Communism

30 years ago today the Berlin Wall was torn down, allowing Germans in the city's eastern side to cross over into the western side. I can't blame them for wanting to leave the Soviet-controlled nightmare of Communism. It was a mistake for the United States to divide Berlin with the Soviet Union following World War II, as it was a mistake to divide Korea with the Soviets after the Allied Powers removed the Japanese occupation there. North Koreans aren't as fortunate as the East Berliners had been, because they are still under Communist rule and still trapped in their country by rows of electric fences far more challenging to cross than any wall President Trump may one day build between Mexico and the United States.

Karl Marx, founder of Communist philosophy, probably meant well when deciding private property should be abolished to eliminate the division between rich and poor. Little did he know his ideas would have terrible consequences. Russia's Bolsheviks, formed in 1903 and renamed the Communist Party in 1918, led the movement to take control of privately owned land, businesses and banks. Peasant farmers with more land or livestock than their neighbors were declared enemies of the people and robbed of their property. Ukraine was especially hit hard when the Soviet-controlled government created a famine by stealing food and grain from people's homes. More than five million Ukrainians starved to death. Many are also starving in North Korea, where the injustices began in 1946 when the Soviet-occupied country stole farmland from its own citizens to give to poorer citizens. And following a war with China's Nationalist government from 1946to 1949, Chinese Communists took over and stole farmland from landlords to give to peasants. Several thousand to several million landlords were killed during this redistribution of wealth (estimates vary).

Not all Communist governments are as bad as the ones I mentioned, but no matter how you look at it, stealing from the rich to give to the poor is morally wrong. Unfortunately some of what Luke wrote about the first Christians has been taken out of context to support it. "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (Acts 2:44, 45) "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (Acts 4:32, 34, 35) One of them faced God's wrath by not giving all he had (Acts 5:1-5), but his sin was his lie that he gave all he had (v. 3). He was under no obligation to give up his possessions (v. 4). The Christians in this community voluntarily gave up their possessions for the good of all.

Another misconception used to teach that the Bible supports Communism is based on Matthew 19:16-22. Jesus told a rich man with "great possessions" (v. 22) to sell what he had to give to the poor (v. 21). It's pretty obvious from verses 16-20 that this was a test for the self-righteous man. There's nothing wrong with being rich as long as you don't love money more than God, for you "cannot serve God and mammon [wealth]" (Luke 16:13). (The disciple who put the body of Jesus in a tomb happened to be rich [Matt. 27:57-60].) Love of money was the problem for the "rich man [who] was clothed in purple and fine linen" (Matt. 16:19). Wearing purple in biblical times was a way for the wealthy to show off because purple dye back then was extracted in small amounts from certain species of shellfish, making it very expensive. His obvious pride and cares for the things of this world led to his torment in the afterlife (Matt. 16:22-25). God doesn't want people to be consumed with wealth, but even those who are shouldn't have it taken from them through state-sponsored theft.

The spirit of Communism is one of undeserved entitlements. I'm all for helping the needy, but mandatory wealth redistribution is easily abused. People capable of providing for themselves shouldn't expect others to support them. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, "If any would not work, neither should he eat." (II Thes. 3:10) As for people physically unable to work, they should be helped financially, though they would be better off if they could make their own money. Through faith in God, the apostles Peter and John gave that blessing to a crippled man who survived by begging for money (Acts 3:1-6). Peter told him, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (v. 6) The man then praised God for being healed instead of getting money (Acts 3:7, 8). So if you're able to support yourself without relying on others, that's a blessing you should be happy about.

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