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Was Jesus A Communist?

Huge social, economic and religious issues have been rising over the past two decades in this nation. The Apostolic church has not spoken out as clearly as many think it should, largely because our focus has been primarily spreading the gospel and leading people to a higher spiritual experience and relationship with God. We have taken our basic mission from the words of Jesus when he said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10. We accomplish this by adhering to Paul’s words. “We preach Christ crucified.” 1 Corinthians 1:23.

But a series of national and global upheavals in the last two centuries have thrown Christianity into a crucible of agonizing decisions about who we are and what we believe. This is not necessarily about our theology, but about our ability to live in this world as law-abiding citizens and yet remain true to the teachings of scripture. Here are some of the issues we face which have become dilemmas for believers:

  • Abortion
  • Stem-cell research
  • Capital punishment
  • Homosexual rights
  • Corporate greed
  • Casino gambling and lotteries
  • Sex education in school
  • The liberal agenda (Green America, school curriculum, etc.)
  • Socialized medicine (national health care)
  • Socialistic, communistic politics

One of the driving forces behind the current financial crisis we are in concerns the enactment of socialistic ideas into law. Banks were forced to lend money for home mortgages to people who could not pay them back. This was called an “affordable homes initiative.” This concept has been known by other names in the past. “Taking from the haves and giving to the have nots.” “The Robin Hood doctrine.” “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” “Redistribution of wealth.”

Some deny that blatant socialism was behind this, but others are more honest. There are those who really believe that wealthy people have too much money and that it is only right and fair that their wealth be taken from them and divided equally among all people in a society. These are called socialists because they believe that the welfare of society at large takes precedent over the welfare of individuals. The other term is communism or collectivism. These people believe that no one should own private property and that no one should own the means of production. Only the state, which would be “the people” own anything. This was the basis for the communist revolution in Russia in 1917 and the rise of the U. S. S. R., or the Soviet Union.

The question for us is what does the Bible say? Is communism in the Bible? Capitalism? How does our belief system impact the way we live our lives?

Christian communism (adapted from some Wikipedia material)

Christian Communism is a form of religious communism centered around Christianity. It holds that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system. Christian communists assert that evidence from the Bible suggests that the first Christians, including the Apostles, created their own small communist society in the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection. As such, many advocates of Christian communism argue that it was taught by Jesus and practiced by the Apostles themselves.


In general, the history of communism as a political movement can be divided into two periods: early (pre-Marxist) and contemporary (Marxist and post-Marxist) communism. In the early period, communism may have played a major role in everyday Christianity.

Plymouth Colony

The Plymouth Colony was established by English and Dutch pilgrims in order to flee religious persecution and search for a place to worship as they saw fit. They incorporated their religious beliefs into the social and legal systems of the colony.

Communistic ideas were tested by the Plymouth Colony settlers. In 1621, they selected William Bradford as governor of the group and he served in that capacity for the next 30 years. Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, is considered the authoritative work for the Pilgrim experiment and the Colony they founded. Bradford provided posterity with insightful comments on the issues the colony faced with communal living:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

Too many troubles resulted from the Plymouth Colony communism (lack of production and general discontent), and so Bradford stopped it and reverted to capitalism. This form of economy eventually became the standard practice in the United States):

At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves […] This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

True Levellers

In the 1600s the True Levellers, followers of Gerrard Winstanley, believed in the concept of “levelling men’s estates” in order to create equality. They also took over common land for the “common good.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Contemporary Christian communism

Pre-Marxist Views

  • All communism was rooted in religious principles.
    • During the mid-to-late 1840s, the largest organization espousing communist ideas in Europe was the League of the Just, whose motto was “All Men are Brothers” and whose aim was to establish a new society “based on the ideals of love of one’s neighbor, equality and justice”.
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels joined the League of the Just in 1847.
    • Under their influence, the organization became secular and atheistic and changed its name to the Communist League.
    • The League invited Marx and Engels to write a programmatic document that would express communist principles, and they obliged, producing the Communist Manifesto.
    • The practice of communal living among the early believers should be considered as an emergency lifestyle to “jump start” fledgling Christianity.
      • The wilderness wanderings were the O. T. counterpart where things happened that were emergency miracles, i.e. manna, water from the rock, quail, clothes and shoes not wearing out, etc.
      • When people were bitten by snakes, a brass serpent was held up for people to “look and live.” This was not repeated in the Israelite culture or religion.
    • The selling of goods and possessions was strictly voluntary.
    • The practice was not continued because private property and personal possessions were mentioned in the later church age.
      • Acts 21:8 (The house of Philip, the evangelist)
      • Acts 28:30 (Paul rented his own house.)
      • Many individuals were cited who had their own houses. (1 Corinthians 1:11; 11:22; 16:15; 16:19; Colossians 4:15)
      • Paul taught that believers were to work for one’s own welfare. “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
      • “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
      • Are we to work to support free-loaders?
      • Are we to support abortions, stem-cell research, sex-education, blasphemous works of art and other programs that violate basic Christian principles?
      • Should we rob people of their incentive to work, create and improve their lives?
      • Who will make decisions for us?
      • Should someone else decide where you will go to school, what you will study, what your occupation will be, where you will live, etc.?
      • We should work with our own hands. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
      • We should seek first the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
      • Wealthy people should not trust in their riches. (1 Timothy 6:17)
      • We should care for others out of compassion, not necessity. (2 Cor. 9:7)
      • We will answer to God for our own decisions. (Romans 14:12)
      • We should not be envious of the wealth or accomplishments of others. (Galatians 5:26)
    • The Teachings of Jesus

      In the Gospel of Luke (1:49-53), Mary delivered the following description of the works of God:

      49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

      One of Jesus’ most famous remarks regarding the wealthy can be found in Matthew 19:16-24

      16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why do you ask me about what is good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

      Jesus also described “money changers” (i.e. those engaged in currency exchange) as “thieves” and chased them out of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is described in Matthew 21:12-14, Mark 11:15, and John 2:14-16. The text in Matthew reads as follows:

      12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

      The phrase “love thy neighbor”, repeatedly spoken by Jesus, is rather well known. Christian communists point out that Jesus considered this to be the second most important of all moral obligations, after loving God. Thus, they argue, a Christian society should be based first and foremost on these two commandments, and it should uphold them even more than it upholds such things as family values. The relevant Biblical verses are Mark 12:28-31:

      28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

      Finally, Jesus gave an account of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, in which he identifies himself with the hungry, the poor and the sick, and states that good or evil done upon “the least of [God’s] brethren” will be counted as good or evil done upon God himself. The fact that nations rather than individuals would be judged according to the characteristics of their societies, would thus directly imply that political and economic systems were being heavily critiqued as well:

      31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; 36 Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, 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. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.

      In addition, communist references can be found in Leviticus 25:35-38: “If one […] becomes poor […] help him […] so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God […] You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am the L ORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”

      Controversy Atheism and communism

      The Christian communist view of Karl Marx is mixed. On the one hand, he gave the communist movement a solid foundation in economics and sociology, and took it from relative obscurity to a position of significance on the international political stage. On the other hand, he was the first to divorce communism from Christian principles, and, following his lead, there was a strong association during the 20th century between communism, and atheism or agnosticism.

      The communist movement has been highly fragmented since 1990; while Communist Parties worldwide continue to have millions of members, there is little coordination between them. As such, there is no reliable statistical data on the religious views of communists as a whole. It is commonly assumed, and likely, that the majority are still atheists.

      Communists and the Classless society

      Both Old and New Testaments of the Bible fail to condemn the institution of slavery, rather they directly sanction and/or regulate slavery. Moses and Paul both sanction the institution and counsel slaves (or servants) to show obedience to their owners (or Masters). Jesus mentions servants in parables, but there is no record of him condemning or sanctioning the institution. Anti-communist Christians[who?] argue that the Bible cannot promote communism because it allows for a class system. They note the lack of a scriptural condemnation of slavery by Jesus, who would have been familiar with the institution due to its use in ancient and contemporary societies. Relevant passages include Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27, and Ephesians 6:5-9.


      Communists support the eventual dissolution of government, at least theoretically. The Bible, however, teaches an intrinsic, hierarchical government to the kingdom of God. Most notably, Biblical prophecy in the Book of Isaiah 9:6-7 holds that the Second Coming of Jesus will result in the creation of a government by God on Earth:

      6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the L ORD of hosts will perform this. (King James Version)

      Establishing Christian communism

      There is also the question of how a communist society should be actually achieved. While most secular communists advocate a form of revolution, Christian communists almost universally insist on nonviolent means, such as passive resistance or winning elections. Regarding the issue of the nationalization of the means of production, which is seen by some Christians as theft, Christian communists argue that capitalism itself is a form of institutionalized theft in the manner that capitalist owners exploit their workers by not paying them the full value of their labor.

      Not all Christian communists seek to achieve large-scale social change, however. Some believe that, rather than attempting to transform the politics and economics of an entire country, Christians should instead establish communism at a local or regional level only.

      Free will

      The establishment of a large-scale communist system would infringe on people’s free will by denying them the freedom to make decisions for themselves.

      Christian communists, however, reply that this argument is inconsistent: if there should be no restrictions on the human exercise of free will, and if no one should be denied the freedom to sin, then all crimes, heinous or not, should be legalized.

      Acts 5:1-10 provides additional evidence that the Apostles and early Christians did not view communism as something optional:

      1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. (King James Version)

      Christian communists hold that this passage explicitly shows how communism - that is, the sharing of all wealth - was considered so central to early Christianity that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God for keeping part of their wealth for themselves. Some Christian communists go further and use these verses as an endorsement of the view that society should be communistic even against the will of some of its members; and that refusing to share one’s wealth can be regarded as a crime and punished as such.

      On the other hand, Peter was not disturbed because Ananias and Sapphira were not faithfully practicing communism or because they failed to share all their wealth, but because they had lied to God (verses 3 and 4) and thereby “tempt[ed] the Spirit of the Lord” (verse 9).

      Peter also made it clear that the possession and money belonged to Annanias and Sapphira to do with as they wished, and so supported the notion of private property.

      2 Corinthians 9:6-7, states:

      6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (King James Version)

      Early Christians were urged to share their wealth with those who were in need, but they were not compelled to do so.

      Other disagreements

      Finally, a fair amount of controversy between communist and anti-communist Christians is focused on a few parables told by Jesus - particularly the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 (a “talent” was a form of money).

      Questions about compulsory communism and socialism:

      The Bible teaches:

  • The Communist Manifesto has had an enormous influence on the communist movement. These communist and socialist groups were then absorbed into the wider socialist political parties and trade unions. For a time, socialists were more or less united under the umbrella of the Socialist International. After WWI, Communists and the rest of the socialist movement went their separate ways. World events took place in rapid succession for the next few decades - the creation of the Soviet Union, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and World War II. This is where so-called “Christian communism” reasserted itself. As early as the 1940s, Pierre Théas, a French bishop, stated:

    “Urged on by unrestrainable forces, today’s world asks for a revolution. The revolution must succeed, but it can succeed only if the Church enters the fray, bringing the Gospel. After being liberated from Nazi dictatorship, we want to liberate the working class from capitalist slavery.”

    Now, however, Cold War politics meant that communists were immediately associated with the Soviet Union. And this was even truer in North America, where McCarthyism held sway. Christian communism had a hard time re-establishing itself in its old European and North American homeland.

    However, the Christian communist movement re-emerged in Latin America. This was a separate development from the earlier European and North American movements. Latin American Christian communism is a strong trend within liberation theology, which is a specifically Christian movement concerned with social justice and equality that incorporates both communists and other socialists. Liberation theology is predominantly Catholic in origin, given that Roman Catholicism is the dominant Christian denomination in Latin America. Liberation theology grew during the 1960s and 70s, and many liberation theologians (including bishops and other prominent clergymen) supported the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

    Christian communists were also found among Christian missionaries in China, the most notable being James Gareth Endicott, who became supportive of the struggle of the Communist Party of China in the 1930s and 1940s.

    Biblical citations

    Christian communists trace the origins of their practice to the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles at chapter 2 and verses 42, 44, and 45:

    42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship […] 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (King James Version)

    The theme is reiterated in Acts 4:32-37:

    32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (King James Version)


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Reader Comments (1)

A very good treatment of this topic. I particularly liked the term, "compulsory communism", which seems to me to be an oxymoron. :)

I am an aspiring communist in the sense that I believe that nothing belongs to me, truly, but that "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains." On the other hand, this is an aspiration, rather than a declaration of achievement, because the only true demonstration of this belief is in deed, and not in word, as for example in heeding this: "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."

The unfortunate practice of communism so far has been, for the state to take from others, by force, and then give to others, as it sees fit.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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