Dan Popp
Blessed are the bankrupt?
Red letters for red liars
By Dan Popp
July 7, 2010

In the past few articles I've tried to bring forth biblical support for my argument that Jesus Christ was no socialist. But Stalin can also cite Scripture for his purpose. In the final installments of Red letters for red liars, I'll address a couple of the more frequent barbarian Bible bunglings.

The claim that the apostles were Communists was dissected in a previous piece. Upside-downers also sometimes bleat about the "Sheep and the Goats" prophecy in Matthew 25, which I hope to address in the near future. In this essay I'll respond to the contention that Jesus was a socialist because He said to sell all your possessions and give to the poor.

There are several problems with that statement, beginning with what Jesus said, and to whom He said it.

    And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

    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, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

    The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

    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.

    But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22 KJV)

I've quoted the old King James Version for a reason. Our modern English lacks a way to distinguish second person plural pronouns from singular. Today we use the word you to mean you the individual, as well as your group — leading to awkward constructions like you guys, y'all, and even all y'all. But in 1611, the word you indicated plural, and thou, singular, so the KJV translators could easily convey this information from the Greek manuscript. Is Jesus speaking to everyone when He says, "Sell your possessions?"

"If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast...."

It's a command to one person.

Now, Jesus did say that His followers would have to forsake their worldly goods. "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions." (Luke 14:33 NASB) The Amplified Version renders it, "So then, whoever of you does not forsake — renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say goodbye to — all that he has cannot be My disciple." But is surrendering everything the same as selling everything?

Logic tells us that such an interpretation would be absurd. One man may sell all and help the poor, but in doing so he becomes poor himself, and now needs assistance from someone who has something to give. If all Christians were destitute, then Jesus' church would be a drain on society instead of a blessing! The sons of the King of the universe would have to beg their sustenance from the sons of the defeated devil!

Now look at how the disciples understood this requirement to forsake their possessions:

Immediately after Jesus' interview with the rich young man, "Peter answered and said to Him, 'Behold, we have left everything and followed You....' " (Matthew 19:27)

Peter declared he had "left everything," yet he hadn't physically divested himself of his property — not then, and not later. Sometime between Jesus' resurrection and ascension around half of the disciples were hanging out, when "Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We will also come with you.' " But Peter isn't an angler, he's a pro. He doesn't fish with a rod and reel, and a coffee can with some worms in it. Peter fishes with a commercial fishing boat and huge nets. "They went out, and got into the boat...." (John 21:3) The point is, he still has possessions. Peter had forsaken his stuff, but he had not sold his stuff.

People that housed, fed and funded Jesus and his disciples, like His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, could not have been indigent.

    And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. (Luke 8:1-3 NASB)

Always in the New Testament we see needs being met by voluntary contributions from private means — never by state coercion and redistribution, ala Marx. Now according to the red liars, disciples couldn't have means, but according to the Bible, they did.

"And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea." (Acts 11:29)

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches in Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:1,2)

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:6,7)

As I've shown elsewhere, there were rich people, like Nicodemus and Zaccheus, in the New Testament church. Paul charged Timothy,

    Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

These instructions would have been aimed at the affluent members of the church Timothy led.

James had some powerful warnings for the unrighteously rich — "Come now, you rich, weep and howl...!" (James 5:1ff) — but he admitted rich people into the church in Jerusalem. "But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. (James 1:9,10)

The proper attitude toward worldly goods seems to be epitomized in Hebrews 10:34: "For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one." A Christian can own property — but he shouldn't be owned by it.

If we followed the barbarian view, no one could be baptized until his bankruptcy proceedings were concluded. Imagine the outrage from the Left: That preacher is making people sign over their property to the church, telling them it's the only way to get to heaven! Yet that's the false gospel they themselves set up with this charge.

Finally, if Christ had commanded that each of His followers liquidate his belongings, it would still be voluntary. It would still have nothing to do with the government coercion that is the glorious means of creating the socialist utopia. Even if the barbarians' misinterpretation of the gospels were correct, it would not support their claim that Jesus is a socialist.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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