Was Jesus a socialist or a capitalist?

GERRY CHIDIAC Gerry Chidiac is a Prince George writer.



Glacier Media



There is an interesting online debate taking place as to whether Jesus of Nazareth was a socialist or a capitalist. Some of the arguments are rather thought-provoking, but others are just silly. It is important to remember that Jesus was a historical figure who lived in Palestine while it was under the occupation of the Roman Empire. The fact is, neither socialism nor capitalism existed as established social or economic theories 2000 years ago. Jesus was basing his commentary on his interpretation of Hebrew scripture and tradition. He applied these principles to his own cultural context. It would therefore be fairly safe to guess that his challenge to us is to do the same. In other words, whether one professes to be socialist or capitalist, we need to ask ourselves how one would apply the principles Jesus embraced to life in the 21st century. If one examines the words written by followers who were also contemporaries of Jesus, there are several points that stand out. One is that Jesus saw the potential for good in everyone. At the same time, he was extremely critical of greed and hypocrisy. Jesus associated with the rich and poor alike, but he understood the difficulty of being wealthy. He pointed out, for example, that to give to charity from one’s excess is rather meaningless. Meaning comes when we are willing to sacrifice for the well-being of our neighbour. While some wealthy individuals responded positively to Jesus, many others responded negatively to his urging to be their best selves and live with integrity. Their reaction is ultimately what led to the execution of Jesus. What can we then conclude from the debate about the economic theory espoused by Jesus? First, it doesn’t matter. The essence of Jesus’s message is that each person is a sacred human being worthy of respect and dignity. We need to embrace this truth not only in ourselves but in everyone who shares the world with us. The key to happiness is gratitude for what we have and a sense of purpose in contributing to a cause greater than ourselves, the well-being of all humanity. If we upset some powerful people by challenging them to live with kindness and integrity, well, Jesus can relate.