Once in a blue moon, the left drops its rejection of the Judeo-Christian son of God and reminds everyone that the word-made-flesh known as Jesus of Nazareth was a socialist hippie who loved to slam the rich and approved of taxes.
Rest assured, Jesus isn’t cheering on a “blue wave” of Bernie Sanders style candidates regardless of the reasoning behind much of the left who make this claim. He never cheered on a specific economic system of government in the first place, but the episodes the left point to as proof aren’t the solid examples they think they are.
But regardless of this fact, the left loves to cherry-pick biblical verses to make it seem like Jesus is in total agreement with their system of choice. They’ll take something Jesus said, toss out all context and background, and present you with a hollow version of Jesus’s words and meaning in hopes that they get those dastardly Christians to finally sign on board with what amounts to lawful theft.
I’m going to address a few of the arguments that I hear thrown around by the left quite a bit, and hopefully we can put this ridiculous declaration that Jesus and was a Bernie-bro to bed.
The Camel Through the Eye of a Needle Claim:
Of all the claims I hear that proves Christ was a socialist, it’s the “camel through the eye of a needle” story is the one I see brought up the most often.
It refers to the interaction Jesus had with a young rich man in Mark 10:17-27.
The story goes that the rich man approached Jesus and asked how he could get into the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and the man confirms that he’s done so since he was young. Jesus then says that if the man wants to be perfect, then he should go sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor and needy, and come follow him. The young rich man felt dejected after that. Christ, after some words, said the famous line that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to get into Heaven.
A damning indictment of the rich if ever there was one…according to anyone who isn’t paying attention to what’s happening in the story.
Jesus knew the man had great wealth and great possessions and put him to the test. If this man truly wanted to be a Heavenly poster child, all he had to do was choose God over his riches. This man valued his wealth and status more than God, and wanted to keep it.
Jesus’s sour news to his disciples wasn’t that this man would be rejected from the kingdom of God because he was rich. Jesus hung out with rich people all the time. He ate at their tables, and they funded his ministry. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Mary Magdalen, to name a few, are widely believed to have bankrolled the gospel.
So Jesus didn’t have a problem with wealth, but was getting across the message that there is no such thing as rich dead people. The young, rich man had his heart in the wrong place. In the end, that man will die and he will not be able to bring his wealth and status with him. It’s temporary, but God is not. Jesus’s point was to value God more than your worldly possessions, because you can’t bring them with you.
The Render Unto Caesar Claim:
The episode where Jesus tells the crowd listening to “render unto Caesar” is often used by the left to indicate that Christ was in support of people paying taxes. This is actually one of my favorite stories, as not only does it show how clever Jesus was — something he doesn’t often get enough credit for — but it shows that Jesus wasn’t one for false allegiances and was willing to expose your hypocrisy for all the world to see.
The story, as told in Mark 12: 13-17, goes that Jesus was approached by the pharisees in a public place to try to nail him on the question of taxes. With everyone watching, the pharisees asked if the Jewish people should pay Roman taxes. Jesus asked the pharisees to produce a coin from their pocket and ask who’s face was on it. They produced the Roman coin and noted that the face was Caesar’s. This prompted Christ to respond with “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
For socialist this is proof-positive that Jesus was all for taxes, and we should hike up our tax rates because…
Of course, when you add a little context, that claim suddenly falls apart like a New York “democratic socialist” in front of a camera.
When Jesus’s story takes place, there is a tax revolt happening against the Romans in the Jewish territories. Taxes were a hot button issue among the Jewish people, and one of the driving factors behind the popularity of a bloody revolution against the Romans.
The pharisees knew that Jesus was, at this point, massively influential among the Jewish people. The question they asked Him about the taxes, they hoped, would have one of two effects.
If Jesus answered that the Jewish people shouldn’t pay Roman taxes, the Romans would have an excuse to arrest Him for attempting to start an uprising, which he very well may have if he did say that. The second outcome would be that Jesus would answer yes, and His ministry would immediately be discredited among the populace, rendering Him ineffective as a thought leader.
The pharisees thought they were being clever, but Jesus proved to be the Bugs Bunny to their Elmer Fudd. He was far smarter, and more witty than they anticipated.
First Jesus asked them to produce the coin from their pocket. Without thinking too much about it, the pharisees did just that…and lost the battle immediately. They lost because the coin they pulled out of their pocket was a denarii. This coin was Caesar’s personal currency which he used to pay his soldiers and his servants. It wasn’t a good look that the pharisees — supposed first and best among the worshipers of the Jewish God — were in possession of payment from the Roman emperor.
But to make matters worse, inscribed on the coin was essentially “Tiberius Caesar Divi August Fili Augustus,” which translates to “Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of the God, Augustus.”
So here we have the pharisees who are supposedly the most God fearing and obedient among the Jews under the employ of a foreign emperor who calls himself a “god.” Jesus showed the onlooking crowd where the pharisees’ loyalties were, and uttered His famous phrase “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
In the Jewish tradition, everything belongs to God, which means nothing belongs to Caesar. What Jesus did with His moment of political jujitsu was telling the onlooking crowd and the pharisees confronting Him to pick a side. Either dedicate everything you are and everything you have to the uppercase “G” God, or the lowercase “g” god, whichever god that might be.
It’s Not Money Christ Rejects, It’s Greed:
Christ didn’t hate wealth or the wealthy. In fact, in the Bible it said that Jesus looked upon the young, rich man in the first story with love. What he wanted us to guard against was greed, or putting our wealth and possessions above all else, especially God. Jesus makes this very clear throughout his ministry, and even straight up notes it in Luke 12:15.
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions,” said Jesus to a man who demanded his brother split his inherited wealth with him.
Jesus didn’t turn around and suddenly order the first brother split his possessions with the second. That wealth was rightfully his. Instead, Christ focused on the brother’s demand for his brother’s money, and warned the second brother to be on guard against his greed.
Sound familiar? Christ didn’t assert Himself as an authority figure over your possessions to take and give as He saw fit. He could suggest and urge — it’s no secret Jesus was a big fan of voluntary charity — but He never advocated for the forced taking of possessions or property in order to give to another. Not from His position of authority or the word of a governing body.
So no, Christ was no socialist, and the left can go on booing Him at their conventions guilt free.