The concept of socialism is rightly repugnant to many, especially those of us who have been reared in the individualistic United States. If anyone with a biblical worldview considers the government takeover of corporations and industries, from banking institutions and automobile manufacturers to the health-care market, they will be rightly disturbed. Many of us open up our newspapers or web browsers with a sense of foreboding – we are not sure what the government will be eyeing next.
That said, there are principles of socialism that are not in and of themselves evil or horrendous. However, when these principles are applied to unauthorized jurisdictions we have a problem. While socialism doesn’t work in the civil realm, specific applications can and should be made in the Christian family. Let’s consider a few of socialism’s distinctives, rightly applied:
First, there is the concept of sharing. One of the problems we have in society in general is that we are a selfish lot. We want the biggest slice of the proverbial pie, and we want it supersized—and free. One of the reasons we are becoming a society beset with one entitlement program after another, is that the concept of sacrifice and servanthood have not been taught at home.
A Christian family teaches the concept of sharing because it is foundational to our faith. When we learn to share biblically, we seek to put the needs of others above ourselves. We learn to “esteem others better” than ourselves, looking out for the “interests of others” as well as our own (e.g. Philippians 2:1-11).
Learning to share is something that should happen early in the life of a child, and it is realized best in the midst of an active loving Christian family, where we can look to the Savior for the ultimate example.
We can teach our children to share even in the simple things. At our house, when we share a container of ice cream, we typically choose a child to be the server. The one important rule is that after all the bowls are filled, the server must choose his bowl last. It’s amazing how “even” the mounds of ice cream are! This is one of my favorite lessons for the children – partially because we really like ice cream.
Another distinctive of socialism is the concept of the common purse. As we look through the Bible, we see the idea of households being blessed, specifically in material ways. And the blessings were for a purpose—the advancement of the Kingdom.
There is a multi-generational aspect to familial blessings throughout Scripture. Abraham was blessed, that he might be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). We read in Proverbs that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22). The wealth of the father in Luke 15 was shared between the sons, the prodigal and the one who stayed home (Luke 15:11-31).
This again is something that should be taught in the context of the family. A family may work and save together to attend a conference or Christian event. Children may work and contribute to various family needs or activities. Another family may sacrifice or save for a ministry need or missionary outreach. This sort of activity teaches far better things than a father who is focused only on a new bass boat or a wider wide screen television. The concept of the common purse is not always bad.
There is also the concept of common work. Of course, there are, within the household, specific tasks that are delegated to individuals depending on age, ability, and gender. But, a common project is a wonderful way to teach the value of community, where everyone comes together to accomplish something beyond any one member.
One creative and fruitful project is that of the family garden. When a family comes together to take dominion of a small square of land, all share in the resulting proceeds. Father and son till the ground and remove the rocks. Mother and daughters plan the rows and plant the seeds. All come together in the evening to weed and tend the garden (or not, as has often been the problem in our poor attempts at a garden).
And then, for the successful lot, at the appointed time, harvest and celebration! In the process, children learn that an investment in biblical work is part of the dominion mandate, and that all members of the family can participate for the glory of God.
There are many other examples that we could draw upon to show that the concepts of socialism, the sharing of things in common, belongs in the jurisdiction of the family. But there is one more common thing that I would like to mention, and that is our common faith.
The Lord said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19). This verse speaks to the sharing of the doctrine of truth. Note here, Abraham didn’t give his household a choice in who they would serve. They were commanded to serve the Lord. And also note, this faith was not just something that Abraham said with his lips, it was a reality Abraham lived out daily – it was seen in Abraham’s example.
Socialist ideals in the hands of the state are an ugly thing. Additionally, Socialism has no place in the Church. Still, there are concepts of socialism that are beneficial for the Christian family. And, by the Grace of God, properly lived out, the result is a faithful Christian family that understands the concept of sharing, working, and serving together for the advancement of the Kingdom.