Monday, March 26, 2007

Socialism and Christianity, Part 2

Part 1 was a general look at socialism and Christianity. Here, I discuss the specific topic of welfare, which is a big tenet of socialism.

(In this portion, I use the New American Standard translation, in order to be more literal-from-the-original-Greek.)

Let's look at what the Bible has to say about welfare. For this paragraph, my main text is 1 Timothy 5:3-16. Since it is a lengthy passage for a blog post, I implore you to open it in another window and refer to it as needed. You see in the latter part of verse 16 that, indeed, the early church did care for widows in need. What does the Bible say about being a burden on others? Don't.However, reading the text from verse 3 onward indicates that the conditions for getting help from the church were very stringent (verses 4,9,10). It also indicates that the widow's family is to act as her Social Security (verses 4,8). Paul even instructs Timothy NOT to put younger widows on the list. Why? Among other things, they get into the habit of idleness (verses 11-13). Younger widows should not seek welfare from the church, but should instead seek to marry and have children (verse 14). I should note that verse 16 says that women with widows in the family should help them so that they won't be a burden on the church.

What does the Bible say about being a burden on others? In a word (technically two), don't. Verse 16 says for family members to relieve the burden from the church by taking care of their own. This is done so that the church can help those who really need it, i.e. they fit the requirements set forth in verses 4/9/10 and don't have other family to help.

1 Thessalonians 4

11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

2 Thessalonians 3
6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

When someone takes advantage of state welfare when not *really* needing it, they contribute to the burden that is placed on everyone else. The apostles had every right to eat and drink on the church's tab (1 Corinthians 9, especially verse 4), but chose not to exercise that right, in order to set the model for the church, which was to not be a burden on others. Idleness is looked down upon in the New Testament teachings.

So enough of all the exposition; what do I think about socialism? The early Christian church seems to have embodied some socialistic ideals. I think that socialism is an ideal that can only be reached within the context of the Christian church. I do not think that ideal will be reached if more socialist concepts are implemented in the U.S. As is true even these days, people back then fell easily into idleness. There's also the one extremely pertinent fact that the entire population of the U.S. is not united by/with Christ.

I personally do not like the idea of having to give up large chunks of my earnings in order to care for everyone else. "Oh but what of the children and the poor, and what about free health care for all," you ask. First of all, universal health care will not be free for anyone, both in terms of time and money (we're all looking forward to waiting months and months for an initial doctor's visit, right?). I'm sorry if it sounds harsh, but my money needs to go towards caring for my own family before caring for everyone else. The Bible says that I am worse than an unbeliever if I do not care for my own family. Heavy taxation is the only way to provide socialistic health care and wealth re-distribution, and heavy taxation interferes with my ability to provide for my family. In my opinion, socialism and/or welfare has a place, and that is within the confines of the family, then church. If the Democrats/leftists end up implementing universal health care, I have no choice but to accept it. Although I might be entirely displeased with the whole thing, the Bible commands me to submit to the government.

In my analysis of socialism, I tried to be as unbiased and Biblical as possible, so that if you had a problem with what I said, your problem would be with the Bible. However, it is not possible for a human to be truly unbiased, and so if you have issues, let's take them up in the comments.

(Tentatively, a similar analysis on Christianity and capitalism will follow.)

EDIT: Here's my post on capitalism and Christianity

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