Communism, a branch of socialism, is an experimental social system based on a set of ideals that, at first glance, seem to agree with some biblical principles. On closer examination, however, little evidence can be found that the Bible truly supports or endorses communism. There is a difference between communism in theory and communism in practice, and the Bible verses that seem to comply with communist ideals are in fact contradicted by the practices of a communist government.
There is a surprising sentence in a description of the church in Acts 2 that has led many people to wonder whether the Bible supports communism, and has led some people to defend strongly the idea that communism is actually biblical. The passage reads, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45). This statement seems to imply that communism (which has, at its heart, a desire to eliminate poverty by “spreading the wealth around”) is found here in the earliest of Christian churches. However, there is a crucial difference between the church in Acts 2 and a communist society that must be understood.
In the Acts 2 church, the people were giving to each other out of their own good will to those who had a need, and they were giving freely, without regulation of how much they were to give. In other words, they shared what they had out of a shared love for one another and a common goal—living for Christ and glorifying God. In a communist society, people give because a system of government forces them to give. They don’t have a choice in the matter as to how much they give or to whom they give. This, therefore, does not reflect on who they are; it says nothing about their identity or character. Under communism, the cheerful, generous giver and the stingy man are both required to give exactly the same amount – namely, everything they earn.
The issue is one of cheerful giving (which the Bible supports) versus forced giving. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” After all, the Bible contains a great number of references to helping the poor, being generous with what we have, and looking out for those who are less fortunate. When we obey in this area with cheerful hearts with the proper motivation, our giving is pleasing to God. What is not pleasing to God is giving out of compulsion, because forced giving is not giving out of love and therefore profits nothing in the spiritual sense. Paul tells the Corinthians, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Loveless giving is the inevitable result of communism.
Capitalism is actually a better system, when it comes to giving, because it has proven to increase individual wealth, which allows its citizens to give out of their increase. Communism has proven to simply make all its citizens poor, except the very few in power who decide where the wealth goes. But even capitalism won’t work, by itself, as a system for aiding the poor. It depends on its citizens to be diligent (Proverbs 10:4) and generous with the fruits of their labor (1 Timothy 6:18) and to give out of love for God and neighbor. Thus, we see that God has designed for the physical and financial needs of the poor to be met by Christian individuals, rather than by any system of government.