We have been considering the duty of families to gather and increase capital, and to pass that capital down through their generations. To the extent families fail to do this, or deny their responsibilities to do it, they fail to perform their duties to be oases of light and generosity to their extended families and those in need in the church community and in the civil community.
In recent centuries, however, we have seen a terrible perversion of this duty—one which causes Jerusalem to hang its head in shame. In our counsels has arisen the notion that there is a limit to which wealth and property belongs to families. That limit is set by the “greater good” which is defined and determined by the State. In this frame, the State has a prior right over all wealth and property; in principal Athens asserts that the State has final and eminent domain over the entire creation. The State has a right and duty to ensure that the poor are taken care of, and that families are taxed appropriately so that wealth is redistributed to others.
Now, at this point many in Jerusalem have bowed down to Athens, and worshipped at its feet.
They have formally nodded towards the passages in our biblical Constitution which command that love, care, and welfare be extended to the poor. Then, they have entirely disregarded the means and directions and institutions by which we are commanded to fulfil this duty. Instead, they have welcomed to their bosom pagan means in an attempt to fulfil biblical ends.
This syncretism with Unbelief is blighted by God, and to be despised by Jerusalem. It is the same principle which led our fathers in Israel to set up false altars at Dan and Bethel ostensibly to worship the Lord. These were in express disregard of the commands of God: but many were fooled into thinking that as long as the objective and the intent was “good”, the how or the means was relatively unimportant.
In our history, the Lord sent prophets repeatedly to warn against such tactics. Elijah, Elisha, and Amos were sent to warn God's people against this false blending of belief and unbelief. They did not listen. We in our day should let the cries and groans of the disembowelled ring somberly in our ears, as happened when the Assyrians utterly devastated Samaria in a divine judgment in 722BC . That is the end of all such pernicious compromises with idolatry.
In our day, then, “Christian” socialists have joined up with, and supported, the civil state's intrusion into the realms of love, welfare, and charity. They have sought to “christianise” socialism. They have argued that the socialists professed concern for the poor is really a Christian belief and responsibility—therefore, it is a duty of Christians to aid and abet the socialist programme. Sure, we don't agree with socialist secularism, but by making common cause with Unbelief in using the power of the State to take care of the poor we will win their respect, and they will listen to our Gospel witness. Fools. Disembowelling portends.
Jerusalem's testimony is clear and unequivocal: if you are not doing God's work, God's way then you are doing the Devil's work, period. No amount of compassion or emotional commitment to the poor and the suffering in our community will plaster over that ugly fact. It is better not to start at all—for the damage that will be done in the longer term is far, far greater, and the poor will have their faces ground all the more. If you truly care for the poor—as you must—for the sake of our Lord, and in fear of Him, do not make common cause with Unbelief. Do not worship at the feet of the State as if the government were to replace God.
Do not take short cuts. Do not let the tyranny of the urgent, or the exigencies of the moment deflect you from serving the Lord in truth. Actually, the way of the Lord and the way of Unbelief is strongly contrasted right at this very point. To take care of the poor and the needy as the Lord requires one must work hard oneself. It is slow, painstaking, difficult, heart-wrenching and exhausting as we strive to take care of our families and our extended families. It requires a life time of effort. It is never over. And that is the way it is deliberately meant to be. That is what the Lord intends. Through such suffering and faithful labour the Kingdom of God is truly built. Through such disciplines we learn how to be faithful stewards.
According to Athenian Unbelief taking care of the poor is easy. It is someone else's duty. “They” will arrange it through their vast impersonal bureaucratic machine. “They” will fund it through their relentless exorbitant exactions of tax. There. Problem solved. We feel good. Everyone's happy. We have done our “Christian” duty by voting in support of the Athenian solution. Now, we can go on to indulge ourselves.
Fools. If you don't employ God's ways to do God's work, you are doing the Devil's bidding. He is the most subtle of all creatures. He is always masquerading as an angel of light, subverting the holy desires of God's people into means and methods of evil. Satan, for example, would always endorse strongly the whole duty and glory of having children, but will ever suggest that going into a prostitute is the most efficient and effective way to achieve the outcome. The long term damage and devastation is incalculable.
But if citizens of Jerusalem can see so clearly the folly of using prostitutes as the most efficient and effective way to be fruitful and multiply, why cannot they see that using the State to take care of the poor is equally Satanic and equally wrong?
“Christian” socialists have been misled over many years by a superficial distortion of some biblical texts. They have read them with socialist glasses firmly in place. Unable to cast off the vestiges of Athenian welfarism, they have carried them over into the holy canons of Scripture. This deception has given “legs” to their folly.
There are three pivotal passages that have been repeatedly distorted. The first is the apostolic church in Jerusalem. The text says that the Church had all things in common. This, the “Christian” socialists tell us is the first Christian commune. It provides a model way for how the Church ought to be and live. Well no, actually it does and does not. The text says:
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.The situation in Jerusalem was an emergency and, therefore, highly irregular. But, once the irregularity of the actual historical situation is acknowledged, the actions of the Pentecostal church do indeed become normative—for those situations when the people of God find themselves in similar kinds of extraordinary circumstances, as they do from time to time.
Acts: 2: 42—46
The congregation consisted of large numbers of pilgrims (along with locals) who had come from all over the Mediterranean, African, and Eastern world (Acts 2: 9,10) as pilgrims to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Being pilgrims they carried sufficient for the journey, for celebrating Pentecost, feeding their families during the feast weeks, and returning home. That is all. There were thousands of these people who joined the apostolic church at Jerusalem (Acts 2: 41, 47; Acts 4:4).
Many of these converts stayed on in Jerusalem after Pentecost so that they could be further instructed and taught by the apostles. These people had nothing, once their provisions for pilgrimage were exhausted. For example, months afterwards, food was still being required for Hellenistic widows—that is, non-Palestinian Jewish widows who did not live permanently in Jerusalem or Palestine, but had stayed on in Jerusalem. (Acts 6: 1)
Faced with this enormous need, and convinced that it was important that these “strangers” spend as long as possible under the teaching of the apostles, the Jerusalem church did whatever it could to provide help and sustenance for the needy amongst them. They worked harder, they sold off as much as they could, and they brought it to the apostles for distribution to the needy and dependant in the congregation.
But, and here is the point, it was an emergency; it was like a huge influx of Christian refugees into a congregation. Such things happen from time to time—and when they do, churches usually respond in exactly the same way that the Jerusalem congregation did. They open their hearts and wallets and do all they can to help and sustain the needy which have come amongst them. So the churches did in Geneva at the time of the Reformation as hundred fled their to escape persecution in their homelands. So they have done repeatedly through history.
So Acts 2 is not teaching the norm of communal living. But it is teaching what God's people ought to do when large numbers of refugees, needy, and dependant are suddenly thrust upon them.
The second passage which has been repeatedly distorted by “Christian” socialists is the Rich Young Ruler. (Luke 18: 18—31). Here a young wealthy aristocrat seeks Jesus' instruction as to how to enter the Kingdom of God. He claimed to have followed all the commandments all his life. This, of course, was a self-deception on his part. Our Lord pricked his balloon: He commanded him to go away and sell all that he had, give it to the poor, then come and follow Jesus. The man of course, went away, saddened—for he was fabulously wealthy.
“Christian” socialists try to argue from this passage that no-one can truly follow Christ unless he makes himself penniless, and that fundamentally Marx was right: all property is theft. Once again, the “Christian” socialists strip this passage out of its historical context through their fixation with reading the Scriptures through socialist glasses.
The first thing to recall is that Messiah clearly intended to show this man that his real god was his money. All his self-righteousness was collapsed in a moment. Secondly, it is the prerogative of Lord to call and command some of His servants to give up all that they have and live in a manner dependant upon other people while they carry out their particular duties for the Lord. He continues to do this to this very day. Ministers of the Word of God, for example, are entirely dependant upon the care and provision of the people of God as they go about their tasks and duties. But this call and command is to isolated people—for not all are called to unreserved comprehensive careers of teaching and preaching God's Word.
Thirdly, there are many instances where Messiah did not give a similar command to wealthy people: Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Joanna being but three. But, and here is the point, all three showed that they regarded themselves as mere stewards, and that all which they had custody of was at the Lord's disposition and command. Though possessing many things, they lived before the Lord as a servant, possessing nothing. That indeed is the true Christian ethic with respect to wealth: we are to care for it, husband it, and increase it, not as owners but as faithful stewards. We are to use it and apply it as He has commanded.
Finally, the folly of the “Christian” socialist gloss on the story of the Rich Young Ruler is easily demonstrated if we but make it a universal command of God for all who would enter the Kingdom of God. That would require that all Christians give away everything they own and live a life of total poverty and make themselves dependant upon . . . Unbelievers for their sustenance and support. Absurd—everywhere condemned in Scripture.
The third passage often used by “Christian” socialists is found in I Timothy 6: 8—10:
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.Yet this passage says in a nutshell what the true heart and ethic of a steward of God is to be. A faithful steward of God is one who is content with the very simple and the meanest of lifestyles: food and clothing and something to keep the rain out. The truly faithful steward is one who can oversee millions of dollars, yet in heart and mind, believes that none of it really belongs to him personally. He must answer to the Lord for every cent: but it is kept in trust for present and future generations, for the works of charity and mercy, and for the building up of God's Kingdom. A true steward loves the Lord, not money.
The key requisite of a steward is that he be found faithful. As God's people, in their families, set themselves to do all they can to save and multiply capital, it is the Lord's capital they are amassing. They are involved in the work of redeeming creation so that good works might abound. Amassing money for the purposes of a self-indulgent lifestyle of waste and luxury is utterly abhorrent. Where, then, is the glory of God in that?
It is true that faithful stewards are made, not born. It is true that faithful stewards have to learn how to abound and yet maintain faithfulness to the Lord. Yet this is precisely how the Lord works: until one has proved himself faithful in a little, the Lord will not appoint him as steward over a lot. (This, we believe, is one reason why the Lord's people should never bestow large inheritances directly on their children, for their use and consumption—at least not until they have proved that they are faithful stewards before God, in their own right.)
“Christian” socialism, in all its forms, is diabolical. Anyone claiming that he is doing God's work while employing the Devil's means is abhorrent, and an utter disgrace to Jerusalem.