Applied Theology

by James T. Bartsch

The Bible and Contemporary Topics

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. Proverbs 13:22

Is God a Marxist?


It is fashionable among people on the political left and the religious left to decry capitalism and laud some form of Marxism. And in their Utopian, restrictive, do-gooder mentality, those in power in our country evidently rejoice in enticing more and more people to imbibe the opiate of security seductively proffered by the State Plantation.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero has written a fascinating article entitled, "What the Bible Teaches about Capitalism." While his title may overstate the case a little, Spero makes some excellent points about the virtues of capitalism practiced in a Biblical way. WordExplain recommends and largely agrees with Spero's article, published by the Wall Street Journal's Opinion editors on January 30, 2012.

WordExplain certainly does not defend the excesses of secular capitalism, but it finds few benefits whatever in the oftentimes brutal repression and economic disaster of Marxism. Socialism is but a half-way house on the road to Communism.

I do not wish for a moment to equate the developing American version of Marxism with the brutality and bloody repression of Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao Tse-tung. American Marxism, so far, can be viewed as a smiley face with a business suit. But make no mistake, the American government, as of this writing, wishes to control businesses, banks, insurance, and the environment. It seeks to dictate our health care, what food we eat, what cars we drive, what light bulbs we shall use, what energy sources shall be available, what temperature shall be maintained in our homes, and what religious practices can be over-ridden.

In this article, however, we wish to narrow our focus. What does the Bible say about work, private property, charity, the role of government, and personal responsibility?

Work and the Welfare State

In the Old Testament, God underscored for His people Israel the importance of protecting vulnerable people in society. Three classes are singled out especially as needing protection and care: the orphan, the widow, and the alien 1  (Deut. 10:16-18). God gave to Israel specific instructions as to how to care for the vulnerable of society. One such set of instructions is to be found in Deuteronomy 24:19-22:

Harvesting a field of grain: 19“When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Harvesting olives: 20“When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

Harvesting grapes: 21“When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

I once preached a message on this passage. Afterwards, someone from the audience spoke to me and said, "You know, the recipients of this generosity from neighbors had to go out and work to get their food. The landowner didn't do their work for them. Each had to do his own work." That church member had great insight. In our society, recipients of largesse from other taxpayers are not required to do any work. They receive a check or an automatic payment and do nothing to earn what they have been given. Our system here in America does not come from the Bible, and it does not come from God. It is demeaning, rewards laziness, feeds peoples' sense of entitlement to other peoples' money, and is a disincentive to character and hard work. It sounds like a system designed to destroy a nation, not improve it.

The Biblical work ethic is aptly and succinctly expressed in the following excerpt from Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians (3:10-12):

10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.

New Testament Christianity incorporates personal responsibility alongside compassion. If an able-bodied person is unwilling to work, he should be given no hand-outs!



1 There is no evidence in Scripture that illegal aliens are in view here. There is no reason to believe that, in the Bible, aliens who enter illegally into a country are entitled to preferential treatment any more than burglars who enter someone's home illegally are entitled to preferential treatment. Back to text.

Prepared by James T. Bartsch

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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.)

Published February 20, 2012

Updated August 23, 2014

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