Christian socialists, such as those who dominate the leadership of my Episcopal church
, often point to Acts 4:32-37
as biblical justification for socialism: [bold added]
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Your humble blogger believes that how a church, family, or any other group chooses to allocate resources internally is up to that organization. The early church indeed lived up to its principles, as the well-off voluntarily
contributed to the neediest members. It may well have incorporated practices that we moderns identify with socialism.
However, to structure an entire society where a central authority controls all property has never worked for at least two reasons.
1) Information: a central authority cannot possibly know the wants and needs of all the individuals in society. And even if it did, producing all the goods and services that a modern society requires, in the proper quantity and the location, is difficult enough in capitalism and impossible in socialism. Just recall the debacle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the government was responsible for the purchasing and distribution of medical supplies and vaccines. Perhaps it was justifiable for the government to take charge in this area, but just imagine if the government was responsible for supplying everything that we use in our daily life.
2) Human nature, specifically sloth. If "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is the guiding principle, why should anyone work, since one will receive the same share of goods and services regardless of effort? In the early Christian church, as there may be in a monastery or large family or a small non-profit agency, there was a great deal of trust among the members, who may be willing to work for a common purpose regardless of a personal reward.
In a society of millions, where there is not one common purpose and where few are known to each other, a church that once believed in man's inherent sinfulness would have known instantly that the selflessness necessary for large-scale socialism to operate makes socialism destined to fail.