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Richard Larsen: Jesus’ Teachings Irreconcilable with Socialism

April 26th, 2011 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With the arrival of Easter, perhaps the most significant of Christianity’s holy days, comes an opportunity to reflect on our own lives and what we do to magnify the message of Jesus. It also affords an opportunity to reconcile our core beliefs with the political machinations of the world we live in.

There is obviously much need for the latter, especially in light of an article in USA Today this week which proclaimed, “A new poll released Thursday found that more Americans (44%) see the free market system at odds with Christian values than those who don’t (36%).”

To those of us who work through our faith intellectually and logically, such poll results are disturbing for the obvious logical superficiality of their viewpoint.

Let’s start with the most obvious issues. Did Jesus go to the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, or Pilate to advance his teachings as a new system of governance? No! His message was not one of collective governance, but one of individual, personal governance. Governments have no soul to be saved, no salvific ordinances can be performed in their behalf, and have not the promise of a resurrection on some distant Easter morn. Christ’s message was to individuals, not a political system by which to govern.

Secondarily, and perhaps most theologically important, is the eternal concept of free agency or free will. To understand this in political context, it may help to take a brief look at the simplified political spectrum, which applies to individual ideological alignment as well as governments, and goes from left to right, most tyrannical and un-free to least tyrannical, or freedom.

All variations of socialism are on the far left of that spectrum right along with dictatorships. They are coercive and trample individual freedom as they reduce individuals to tools of the state. Yet the Lord’s entire plan is based on freedom of choice, or free agency. Socialism is irreconcilable and heterodox to Jesus’ message for it is based on coercion, the elimination of freedom and free agency. It is both illegal and immoral for individuals to forcibly take from one to give to another, so why is it not immoral when governments do it? It certainly has no redeeming value to the forced “giver.”

Jesus taught many divine principles by parable. One of the most relevant dealing with economics is His “Parable of the Talents.” You’ll recall that the master gave five talents (a measurement of weight and also of a silver currency in biblical times) to one servant, two to another, and one to a third, based on their respective abilities. He was not egalitarian in his distribution, but he expected results, namely that each would increase what was entrusted to them. The first two doubled their talents and were rewarded; “Well done thou good and faithful servant…” while the third buried his in the ground and returned it to the master with no increase, and was punished for his indolence.

The fundamental tenets of free agency and free enterprise were affirmed as none of the servants were told how to increase that which was entrusted to them, or by how much they were to increase the master’s wealth. But the tenet of increasing what is given to us, either as financial talents or talents as we employ the term today, is clear.

Not only are we accountable for what we do to develop character through our industry and acumen, but we are to be sensitive to the needs of others. As Jesus said, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And this we do individually, exercising our free agency as evidence of our professed religious beliefs, not by force, coercion, or compulsion from a government that mandates it. For coercion is to Jesus’ teachings as negative is to positive in physics: polar opposites.

Socialism is an amoral (if not immoral) secular governmental system, while free enterprise or capitalism is the freest, most ennobling and affirming to individual worth. Free to pursue our own interests, free to buy, trade, barter, whatever we legally choose. It is not a perfect system, but it is the most true to the fundamental tenet of free agency and provides best for individual altruism.

In our reflections of the meaning of Easter, let us be cognizant of how we use our talents, monetary and otherwise, in the service of others, not counting on forced government programs to do what we as individuals are called to do.

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