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Was Judas the First Socialist?

Oct 17, 2020

We find some interesting parallels between socialists and Judas:

As I was reading through the gospel of John I was struck by what I read in John 12:6. I of course have read it often before, and perhaps others have made the connection, but it occurred to me that Judas – among other things – may have been the first socialist. Let me unpack that a bit. I begin by offering the verse in context (John 12:1-8):

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

While the main aim of John in this passage is not to discuss economics, or political economy, we can nonetheless draw out some relevant application from it. The three things said about Judas in verse six can broadly be said about socialism as well.

First, John said that Judas did not care about the poor. Even a cursory look at socialism throughout history will show that this more or less applies to socialists – certainly socialists in power. They live the good life in luxurious mansions, with everything they could possibly want, while the masses usually languish in poverty and hardship.

This is true whether speaking of Stalin or Mao or Kim Jong-Un or Hugo Chávez, or whether we consider socialists in the West like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn. They all seem to be doing very well indeed, while us mere plebs so often struggle just to get by and make ends meet. As Margaret Thatcher once pointed out:

I think they’ve [the Labour government of 1976] made the biggest financial mess that any government’s ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalise everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalisation, and they’re now trying to control everything by other means. They’re progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people.

A much shorter and popular paraphrase of the above gets to the heart of her point: “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” And the words of American economist Thomas Sowell certainly fit in here as well:

“What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.”

That leads to my second point: John says that Judas was a thief. Socialism, in a nutshell, is a form of theft. Because socialists so strongly condemn private property, the way things work is pretty simple: the State, or the ruling elites, simply take from the masses what they want. They can then either keep it for themselves, or redistribute the wealth as they decide.

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While I do not happen to buy the claim that “taxation is theft,” I do believe that the higher and more draconian tax rates are, the more theft-like they become. As I wrote in an earlier article, quoting from Wayne Grudem’s important 2010 volume, Politics According to the Bible:

“Taxes are a powerful tool that can either help or hinder economic growth. They also have enormous effect on individual lives, and tax rates can either significantly hinder or significantly help individual liberty within a nation.” Consider the notion of individual liberty:

“If my taxes increase by $100, then I have $100 less to buy some new shoes or clothing, to take my wife to a movie or restaurant, to give to some missions program at my church, to buy books for additional research, to send as a gift to my children, or to do any of a thousand other things. My freedom to decide what to do with that $100 has been taken from me when the government collects another $100 in tax. So it is every time that taxes increase: A little more freedom—another small portion of everyone’s life—has been taken away by the government.” billmuehlenberg.com/2018/09/23/taxation-and-the-bible/

And we need to use the wide-angle lens on this. As Dennis Prager has so nicely put it:

The bigger the government the smaller the citizen. This is one of the most important realisations about society you will ever have. In fact, this understanding is the primary reason for America’s unique success as both a free and affluent society. Everything gets smaller as the government gets bigger. Freedom gets smaller, individuality gets smaller, goodness gets smaller, and human character gets smaller. This is not a political point on behalf of a political party. It is simply an observable fact. And it’s just common sense. www.prageru.com/video/the-bigger-the-government/

The third thing John informs us of is that because Judas was in “charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” This of course follows on from the first two points. In socialism, the individual does not control the money bag – the State does.

When a handful of powerful elitists control the economy and how money and goods are distributed, then you can be sure they will be more than happy to help themselves to what is there. And as mentioned, this has always been the case when the socialists get into power.

What we really want – and need – is not wealth redistribution, but wealth creation. As Sowell again rightly reminds us, “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”

Yet the religious left will keep seeking to make their case, including pushing the idea that Jesus was a socialist or that he fully supported socialism, I have dealt with that in other pieces, including this one: billmuehlenberg.com/2018/08/14/actually-no-jesus-was-not-a-socialist/

In that article I quote from Matt Walsh who said:

We know that Jesus is not a socialist because socialism and Christianity stand on opposite ends of the spectrum. The socialist views poverty, and all human suffering, as a cultural disease that must be cured by the generosity of the State. It takes responsibility out of the hands of the individual and places it into the hands of the collective, which is really a collection of bureaucrats. It allows you to look at a poor man and say, “He’s not my problem because he’s our problem.” And by “our” you really mean “their.”

And I have also looked at the early chapters in the book of Acts which some religious leftists claim support socialism: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/06/21/difficult-bible-passages-acts-432-511/

In sum, those folks who think they can get socialism out of Scripture will find that they cannot get it from Jesus and others. At best, they likely can get it from Judas. But that is not the sort of company I would want to be in.

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7 Responses to Was Judas the First Socialist?

  • It has been said recently: “If Trump falls, the US falls, and if America falls, the world falls . . You’re going to get your basic totalitarian nightmare. You’ve been participating in a FREE six-month trial of this to see how you like it.”

    An encouraging and stirring <2 minute clip on topic:

    https://twitter.com/SSG_PAIN/status/1316048152567275522

    Very much for prayer . . !

  • As I was reading this I was mulling over parallels between corporatocracy\plutocracy and socialism. Both systems see wealth controlled by a minority, though they differ in whose benefit they allegedly prioritise – in practice it’s their own. On the other hand it seems like socialists, plutocrats and corporations are in bed with one another. Could it be they see mutual support as a way to reallocate society’s wealth to where it can be put to ‘better use’?

    Sorry political\philosophical rather than theological.

  • Thanks Andrew. While corporate monopolies can certainly be a problem (just think of how dangerous Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google, etc., are right now), there are still some differences with them and statist monopolies (socialism). While Big Business monopolies can restrict your freedoms – including important freedoms like what you buy and sell, what services you can use, etc. – they still do not have the same enforcement powers as the State. That is, they do not have police and armies, cannot arrest people, cannot execute people, and so on. For that reason alone Statism is still the greater evil and the greater threat. And of course genuine free markets are antithetical to corporate monopolies anyway.

    But yes, as things in general shift further to the left, we do too often find leftist businesses getting into bed with leftist governments, so that does indeed become a real worry. And in theory at least if a business does not perform well or please its customers and/or shareholders, it risks going out of business, or being replaced/challenged by other businesses. Governments on the other hand can easily stay in power for as long as they like, since they often are the only ones who own the guns! While Victoria is not quite there yet, just look at how it keeps voting itself more “emergency powers” to further cling to power and run rough shod over ordinary Victorians.

  • “Judas … may have been the first socialist.” Terrific insight, Bill, thank you for sharing.

    I’d like also to expand a bit on Thomas Sowell’s observation about a politician taking someone else’s money in taxes and giving it to someone who is more likely to vote for him. As I see it, it’s not just taxes. “Heritage listing” of such things as decrepit old buildings is an unfair impost on property owners (note how often church buildings are so designated!), but of course is a vote-winner among the latte-sipping inner-city Greens. In essence it’s stealing a property owner’s management rights to his own property, while lumping him with the (often crippling) burden and responsibility of ongoing maintenance costs. We’ve been softened up over recent decades to view this sort of creeping socialism as normal.

    Same principle ought to apply to vegetation protection laws, too. If the state wants National Parks, fine, but it’s not right to expect private property owners to forfeit ownership/management rights of their own trees while still paying rates.

  • Governments will add a new tax but promise the money will be in a lockbox to keep it safe yet everyone and their brother has a key so nothing is safe.

    If you gave a key to your safe deposit box to everyone you met on the street you shouldn’t be surprised one day to check and find it empty!

  • Judas was also the first corrupt Bishop – much worse than a socialist.

  • Speaking of Social media sometimes you have the corporations becoming an arm of the government or an ideology.

    Well David creeping socialism and other slowly moving evils happen because the church underestimates the patience of satan he is willing to wait 100+ years, look at America, to see his plan to fruition. I think a lot of the church thinks satan is impatient and moves quickly leading to his plans failing.

    Another reason CREEPING socialism etc works is we as humans tend to have about a 5 year window when we compare things. so today we look at things and look back 5 years to compare. That’s not bad but in 5 years we only look back 5 years, to today, not ten {5 years ago} so as we progress we keep looking back only 5 years so say starting in 1900 looking back 5 years to 1895 things wouldn’t have have been too different. Going ahead 5 year and looking back to 1900 same thing. each time things haven’t changed too much. But say at 1960 you looked back not to 1955 but to 1895 you would have noticed a big change. Those that are pushing socialism and all kinds of evil know this so they go slow so we will never notice the change because we won’t look back far enough.

    James Madison warned us, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

    We are always ready for the violent and sudden usurpations it is the silent and gradual encroachments that are a killer. When the armies of hell come straight at you you are ready to fight and sound the alarm it is when the skulk in the shadows and move a few at a time in different directions that we become disoriented and confused unable to sound the alarm.

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