Lection Reflection: Is God a Communist?

Who said this?

Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.

Are you sitting there, saying to yourself “wow, that sure sounds like Marx. Didn’t I read that in college?”
Well, sort of, but not exactly. Here is the Karl Marx quote:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

So, if Marx didn’t say our opening quote, who did? Well, guess what — it’s our friend Paul, writing to the Christians at Corinth, in one of this week’s lections, II Corinthians 2: 7-15. The above version is from “The Message,” and has this graf in front of it:

So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,
   Nothing left over to the one with the most,
   Nothing lacking to the one with the least.

Paul is pointing out to them that the Macedonians, as poor as they were, had still wanted to give SOMETHING to help other poor Christians. Titus then asked the Corinthians to join in, and they had promised to do so. Now Paul wants them to finish what they started.

We’ve all heard, I’m sure, countless sermons about giving that reference this chapter. And indeed, there is much rich ground here: Christ’s giving his all for us, the example of the Macedonians, the fact that the giving of the heart came before the giving of the money.

And yet, I’d like to focus for just a moment on this last idea — the idea of the rich-right-now sharing with the poor-right-now, followed by the reverse. It seems obvious that Paul is saying that them’s-that-got should be helping out them’s-that-ain’t. Why? In order to stand “shoulder to shoulder with them all the way.”

But then he says “their surplus matching your deficit.” What surplus? Didn’t we just say that they had a deficit? How can they share back with me, now?

Well, I’ll wager that even the very poor have something to bring to the table. It might be skills and talents, it might be willingness to work, it might be wisdom and insights that are not at first visible.

The point is, we’re all in this together. We share what we can, they share what they can. At some point, the situations may be reversed: we may be monetarily poor, and someone else will have to help us. It doesn’t matter which way the giving flows today, because “in the end you come out even.”

We in America believe so much in our independence, that the idea of actually standing with one another across a power or money divide is difficult for us. I would posit that for many of us, it would be much easier to give $100 to someone on our same social strata than to give that same $100 to someone much poorer than us.

And one more thing — in this passage, there are two graces involved, the grace to give and the grace to receive. Both are to be done in humility and gratitude, because you know what? We’re all in this together, and in the end, you come out even.

Is God a communist, or even a socialist? If you’re asking if God, or Paul, would necessarily support the entire system that eventually took over Russia and China, I’d suspect the answer is No.
But if you walked up to Paul and said “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” Paul might nod approvingly. We need to own the fact that no matter who we are, we have a surplus in something. With that surplus comes responsibility. It’s up to each of us to see what that means in our own lives.

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3 thoughts on “Lection Reflection: Is God a Communist?

  1. Love this. Good word.

    I would love to comment more on this one, but if I did, I would probably say too much. This – the church not being the church – is one of the things that rouses my righteous anger in a BIG way.

    No, God is not a communist or a socialist. Yes, we all – ALL! – have a surplus of something, and we have a responsibility to provide for others, as the Lord leads. And He does lead, a lot more than we realize.

    May the church be more like the church God envisioned. Amen, and amen.

  2. Thanks for reading, Michelle. Agreed — may the church more resemble the kingdom that Jesus preached.

  3. Bruce, I really like what you wrote. I believe socialism is so much more in tune with God's will for God's kingdom on earth than is capitalism. I would stake my life on that premise. Selfishness, for sure, is not a kingdom value; sharing is. The more one has the more that one should give away to those in need. How can one love one's neighbor and be selfish? It is everybody's responsibility to see that there's health care for all. Everyone benefits when needs are met through giving and sharing. God's/Jesus' generosity is our model. Sharing what we have emanates from a heart filled with God's transforming love.

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Lection Reflection: Is God a Communist?

by Bruce time to read: 3 min
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