The battle for the next presidential election is already starting to heat up. A number of people have already put their names into the pot for consideration and are already beginning to make their cases for why they should be selected. The potential candidates have already started trying to ingratiate themselves with the public, while attempting to tackle the tough topics that will play a factor in America’s upcoming decision. One particular point of contention is being raised more now than perhaps ever before in America. Currently, our system is mixed to some extent. It is largely capitalistic in nature, but we do have socialist style programs like welfare and medicare. Is a more capitalistic system than what we now have what’s really best for the country? Should we adopt a more socialistic system? Maybe an even more mixed economy would be best?
These questions will factor into whatever decision you choose to make when the time comes, but for Christians all such questions should be directed through an even more important question. “What does God want?” Sometimes the answer to that question might not always jump out at us. Fortunately, we have a couple of resources that will be of use. The most obvious resource is the Bible. It contains instructions on how we should live our lives in this world. However, before we can compare these concepts to the Word, it might first be useful to offer some general definitions for the terms being explored.
Capitalism - an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
Socialism - a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.Both concepts can be more complex than can be summarized by a two or three line definition. Still, for the purpose of this discussion these definitions will suffice. Which system at its core is more in-line with how Christians should live? Look at the definition for socialism above and then compare it to what the early Christians did when they began to come together.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. - Acts 4:32-35What the Christians did sounds very much like a socialist system. That’s not to say it is the same as socialist systems that have been put in place in nations throughout history. In fact, it is far purer than any of those systems because there was no state forcing the people to divide their wealth and care for those in need. The people were just naturally inspired to take those actions after learning about Christ.
On the flip side, capitalism is driven by every individual’s personal drive and desire to acquire wealth. Those who want more and have more ability will likely attain more. While in some instances, capitalism can reward altruism, there is no question that in a capitalist system, putting more attention into one’s own interests will be more beneficial than considering the needs of others. For some, capitalist systems almost breed a love for wealth, and we know what the Bible says about that:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. - 1 Timothy 6:10So this all means that Christians should always vote for the candidate whose philosophy is closest to socialism right? Well, no, it’s not that easy. The problem is that neither concept is inherently bad. Sure in a capitalist system, success depends on a person’s drive to obtain wealth, but there is nothing stopping that person from spreading most of that gained wealth to people in need. In fact, history has plenty of examples of people who did just that. Even now, Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, has pledged to give 99% of his more than 80 billion dollars away to charity. A person that operates in that manner would surely be acting in accordance with Christian principles. Conversely, there is no shortage of examples where socialism was implemented to the detriment of the people. For example, the full name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
People that walk in sin have a way of corrupting everything, while people who walk under God’s guidance can make good from anything. That’s where the Holy Spirit, the other of the two resources previously mentioned comes into play. We may hear politicians and others in our lives say the things that sound right and present ideas that seem godly, but we don’t always know if those people are genuine with their intentions. God knows though. We have to learn to trust the Spirit to lead. He will always guide us to the truth.
The Bible tells us to love our fellow people, and we as Christians should promote that philosophy. Maybe injecting some socialist ideas into the way we do things would be a step toward making Christian values more prominent in our society, or maybe God wants to use certain go-getters in the present system to demonstrate what true Christians look like as they give with sacrificial hearts Just as man’s sin can corrupt any philosophy, God can use anything to make His will manifest. In the end, we all have a duty to align ourselves with whatever line of thinking best represents our values as Christians, but first we must make an effort to put God first and allow him to lead us down the path he wants us to take.
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