From a Facebook conversation I had in 2012.
Why Jesus Wasn’t a Socialist
I disagree with the statement that Jesus was a socialist. I think most Christians share the same view as I do on this, which answers your questions. Most Christians don’t believe that Jesus was a socialist, which is why there aren’t many Christians that are socialists. I see why people try to make this claim, though. There are many places in the Bible that Jesus (and apostles) told Christians to give their possessions.
In Matthew 19 (starting at verse 16), Jesus tells a rich man that if he sells all his possessions and gives to the poor, then he will have treasure in Heaven, and tells the man to follow Him. But the man was “sorrowful,” because he didn’t want to have to sacrifice all of his things to follow Jesus. Jesus didn’t tell the rich man to sell all this things and give to the poor because He was a socialist, Jesus told this man these things because He knew this man’s heart. He knew that He wasn’t good because only God is good (vs17). There were many people that claimed that they would follow Jesus wherever He would go, but when He asked them to follow Him, they couldn’t because they were too attached to worldly things (Matt. 8:18). One of the main reasons Christ tells his followers to give their possessions is because they are attached to these worldly things that pass away and not to Him who is eternal (and who gave them their possessions in the first place). In Matthew 19, Jesus continues by explaining to His disciples that it is difficult for a rich man to enter Heaven (vs23-24). This is because many rich people are materialistic and hold their treasures on earth, instead of in Heaven. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” and Matthew 6:19-24, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, you whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” He wants people to be able to give their possessions away so that they will serve HIM and not material things.
Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” I don’t know about you, but if I was in need, I would want there to be someone who would help me out, whether with clothing, or money, or a place to stay. Therefore, I should also be willing to help others who are in need.
God showed us grace by sending His perfect, pure son to die in our place, so that we could be counted clean and spend eternity with Him. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 8, that we should excel in grace also (vs. 7), to show others that our love for them is genuine (vs. 8). James 2 tells us that faith without works is dead, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith without works is dead.” If we are willing to receive the grace that God gave us, but are not willing to also give grace to others, are we really saved? I think James would say no.
Jesus wasn’t a socialist. He wanted the INDIVIDUAL to make the choice himself to give willingly to those in need. He did not want the government to determine who gives what. Jesus is interested in the individual. Jesus did not come to be a governmental leader (as many people at that time thought and wanted Him to be). He came for the individual. Christians should not try to make others (non-Christians) live the way they live. Yes, Christians are called to give to the needy, and to not be materialistic, or attached to our possessions, but we cannot and should not try to make others give to the needy if they do not share our beliefs. Socialism is nation-wide and forces everyone to share everything. Yes, the 1st century church had everything in common (Acts 2:44), but they were not forcing others to live this way also. Instead, they were sharing the love of Christ and the Gospel message, and in response to people accepting the message, they began living this way.