Socialism as it Relates to the Bible
Ancient Hebrew culture was defined by theology, the Law was divine, and it was to be strictly obeyed. What many people don’t realize is the symbolism and health benefits woven into the Law of Moses. I will not attempt to delve into all of them, just he ones mentioned as relating to socialism.
Under the Law the corners of the fields were to be left un-harvested so that the poor could glean them for food. Every seventh year the land was required to be left fallow. It is important to note that under this system the vast majority of the harvest went to the land owners. The corners of the fields were only a small bit of what was available to be harvested. This is functionally different from Socialism because it allows the accumulation of wealth, while Socialism requires that all wealth be distributed equally. The fallow years served the same function as crop rotation, and it is a practice that is carried out by farmers around the world to this day. Fields that are not allowed to go fallow once in a while loose their ability to nourish the food that is grown on them and eventually become useless. Including fallow years in the Law ensured continued food production for generations to come.
As for the seventh year being the one, numbers are very symbolic in the Bible, and the number seven is the number of rest. God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh. The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week. Every seventh year was a year of rest. For more I suggest you read up on Bible Numerology. It’s fascinating stuff.
There is also the matter of the fifty year Jubilee. In ancient times land was distributed among the tribes of Israel and was declared to belong to that tribe for all time. It was then further parceled among the various families within each tribe. This was during a time when not having land meant utter destitution and homelessness. The landless were forced to be nomads wandering the wilds scraping what nourishment they could from the desert. By returning the land to its tribal and familial owners every fifty years it was ensured that no tribe would be forced out of the land (nation). The price of the land when it was sold was strongly affected by how near the Jubilee was. If it was a long way off the land would fetch a higher price. If it was very near the land would go for less. Private ownership of land was very highly respected. In Socialism there is no private ownership of land as it belongs to everyone equally. No land purchases could be made because it would allow the purchaser to rise above his neighbors.
The Jubilee also affected slavery. As you undoubtedly know slavery is the ownership of another human being. In ancient times sometimes people couldn’t pay their debts or feed their families so they were forced by circumstance to sell themselves or their children into slavery. This would be unnecessary in a socialist society since everyone gets an equal share of everything, so, in theory, there should be no one so destitute that they need to sell themselves into slavery. By freeing the slaves every fifty years it ensured that no family would be continually born into slavery, as happened in the US pre-Civil War. This guaranteed freedom and the opportunity to grow wealthy, much like we have here today.
Ancient Hebrew society had its very wealthy, and its’ miserably poor, as allowed by law. This is the opposite of Socialism, it is capitalism, but with a certain amount of charity enforced under the law, just like we have in the US today! (Welfare is legally enforced charity)
Since the Old Testament doesn’t follow Socialism let’s take a look at the New Testament.
The very early Church was marked by nothing if not love and generosity. Members made a habit of selling everything and sharing among each other as was needed. This was not mandated by law or by Church decree. It was a voluntary system, and it should be noted that not everyone did this, and one couple is recorded as only half doing it, which is a different story altogether. Either way, it makes me wonder just how close the Jubilee was at this time, but that’s beside the point. This does follow the Socialist ideal, and it does so under the circumstances I have previously stated it actually does work under; a small community of like-minded people engaging willingly in the practice. However, it must be noted that during this a rule was put in place by the Apostle Paul that “He who does not work should not eat” which is contrary to the socialist ideal.
One could argue that the Jews were always very generous with tithing and with the giving of alms to the poor, and that that is indicative of Socialism. It is not. God Himself promised that “If you do these things I will pour out their treasures of Heaven upon you.” (Referring not only to donations but to obedience to the entire Law) They gave so they could get way more back from God. In ancient Hebrew society Rich men were seen as the most righteous because they were the most blessed. Once again, this is contrary to Socialism.
This is my take on how the Bible deals with Socialism. It is very capitalist, but demands a certain amount generosity, which is just plain the loving thing to do. So, Bible = Capitalist + Generous.