Sometimes ya just have to step in it and let the chips fall where they may. In my commentaries, I always talk about the part of that day’s reading that grabbed my interest. The topics or points that I talk about are almost always exclusively of a spiritual nature, right? Sometimes I will mention the state of world affairs, but I think I have always been successful at avoiding political specifics. It’s not my job to tell you who to vote for or against.
But in reading chapter eight today, I can’t help but comment on an idea that keeps coming to my attention. I see this idea coming from social media, primarily. But also from family members. You do remember I have a very large family, right? Not only is my immediate family…a wife, three sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren, a mother-in-law, four siblings-in-law and their spouses, all of their kids, most of whom are married, many of them have children of their own, and on and on and on. So when I say I hear this idea from family members, there is no way you are going to be able to guess who. OK? I don’t want to get into more trouble than I probably already will just by broaching this subject.
So what is it?
I chapter 8, Paul complimented the Corinthian church for their willingness to give in order to help other churches. And then down in verse 13 Paul says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” And then at the end of verse 14, into the rest of verse 15 he says, “The goal is equality, 15as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
When we look at those verses, it sounds very much like Paul is advocating Socialism, doesn’t it? And this is what I’ve heard several times over the past few months. “The Bible teaches us that Socialism is the way.” Or words to that effect.
To be as thorough as possible in our limited time, I think we should look at the definition of Socialism.
Webster’s Dictionary has two main definitions: 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; 2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
So the common attribute in these definitions is that private ownership of property does not exist in Socialism. Also, the control of assets is in the hands of either government or other group. Distribution of assets is not controlled by those who created those assets.
Let’s quickly take a look at what Paul wrote here in chapter 8.
In verse 3, Paul said, in referring to the Macedonian church which was struggling, “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service (of giving) to the Lord’s people.” Notice that it was this church’s own idea to give. It was not because some outside agent compelled them to give. It was because of their love of the Lord.
And then Paul urges the Corinthians to match the Macedonians in their generosity. And dropping down to verse 8, Paul says, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” Again, the control of whether or not they give remains with them. Paul does not compel them.
In verse 10-12 we read, “And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
In every case, Paul addresses their willingness to give, and he never even hints that their money or property should be owned or controlled by him or anyone else. Paul does not teach against private ownership at all, which as we have already established is a cornerstone of Socialism.
The idea of Socialism sounds “fair”, but given the nature of the human heart, it cannot work. Which is why it is not advocated by Paul or in any other part of the Bible.