Before we attempt to answer the basic question posed by this article, we think it would be helpful to define the term socialist.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, a socialist is someone who advocates or supports socialism.  For purposes of this article, we define socialism as the type of society in which everyone (supposedly) shares with everyone else in that society the work and the rewards of that work – most notably, the financial benefits.

Because the Bible contains accounts of some situations in which one or more groups of Christians shared their possessions with another group of Christians, this may give the impression that the Bible supports socialism.  Therefore, we will consider several scriptures to determine if the Bible actually advocates that Christians become socialists.

[Note:  When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when noted otherwise or when we are quoting a source that uses a different translation.]

Acts 2:44-45 says with regard to the Christians in Jerusalem, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

In addressing the reason for this sharing by the Christians in Jerusalem, Wesley’s Explanatory Notes states,

[T]here was no “positive command for so doing: it needed not; for love constrained them. It was a natural fruit of that love wherewith each member of the community loved every other as his own soul.

Acts 4:32-35 pertains to a different situation, but the circumstances are similar to those in the previously-mentioned scripture.  Acts 4:32-35 states,

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all.  Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

A third example of group sharing of possessions is found in Romans 15:26, which pertains to an occasion on which needy Christians who lived in Jerusalem were being helped by other Christians. In this case, the Christians who were helping lived in two other provinces.  This scripture says, “[I]t pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.”

With regard to this last scripture, the number of Christians in Jerusalem with unmet needs at that time was apparently so great that the other Christians in that city could not satisfy those needs by themselves and, therefore, it was necessary for Christians in other areas help to meet the needs.

A question related to this matter is whether or not it is necessary for Christians to give so generously to other people that the generous Christians themselves become needy.  In 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthian Christians,

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack – that there may be equality.

In reference to this scripture, Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “It is the will of God that, by our mutually supplying one another, there should be some sort of equality; not an absolute equality. . . .”

On the basis of the preceding considerations, some people may be uncertain as to whether or not  early Christians practiced a form of socialism.  However, on page 429 of their book entitled When Critics Ask, Norman Geisler, Ph.D., and Thomas Howe, M.A., present the following reasons to believe that the Bible scriptures which we have cited do not teach that Christians should practice socialism:

First, these passages are not prescriptive, but are simply descriptive.  Nowhere does it lay this down as normative.  It simply describes what the believers were doing.

Second, as far as the text indicates, the system was only temporary, not a permanent arrangement. . . .

Third, the communal arrangement was voluntary.  There is no indication in the text that this was a compulsory arrangement. . . .

Fourth, the selling of property and giving of money was only partial.  The text implies that they sold only extra land and other possessions, not that they sold their only place of residence. . . .


Although the Bible mentions several situations in which one or more groups of Christians provided financial help to Christians who were unable to meet their own needs, there is no compelling reason to believe that the Bible advocates that Christians should practice socialism.  This does not mean that the Bible indicates that Christians do not need to try to financially help less fortunate Christians.