Skip to comments.Was Jesus A Conservative
Posted on 05/27/2009 4:49:21 AM PDT by IrishMike
The assertion that Jesus was a socialist is misguided and incorrect because the premise is grounded in the liberal ideology of Americanpolitics, not in biblical exegesis.
In a dispute between secular liberals and Christian conservatives, the canard that Jesus was a revolutionary radical liberal is made with no great surprise. This claim has its roots in the New Testament narrative that chronicles Christs ministry of helping the poor, the disabled, and the oppressed. Analogously, we are supposed to infer that since liberals advocate programs that redistribute upper-tiered wealth to the lower class that this makes them faithful stewards of Gods kingdom.
Liberalism and Conservatism Defined
Todays liberalism, sometimes called social liberalism or welfare liberalism, is a reform movement that seeks to enhance the welfare of the populous through government intervention. This branch of liberalism seeks equality of life, and therefore tends to promote leveling programs that take from the prosperous and give to the underprivileged. Welfare, affirmative action, and Medicaid are good examples of such programs.
Todays conservatism, sometimes called classical liberalism or neo-classical liberalism is a philosophy that also seeks to enhance the well being of the populous. Freedom, as understood by conservatives, is a freedom from government, not freedom through government. By promoting personal industry and a competitive free market, the populous is encouraged to be successful by the fruits of their own labor, not by government entitlements or dependency. The trademark of conservatism is keeping government small and efficient, but powerful enough to protect her citizens from the threat of harm and fraud. Crudely put, conservatism sees government primarily as a protector, whereas liberalism sees her as an enabler.
Understanding liberalism and conservatism in terms of government size and function presents somewhat of a problem for our question. Jesus didnt talk much about government, and therefore it would be difficult to frame Jesus political ideology in terms of being a political liberal or political conservative. This is important, and well get to this point later. However, for the purposes of this article, we will address some of the common passages liberals use to bolster their argument that Jesus was on of their ilk.
The Charitable Giving of Conservatives and Liberals
One such passage is in Luke 4:18-19 where Jesus says,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
The obvious meaning of the passage is that Jesus was anointed to advance charitable works. Prisoners would be freed, the blind would receive sight, and barriers for the oppressed would be removed. This was Jesus mission. So, lets take a look to see how charitable liberals are.
Arthur Brooks, a behavioral economist and a director of nonprofit studies at Syracuse University, authored a book entitled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. Using ten databases from scientific surveys in the past decade, Brooks compiled statistics on charitable contributions by self-professed liberals and conservatives. He found that secular liberals who believe fervently in income redistribution via government programs gave far less to charity than conservatives. On average, religious conservatives gave 3.5 times more than secular liberals, and when religious giving was excluded from the analysis, conservatives still contributed more to charity than liberals annually.
In his book, Brooks concludes that liberals want everyones tax dollars to support charitable causes, but are more reluctant to write checks to support such causes. Byron Johnson, a sociology professor and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, corroborated Brooks conclusions from an independent research project called, A Report of Faith in America.
Brooks analysis delivers a serious blow to the liberals claim to Jesus. Forcing others to make charitable contributions that one is disinclined to do without external compulsion is called hypocrisy. And hypocrisy was among the most serious charges Jesus laid on the Pharisees during the New Testament era. In Matthew 23, Jesus says,
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Jesus Believed in Charity, not Socialism
One of the most commonly cited passages used to support that Jesus was a liberal, or perhaps even a socialist, is Matthew 19:21-22, where Jesus says,
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Some liberals interpret this passage as an endorsement of socialism. A young wealthy ruler sought Jesus advice, asking him what he must do to receive eternal life. After a brief exchange, we discover the young ruler was proficient in matters of the law, and yet he felt something was wanting. Jesus struck to the heart of the matter, instructing him to surrender his wealth and to follow him. The young man was unable to abdicate the one thing he valued most, his sense of security. It was a common theme in Christs teachings that unless you can forsake that which you value most, you cannot be his disciple (Matt 10:37 16:24, Luke 9:23, 14:26, Mark 8:34). For instance, in Matthew 10:37, it reads,
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
This passage is no more about promoting dysfunctional families than the passage about the young ruler is about promoting socialism. The key to understanding these passages is that Jesus utilizes one central theme - nothing must come between Jesus and his followers. In the first passage, its ones possessions; in the second passage, its ones immediate family. Both stories exemplify that Christ demands nothing less than complete devotion. Wealth and family are valuable possessions, but should not stand between you and Jesus. The moral of the story is sacrifice, not socialism.
In order to put Jesus values into proper perspective, one has to consider the purpose of good conduct. For instance, the scriptures portray Jesus as weak on defense (turn the other cheek), big on social programs (give to the poor), harsh on the wealthy (nearly impossible for the rich man to enter heaven), soft on punishment (he who is without sin, cast the first stone), and pro-taxes (render unto Caesar what is his). It would appear that the New Testament is a haven of liberal ideology. However, nowhere in the scriptures did Jesus petition a government to deliver on any of these commitments. Instead, Christ implored his followers to sacrifice of themselves. The act of kindness and brotherly love must germinate from the individuals heart, not the policy of some lifeless institution that mandates a sacrifice. And there is a good reason for this. The purpose of charitable giving is not to level out the inequalities of society, but to benefit the soul of the benefactor.
Giving ought to be Voluntary, not Compulsory
In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs his disciples to give to the needy only in secret so ones philanthropy is not seen by men. He warned them that if they displayed their charity in public, they would not receive their heavenly reward. This passage is enlightening. If the purpose of charitable giving were to improve the well being of the poor, then why would it matter if such acts were in public? In fact, it could be argued that public giving would promote and produce likeminded behavior, which would ultimately benefit the needy. And yet, Jesus states that God would withhold His reward if they made a public display of their giving. The answer is quite clear its not about the poor, its about a willful sacrifice.
The Purpose of Giving is to Promote the Gospel
And this brings to me to my last point. In Luke 16:15, Jesus tells the Pharisees,
You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in Gods sight.
And in John 5:44, Jesus tells the people,
How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
The moral here is that goodness is judged good by God alone; it is not mans prerogative to determine whats morally right. When Jesus healed the boy at Capernaum, he said,
Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.
Jesus did not heal the boy because the boys illness brought him near to death, but because it might introduce onlookers to the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus healed the paralytic at the poolside, he told him to stop sinning or else something worse may happen to him. Jesus didnt heal the man because paralytics ought to have equal standing with others in society, but rather to induce in him a morally productive life. And when Jesus applied mud to the eyes of a blind man thus restoring sight, he told his disciples that this man was blind so that the glory of God might be revealed in him. This last example is a strong testament to the purpose of good works, which is to show the world that Jesus is the light the mediator sent for the worlds atonement. It is important to note that Jesus purpose of good works is not the message of secular government programs, nor is it the goal of liberalism in general.
Jesus was not a liberal in todays sense. What he did, he did for God, not for men. In Matthew 26:7, Jesus disciples were angered when they saw a woman pour expensive perform on Jesus head. They thought it was wasteful because it could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus responded,
Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
Jesus point was although charitable deeds are good, they do not take priority over Jesus and his message. This same message can be read in Acts 6:1-4, where the Greek Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. As a result, the twelve disciples gathered together to render this conclusion,
It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the world of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn over this responsibility to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
The idea is that charitable contributions, although virtuous, does not supersede the ministry of God.
The assertion that Jesus was a socialist is misguided and incorrect because the premise is grounded in the liberal ideology of American politics, not in biblical exegesis. Not one place in the bible did Jesus advocate it was the function of government to do what loving human beings ought to do on their own. As noted above, conservatives are not opposed to social programs. We shed our blood, donate our time, apply our labor, and voluntarily redistribute our income to the poor. And quite frankly, research shows we are better at it than liberals. Jesus was a conservative because he promoted charitable giving on behalf of individuals, not government. Jesus was a conservative because he promoted the hard work and success of the individual, not the legislative body of the government. Jesus was a conservative he saw giving as a ministry of the gospel, not a secular and spiritless exercise of government in order to level the economic playing field. Liberals may claim Jesus as their own, but Jesus would not claim them as his own. It takes a lot more to give from your personal resources than it does to compel others to give through taxation.
More importantly; if He returns, what kind of car would He drive?
A suburban only seats 9.
“Thou shalt not steal”. No exceptions for “unless you work for the government”.
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”.
Or at least a crew-cab pickup truck.
It also said God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden in his Fury
Lessee ... when it comes to charitable giving ... which group was it that’s historically been shown to be more generous?
Google on CSM “Christian Socialist Movement” “Jim Wallis” “Tony Campolo” “Brian McLaren” “Shane Claiborne”
Well, you can count out Judas. Thomas would doubt he could fit in. Peter would deny they stopped to pick him up (three times). That still makes a total of ten, including Jesus. However, since he fasted in the desert for 40 days, they could squeeze the extra in.
You left out the husckster.
“We shed our blood, donate our time, apply our labor, and voluntarily redistribute our income to the poor.”
Jesus said feed the hungry, comfort the sick and aid the poor.
He said NOTHING about mandatory government wealth redistribution...
..and I don’t think HE would be very pleased with those who have gotten wealthy from claiming to represent the poor in the name of God.
..but who am I to judge...
Jesus told us what WE were to do.
He did not tell us to abdicate that responsibility to the government. The government is not there to do our good works for us.
1. The general public; the masses.
2. A population.
I just don’t like this kind of supposition. Jesus is/was neither a conservative or a liberal - he was an infallible, perfected being.
To try to proscribe human politics - something that Jesus would have rendered to ceaser, something beneath the divine - to one who lived a perfect life seems blasphemous.
One problem I have with this is that a miser can always say he loves Jesus more that his money. He is only tested by relinquishing his wealth, which he won’t do. But he can still say his love is greater... and who would know?
1/3 of the “horizontal” commandments are about respecting private property. And here are some NT quotes - clearly God is conservative and not a socialist:
2 Thes 3:6-12
6In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
Those who are stealing must stop stealing and start working. They should earn an honest living for themselves. Then they will have something to share with those who are poor.
2 Corinthians 9:7
7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
But I later noticed that there's an absolute howler ("perform" for "perfume" in the account of Jesus and the woman with the precious ointment), so it's not lack of intellectual ability but misuse of the spell-check prompt function.
There's no substitute for actual proofreading.
These days he would be a conservative. For his time and place, he was very liberal.
He would probably have moved on from a donkey, but I would think not anything very showy.
ping for after my dr’s appt
My husband had a discussion on this topic once and someone seriously told him a Honda Accord.
Matthew 25:14-29So, to address the question of whether Jesus would advocate socialism, let's compare and contrast some central themes of socialism with this lesson from Christ.
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 Therefore 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. (emphasis added)
1. Socialism says "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." But Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a capitalist investor who entrusts his resources to each according to his ability.
2. Socialism seeks to equalize outcomes so that everyone benefits equally from output, but in the Kingdom of Heaven described by Jesus, the owner/master rewards his performance.
3. Socialism seeks to "spread the wealth around" by taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor, but in the Kingdom of Heaven described by Jesus, what little is held by the non-productive and lazy is taken away and given to the most productive in order that it might be put to better use.
Sounds like three strikes for the notion that Jesus was a socialist.
Jesus is a royalist.
But oddly enough, He would drive a big ole pickup with a carpenter’s toolbox in the back and a bumper sticker that read “Live Better/Follow Me”.
Matt 25:28 28. `Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
Jesus actually teaches that the "wicked and lazy", even though they may only have one talent, will have their talent taken from them and given to who? Not the poor.
Disagree. His ideas may have been radical to the establishment, but the Master was the ultimate in conservative. To realize this, you must consider His ultimate goal: that of reconciling man to God. Basically, a return to a singular principle of denying self in favor of God.
Liberalism is the polar opposite.
Liberalism is quintessentially “worldliness”, being a friend of the world (and the father of this world - Satan).
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
In the parables, Jesus several times uses examples involving “contract law”; for example, between workers and landlords. I think that sometimes these are misinterpreted, as if they were instructions for doing such matters differently. After some thought, one realizes that it most cases Jesus is pointing out that the principle he is illustrating is simply NOT like the familiar relationship. He is making a contrast. But nowhere does he say that the traditional economic relationships themselves are wrong. He uses economic things as illustrations, because of their familiaty to his listeners; but economics is plainly not his focus.
Jesus also said many things in the form of hyperbole. This is a very simple, obvious turn of speech, and yet many Christians (even pastors) don’t seem to see what a simple matter this is, and get all tangled up in a literalism which betrays an inability to read with intelligence. There are two main rhetorical forms used in the Sermon on the Mount: paradox, and hyperbole. If you understand those, everything falls into place. Why does Jesus say that the meek shall inherit the Earth? Because it is a paradox, and a paradox does three things: it gets your attention; it makes you think; and it causes you to remember. In this case, he is saying that his way is not the way of force or compulsion (and the Roman soldiers standing around were a constant reminder of that principle). He was not saying that the meek literally would or should take over secular society in some sort of mass-movement, as called for in the first line of the Internationale.
One last point: in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus several times makes it clear that his expectations are very modest. That is, he does not expect very many people to understand and follow his Way; we might say, to “get it.” He predicts that if you try to explain his teachings to people who are not receptive, they will viciously attack you. Too true! He specifically says that the traditional Jewish law should be followed (which we do not do).
Would a revolutionary say that “not a jot or tittle” should be changed? No way!
Would a revolutionary say that his true followers will always be a very small minority? No way! (Revolutionaries always imagine that their approach will soon be universal, made so by force, if necessary.)
So those who try to call Jesus a revolutionary are merely projecting their own, modern attitude. Oddly, they sometimes view their ideas as a great discovery, and themselves as experts in theology, “professing themselves wise ...”
We should be careful not to try to impress our own ideas on Jesus. Let him speak for Himself, and let us listen.
And that also means that we are on our own in fields not addressed by the Bible, such as geology, biology, economics, medicine, Chinese cooking, computer technology, auto mechanics, &c. Surely we are supposed to figure out some things for ourselves!
Always pay special attention to “the letters in red”.
When Jesus speaks, the Father is speaking.
But since Jesus is the antithesis of Evil, he cannot be a Liberal (in the Democrat Party sense). Liberals require a compromise with, or outright submission to Evil, and I don't remember Jesus being big on the whole “compromising beliefs” thingy.
Yes, radical, and also very liberal in contrast to the establishment.
His ultimate goal: that of reconciling man to God.
Agreed, and he'd probably be shocked at a good portion of organized Christianity today.
“Agreed, and he’d probably be shocked at a good portion of organized Christianity today.”
Not really. He predicted (at the end of the Sermon on the Mount) that all sorts of charlatans would arise, including ones using His name. And he gave the test: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
We ourselves are shocked, and I think that we should be. We should be shocked and offended. But Jesus is not surprised grieved, but not surprised.
Sorry! I missed your post.
Don’t be sorry. We were posting at just about the same time, and we were making the same point. I was just a bit more loquacious.
Indied... uh, indeed! :-D
What makes you think he himself would drive. He'll have an entourage of angels. He'll need a bus.
There were several other tests as well,
mostly that those who speak from the world’s point of view (ie, are friends of the world) do not speak from God’s point of view,
and are in error, speaking from the “spirit of error” (Satan).
1 John 4, John 8:42-, James 4:4
Complete this Revised Updated Version:
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 three he gave five talents each, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 One who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 The second who received five talents went and redistributed all five to the poor. 18 And the third who received five talents traded, made another five talents, and with these, reinvested three, gave one to the poor, and gave one to the temple. 19 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 20 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 21 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 21 As Jesus told the parable, the lord of the servants responsed as follows:...........
he = He
There was plenty of room in those old Fury’s. If they would’ve floated, Noah could’ve used one for his ark.
Wrong ratios for a proper ark...
Jesus was not a democrat. Jesus believes in helping those who help themselves. Democrats believe in punishing people who help themselves, robbing them to give to the lazy.
You know the old teach a man to fish analagy?
Republicans want to teach people to fish so they can get their own fish. Democrats just want to give fish.
To try to proscribe human politics - something that Jesus would have rendered to Caesar, something beneath the divine - to one who lived a perfect life seems blasphemous.
True and well said.