Throughout history, the Bible has been used to justify all kinds of movements and ideologies — from the Crusades, to anti-oppressive liberation theology, to the abominable Westboro Baptist Church and its fierce opposition to homosexuality and reproductive rights.
The Bible contains such a wide array of ideas that it can be invoked to advocate for drastically different belief systems. It essentially serves as a Rorschach test that people project their beliefs onto.
That’s why Christians run the gamut all the way from Trump-loving quasi-fascists to radical lefties.
And, as anyone who has actually read the entire Bible may have noticed, one modern belief system which the Bible liberally gives credence to is socialism — that supposed evil that all Christians are expected to hate.
In case you’re boggled as to why anyone would ever use the words “Bible” and “socialism” in the same sentence, I’ve compiled a list of Bible quotes that highlight the Bible’s radical ideas.
But before I start, please note that while I don’t identify as a Christian (I’m an agnostic atheist and, yes, a socialist), I have respect for all religions, including Christianity. My intention is to expose the hypocrisy of some of Christianity’s purported adherents, who twist its meanings to promote a brutally pro-capitalist agenda.
In that spirit, these are six Bible quotes that align with socialist ideals.
Jesus: I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23).
To fully understand this quote, we first need to discuss the context.
Jesus didn’t say this out of the blue. He said it when a young rich man approached him and asked him how he can “inherit eternal life.” Jesus first reminded him that he must fulfill the Ten Commandments. The man then said he’s already done so and asked, “What do I still lack?”
Jesus replied, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Upon hearing that, the man felt dejected and walked away —his wealth would clearly preclude him from getting into heaven.
And then Jesus uttered the famous aforementioned quote, emphasizing that a rich man entering heaven is about as likely as a camel fitting through the eye of a needle — which we all know is impossible.
This quote makes it abundantly obvious that Jesus believed that being rich is inherently immoral and incompatible with Christian values.
In today’s context, this means that billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates would have no conceivable way of going to heaven — unless they were to give all of their wealth to the poor to the point where they’re no longer wealthy.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12).
Here’s the full story behind this quote, which describes a famous scene that’s depicted in the painting above.
In a temple in Jerusalem, Jesus’s disciples had gathered to celebrate Passover. Merchants and money changers in the temple offered some commercial services. They sold doves to be sacrificed and offered to exchange money into the currency needed to pay temple dues.
But they didn’t do so in a way that Jesus considered ethical. They cheated customers, charged prohibitive fees, prioritized profit over ethics, swindled believers, and exploited the poor.
(According to scholars, these temple merchants also colluded with the aristocracy to profit off of poor people’s poverty — they charged interest when lending money from the wealthy to poor people who were in severe debt, thereby making enormous profits.)
Jesus was incensed that these merchants had the gall to turn the temple into what he called a “den of thieves.”
So he expelled them from the temple and literally turned the tables.
This event is regarded by scholars as being the catalyst that triggered his crucifixion. It convinced his enemies that he was a rabble rouser — he presented the danger of inciting revolutionary sentiment among the poor, exploited masses.
The story illustrates that Jesus held radical (i.e., socialist) ideas about the inherent dissonance between commerce and spirituality, and the exploitative nature of profit-making endeavors, such as charging interest, which he viewed as a grave sin.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despite the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth (Matthew 6:24).
The original wording used in this context was “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Mammon is a biblical term for “riches” that was typically used to describe “the debasing influence of material wealth.” It carries the connotation that possessing such excessive amounts of money is intrinsically unethical.
So this pithy quote is a succinct indictment against the rich. It perfectly encapsulates Jesus’s belief that you cannot simultaneously be wealthy and be a good person — the two are mutually exclusive.
If you wish to be a good person, you must prioritize your spirituality above any desire for wealth. Being wealthy means you are hoarding essential resources from those who are in need — and that’s immoral.
Jesus: To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:27).
This quote contains a lot of ideas to unpack. The first part about “offering your other cheek” could be interpreted as an endorsement of nonviolence and pacifism.
In fact, this quote is often cited by Christian anarchists to argue against modern governments’ use of military force to preempt war or respond to attacks. These anarchists believe that these imperialistic, excessively powerful military apparatuses should be dismantled in order to comply with Christian values.
The second part of this quote, which encourages tolerantly allowing others to “take away your goods,” contains radical anarchistic sentiment as well. It can easily be interpreted as rejecting the notion of private property, an idea that is held sacred under capitalism.
And the demand to “give to everyone who begs from you” further reinforces the idea that hoarding wealth and possessions beyond what you need is greedy and selfish.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4).
This quote is an explicit expression of pacifism and anti-imperialism. It is a call for an end to war. The assertion that nations should “not learn war anymore” couldn’t be any more explicitly anti-war.
Anti-war values are central to socialism, since socialism is opposed to nationalism, oppression, imperialism, exploitation, and the rapacious extraction of resources from the earth (which is what wars are sometimes fought over).
“Beating swords into plowshares” has been used as a mantra among anti-war and anti-imperialist socialist movements for centuries. Its literal meaning is that the materials used to make weapons should be repurposed for peaceful civilian uses.
A modern application of this insight could involve dismantling all the nuclear weapons and other military equipment to make things that won’t kill people (like Jamaican reggae artist Pete Tosh’s Stratocaster guitar, which was built using an M-16 rifle). In fact, a Christian pacifist group called the “Plowshares movement” calls for doing exactly that.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
The historical connotation of the word “meek” makes this quote even more socialist than it might initially appear to a contemporary audience.
Scholars note that its meaning has evolved over time, and the difference is subtle but important — whereas today it implies “gentle,” “soft,” or “timid,” back then, it meant something more along the lines of “powerless,” “humble,” or “poor.”
In other words, the meek are those who are marginalized and impoverished — those who have had unjust acts inflicted upon them in an unequal society.
In that light, the statement is clearly radical and revolutionary. It’s suggesting that those who are systemically made powerless due to structural injustice will be rewarded. The tables will be turned. On the flip side, those who are powerful, such as billionaires and political leaders, will be on the losing end of that bargain — they will not inherit the earth, or go to heaven.
Sounds pretty socialist to me.
Sorry to burst your bubble if you’re a conservative Christian, but these quotes make it self-evident that, in modern terms, Jesus himself was pretty socialist. If it wasn’t clear from his ministry and his healing of the sick and the outcasts of society, his words make it even more explicit that true Christians should be focused on helping the poor and eliminating inequities.
And it’s also obvious that he would not condone the exploitative capitalist system that dominates around the world today.
It’s no coincidence that explicitly socialist Christian movements have sprung up — from liberation theology (most prominently Latin American, Black, and Palestinian) to worker cooperative-driven Bruderhof communities.
So let’s not allow the cruel rhetoric of disingenuous Christians to overshadow the beautiful, anti-oppressive values that many socialist Christians uphold.