Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45 NASB)
In a 2020 video from the Ayn Rand Institute, one heard, “Jesus is killing America; altruism, the sermon on the mount, the rich man can’t get into heaven… Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, Go Jesus! … the morality of Jesus demands socialism… If you believe that we must sacrifice, that greed is bad, that money is materialistic evil, then you go along with Elizabeth Warren and AOC and all those people. If you’re not a hypocrite you say, well, these Wall Street guys are criminals.” There may be many Christians who agree with this interpretation of scripture, but as it is also an interpretation maintained by someone who does not believe in Christ as the son of God, the interpretation is suspect. My own reading of the passage above says that Jesus came to teach and bring justice.
The Randian interpretation of scripture is not uncommon, but the interpretation of scripture must not be done selectively and out of context. Hermeneutics 101 says that interpretation must consider all scripture to be plausible. For example, the Lord tells the disciples clearly in the passage above not to be like the rulers of the Gentiles; they must not be people who rise to power only to domineer and exercise authority over others, even by proxy. Believers must not rule or support rulers (like Warren, AOC, or Trump) who govern arbitrarily according to subjective perspective. In this way, the government creates hypocritical laws which favor one group of people over everyone else. Hypocritical laws and the programs which arise from them are the root of much of the injustice in society. The injustice includes unproductive incentives and moral hazards which have an overall detrimental effect on the weakest and most vulnerable of society. Being a light to the nations does not mean doing harm to society and others.
At the same time, believers must recognize that “Wall Street” is a generalization that includes a mixed bag of hard-working people and government cronies; there are those who are trying to survive the regulatory nightmare created by hypocritical regulations and those who thrive because of them. While it may be trendy to discriminate against “the wealthy” without careful examination, it is certainly not justice.
There are many ways of explaining socialism depending on the context. One way to explain socialism is through responsibility. In a socialistic framework, responsibility or liability of an individual’s choice is shared collectively by all in such a way that the responsibility and risk are reduced. Christianity rejects this kind of thinking and instead challenges believers to take responsibility for every choice one has made in life. Individuals make choices and must then take responsibility for them and for their consequences. Choices are made based on one’s knowledge and understanding, regardless of right or wrong. Repentance is the recognition of “bad” choices while recognizing that the consequences often remain. One may receive forgiveness from God, but the consequences must be satisfied. The socialism of today seeks to take over the role of Christ in absolving people of their bad choices while striving to make them whole at society’s expense. Because socialist collectivism requires coercion for compliance without regard to consequences, society simply becomes more unjust. Growth in faith requires growth in knowledge and understanding of the gospel message which will lead to more careful choices, frequent repentance, and a continuous desire for learning.
The believer should realize that coerced conformity or compliance to any vision of society cannot result in a just society; even the Lord did not stop people from leaving him when they heard something they did not like. Believers should also realize that incentivizing bad choices and creating moral hazards are not the way to spread the gospel message. Believers serve their neighbors by first submitting to the will of God and living in accord with the teaching of Jesus. Believers serve others by working hard to produce something of value for their neighbors; this requires creativity and innovation. This must be done without partiality, without hypocrisy; this means believers cannot support hypocritical endeavors or participate in hypocritical activities no matter how tempting or appealing they may appear or promise to be. It is not easy today, to give up opportunity or easy gain especially when it is legal and everyone else is doing it. However, sacrificing short-term worldly gain to keep God’s word is consistent with living a just life that is pleasing to God.
Perhaps those in the church who agree with the Randian interpretation of scripture might have forgotten the deeper purpose of the incarnation of Jesus. The Word became flesh for justice. The Lord came to die on the cross and take the punishment meant for us. The Lord became flesh for justice and to fulfill the requirements of the law of God “for the wages of sin is death.” It is through the power of the blood of the lamb of God that we have forgiveness and the opportunity to live a righteous life under the grace of God. The wages of sin were not imposed on others to bear, but rather Jesus took that punishment for us out of love. The example of service that Jesus set out for us is living wholeheartedly in submission to the will of God for the benefit of many. Jesus sacrificed himself so that we can strive to live a just life of love by faith. It is the lack of justice today that creates generational poverty, increased crime and violence, inflation, and national instability. Christians must strive to imitate Jesus and live by justice.
However, the life of justice is not the goal of Christian life, but it is a consequence of living by the teachings of Jesus in faith as the people of God. The believers’ hope is life eternal; but while on this earth, we live by the truth of God which is justice. We serve each other and society diligently to be able to provide benefit and opportunity to others who are also subjectively striving to make a better life for themselves. Our lives should always be a testimony to our joyous faith in the liberating gospel message. Believers do not coerce conformity but trust in the timing and will of God. America’s problem is not the morality of Jesus. There are many problems in America, including the socialistic framework and content of public education; but it may be that too many people have forgotten the justice of Jesus. Without this standard of justice, the problems in America will multiply and intensify. The world will do what it does, but the true believers will continue to live by faith with God’s grace for justice whether the world understands or not.