Are Socialism and Christianity Compatible?

Whenever one hears of the word “incompatible,” one may think of two people recognizing that they are romantically incompatible for one reason or another. They have different values, different religious commitments, different politics, and so forth. Such is the case with Christianity and Socialism. To embrace socialism as a viable economic theory is, in my layman’s perspective, a recipe for intellectual naïveté. It plays on the emotional impulses of people who, rightly, are outraged that fellow image bearers suffer. Yet, socialism at its core is bought off a materialistic jealousy and unChristian worldview. Below is the reason why.

Let us establish what Socialism is: Socialism is the government control of the market, and where the government controls the means and distribution of wealth accrued from that market. However, romanticizers of socialist theory will often say it is a type of Robinhood economy theory: taking from the rich to give to the poor. While that is hardly accurate, let us entertain that idea for a moment. The idea of “Taking from the rich” demands three separate points:

1.) The idea assumes that “taking” is at all justified. Biblically minded Christians must consider the 8th Commandment which read, “Thou shalt not steal.” If one is to question the socialist, what is the difference between “taking” and “stealing”? Question 142 of the Westminster Larger Catechism lays out quite clearly that things like, “theft,” “robbery,” and “injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust;” are all forbidden under the 8th Commandment. On this ground alone, biblically minded Christians ought to reject Socialism.

2.) The idea assumes that “the rich” are universally guilty of stealing from the poor in the first place. But anyone who thinks with an ounce of nuance in these situations knows this is not so. For example, Bill Gates is one of the richest people alive today. He earned his wealth by creating a product that has been universally utilized, transforming the way human beings communicate, shop, do business, etc. Bill Gates also gives vast swaths of his wealth to a variety of charitable causes. Yet, under socialism Mr. Gates would have a.) never been able to acquire such wealth; b.) would have his wealth taken from him in the form of high taxation. This is not a question of whether taxation is justified, but whether it is justified to punish someone merely for being wealthy. The aforementioned idea assumes the Mr. Gates stole from the poor to get the wealth he has, which is highly untrue. Why punish him with taxation? Why punish future Bill Gates by rigging the system so one may not arise? Is that not itself an injustice? This is not to say that some with wealth have not cheated and stolen from those less fortunate; such persons ought to be punished under the law. But, this is not the case with socialist theories. Socialism would have it that people should “pay their fair share,” even if it means some have to pay at higher rates than others merely because some have earned lots of money and others have not. Under the actual definition of socialism, no one should have more money than another for it would be an injustice otherwise.

3.) The idea of “give to the poor” assumes that the poor are always innocent. This is another failure of socialism in that it always judges in favor of the poor instead of the rich. Biblically, this is itself an injustice. Leviticus 19:15 even teaches as such, concluding, “you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” To judge a neighbor fairly means not judging for him because he is rich, nor judging in favor of him because he is poor, but because fair judgement reflects a righteous government under the rule of a righteous God. A socialist, with a preconceived idea of who the poor are, in turn judges economic distribution unfairly. Under God’s law, such a person would be liable to judgement. To be sure, there are many passages in Scripture that forbid the oppression of the poor, but it also warns against crookedness and corruption which the poor are not immune from; Proverbs is replete with such references. It would be a serious mistake to assume that the poor can do no wrong and the rich can do no right. Being sober-minded and judging fairly is always in order; let it never be said a Christian judges unfairly.

The Issue of Property

Furthermore, in a socialist system property itself is a problematic matter to deal with. For socialists, as well as communists, private property is scorned and looked down upon. In a socialist system, all ownership of property becomes a public matter. Some so-called Christian socialists will point to passages like Acts 4:32-35 as justification for their theory of social or public ownership of property. The passage read