As Christians, God expects us to help those who need the help - "need" being the key word there... not to be confused with those who simply don't want to work. I think most people, regardless of their political preference want to help those who need help, however many people have become leery of those who are capable of working but choose to take advantage of a system meant for those in need.
What a great thread. All are well thought out answers. They all make valid points. Unfortunately, all economic systems are doomed to fail. It's like debating the best way to cut down a tree, when no tree exists. The problem is not the system. The problem is man's inability to love God and love his neighbor as he loves himself and his unquenchable thirst for power over others. These are the poisons in the well. Purify the water in the well first, and it won't matter by what vessel you choose to drink of it.
As a young teen I had a school teacher that advocated for communism. Socialism is a just a sweeter word than communism, but it is the same thing. For those who say they are different, what does USSR mean? Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (I.E Communism.) To socialists, all that really exists is the material world. In fact, Karl Marx, the father of socialism/communism, invented the notion of dialectical materialism — the belief that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material. To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff — and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. There's no acknowledgment of spiritual issues. There's just an assumption that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve. Socialism says if you have three cars and your neighbor has none, the government has a right to take your car and give it to your neighbor. He doesn't need to work for it they will just steal it from you and give it to him and you can't stop them. If you try they either imprison you or shoot you. Bernie Sanders a socialist. He once said, and I quote, "Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America." In other words, steal from the rich and give to the poor, which encourages the poor to rely on the federal government for the necessities of life instead of working for them. Socialism seeks for the state to replace the family. That way, it can indoctrinate children in its leftist way of thinking, and remove from them any notions of God and religion.
The world, and it's rulers are selfish and self seeking. Having socialist economy will deprive the working hard class of the much they have worked and laboured for.
Many of the answers above seem to support the idea that the Earth is being run by the devil. Communism and socialism are not God-friendly approaches to life. Capitalism has given greater freedom in all areas of life (economic, social, religious, etc.) than the others. Capitalism is not to be equated with Christianity. There are evils being perpetrated in capitalistic societies too. Psalm 24:1 - the Earth is the Lord's. Always has been, always will be. It is up to us who claim to be God's people to work toward bringing every aspect of life (political, social, economic, educational, entertainment, etc.) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
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