Palm Sunday is here leading up to the greatest holiday in all human history, Easter. Palm Sunday is the triumphant entry of the future King into Jerusalem just a week before he will die to provide salvation to those that would call up on his name.
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 ESV
The people tried to make Jesus a king on multiple occasions. But as quickly as they would have crowned him King they turned on him and had him killed. Did Jesus not want to be King? What kind of government would God want Christians to champion? I became aware of politics as a young boy when Ronald Regan was president. I learned that Capitalism is good and Communism is bad. I was patriotic in all the right ways understanding what it meant to fight the evil communist like Rocky avenging the death of Apollo. I felt America was the greatest country in world. It is interesting how times change, how my view of the world has changed, and what things I value have changed. Today I understand that the world is messy and even the “good” guys are still sinners that practice evil things. Don’t misunderstand there is no country in this world I would rather live than America. I believe it is the greatest country and power ever raised up in a world that is cursed and broken. But America and the people who make up this country like anything else in this fallen world have problems and an ugly history.
When I started studying God’s word a verse that stuck out and confounded me was a verse about the early church because the verse did not describe capitalism, in fact it came across as the exact opposite.
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47 ESV
This sounded an awful lot like socialism or redistributionism “as any had need”. Now going back to my roots of Capitalist America I am suspicious of Progressives who are desperate to redistribute and set things equal. “Equality” and “Fair Share” are mantras they live by. Progressives that I see on the news want to take from others and use the sword of government to enforce their view of equality. Yet here I see a distributive model before me in the early Church. Are Progressives right and is this early church and the ways of God a form of socialism? Is capitalism evil?
Progressives are quick to point out how much of a socialist Jesus seems to be. These arguments are always front and center condemning the unchristian behavior of anyone who might want to cut government spending in any way.
So what did Jesus think of Government? Look as one might there are no descriptions of Jesus standing at the court of Rome demanding government aid to those in need. In fact, what one will find is that Jesus avoided government as much as possible. Look here at this conversation between Peter and Jesus when it came time to pay taxes.
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27 ESV
Jesus felt no obligation to pay taxes but “not to give offense” he wisely instructed Peter to take care of the bill. Who is the tax collected from? Not from those that run the government “the sons are free”. In all of his ministry Jesus does not care about the government outside of its role to provide structure and maintain order. Rome allowed Jesus to walk the streets to speak and carry on his ministry. He asked nothing of the government and he did not seek to reform it while on earth. Of course there is one major exception to his lack of interest in government… Jesus used the authority and sword of government to allow himself to be killed on a cross. This is the one function or area where government has a mandate from God. The one thing Government is permitted that is unique to government is killing people.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval. Romans 13:1-3 ESV
Feeding the poor and providing safety nets are not an expectation Jesus had of government. He looked to the Disciples and asked them what they would do about the hungry.
15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16 ESV
Jesus expected the church, his followers, to care for those in need and to help those who were broken. Jesus did not want his followers ask the Government to do it for them. Jesus wanted Christians to sell their own possessions and to work with their own hands in the community. His expectations are not that government feed the elderly. His expectations are that I leave the comfort of my own home and venture into the homes of those in need.
Jesus has no need for Government made by men because Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is not a socialist or a capitalist because he already owns everything and he will not be a tool of any man’s government no matter the form. Jesus is a servant to those who are part of his kingdom and he freely gives to those in need. It is out of that abundance that Christians should follow his lead and also give to those in need because all that we have is a result of his great mercy.