UCG: Jesus and Early Christians Were Not Communists or Socialists

History of Early  Christianity


Were early Christians communists?  Was Jesus a socialist?  In the current issues of its Good News Magazine, UCG says no:

by Don Hooser, Tom Robinson

A common misunderstanding is that the early Church practiced communal socialism, which some believe based on what they read in the beginning chapters of Acts.

Note Acts:2:44-45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

But this was a unique situation that didn’t last very long. We later see that elderly widows were to be financially provided for by a common church fund only if they had no family members in the Church who could privately support them (1 Timothy:5:3-16). Obviously, all members of the Church’s congregations at this later time were not being provided for out of a common fund—only a select number in real need…

However, keep in mind that they could not sell what they did not own. They were voluntarily selling some of their privately owned property so they could help others. This was charity, not communism. No one was compelled to sell his property, nor did anyone confiscate one’s property or income to give it to others, as many governments do today.

Acts:4:32-35, which follows shortly after in time order, shows that the pooling of resources was still going on. The account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts:5:1-11 adds further clarity. God did not execute judgment on these two for their refusing to share, but for their telling a lie to make themselves look good.

The apostle Peter asked Ananias, “While it [their possession] remained [unsold], was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?” The couple was not obligated either to sell their land or to give away the proceeds. Again, this was not communism or socialism.

The words of Jesus Himself should make it even clearer. In His parables of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, He portrayed God as a vineyard owner paying different employees the same agreed-on amount even if they worked for less time.

The employees who worked longer thought it unfair. But the owner, representing God, replies to one: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (verses 13-15).

To the final question here, communists and socialists, and those with such leanings, would answer no—since in those systems the community or state decides. Jesus’ statement, while figurative of spiritual principles, is nevertheless a ringing endorsement of both private ownership and free market exchange without wage control. He was certainly no communist—and neither were His followers.

Regarding Jesus, He also taught many parables that demonstrated that He endorsed private ownership and other aspects considered to be capitalistic.  Notice a couple of His parables:

24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.  25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:24-25)

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.  19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’  23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. (Matthew 25:14-29)

Notice in the the last above parable, the wealthiest, most productive, individual was given even that which the poorest had, not because Jesus does not love the poor, but because He expects His people to do the work.  And notice that He rewarded those that did the biggest work much more than those who did less, or thought that enough work had already been done.

Now, not being communist or socialist does not mean that Christians were not generous.  Tithing, the giving of 10% of one’s income, as well as offerings (giving even more) were also practices (see Tithing Questions and Some Answers).  And every three years, a special tithe for the poor was given by the Jews as well as Christians who continued those practices (see Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today?).

Jesus taught, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 ).

Do you follow the practices of the early faithful Christians?  Do you try to be productive and financially support the work of proclaiming the gospel as well as helping those in need?

Some articles to assist in your studies may include:

Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. These are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG.
Tithing Questions and Some Answers Addresses some non-biblical arguments against tithing. Should people tithe?
Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today? Some in the COGs no longer teach payment of third tithe, is this biblically correct?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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