The most universally agreed upon and popular answer is that Jesus is, at least, a nice guy. Emphatically, Jesus is so pleasant that he is almost gross. We admire this kindness we place upon Jesus, but we don't want to be like Him ourselves. An incessantly nice person does not feel human. We, regular people, don't exactly relate to a guy who seems never to get angry. There is something kind of repulsive about a man with no passion. Nevertheless, the growth of Buhudist ideology in our culture has taught us to think that no passion is the ideal. (Check out: "The Virtue Of Anger" for more on that.) And as a culture, we have long accepted Jesus as the ideal human. Ergo, Jesus must be a nice guy without passion.
Every so often, it seems that someone writes a book about another Jesus question: Was Jesus, a Socialist? Answering this question seems as effortless as the last. Of course, Jesus would be a socialist; because Jesus was a nice guy. And in our minds, capitalists are the mean guys who take everything they can get and let the weak starve. (Ironically, this idea could also be called "survival of the fittest," but somehow, we find a world that functions like that to be repulsive.) The socialist, on the other hand, is the nice guy who gives a helping hand. Are you in need of work? The socialist will provide you with a paycheck until that perfect job comes along. Indeed, Jesus, the ultimate nice guy, would be in this second camp? Wouldn't He?
Matthew's Gospel gives us a parable (Matthew 20:1-16) that Jesus told regarding a landowner who hired laborers for His vineyard. In this story, the landowner parallels Jesus and what He is doing through His ministry. The landowner employs several workers throughout the long day. Each person hired agrees to work for the standard days' wages. But because the workers hired at the end of the day got a full days wage, those who worked longer expected to get paid more than they agreed. But when the time came to pay the employees, everyone got paid the same amount, regardless of how long they worked. Is this not an example of Jesus practicing socialism? Indeed, it is an act of generosity by the landowner. But this story is by no means a promotion of a socialist approach to life and business.
In Jesus' parable, the first hired hands complain to the landowner about unjust treatment. But the landowner puts them in their place, insisting that he is acting within his rights as a landowner. The landowner's rebuke to the first workers that He hired is a capitalist statement all the way. Landowners are capitalists. The land does not belong to the community but to the individual. The capitalist landowner says to the hired laborers: "I have done you no wrong. Didn't you agree to work for me for a day's wages? Then take your money and go! If I want to give this last person the same amount I am paying you, what is that to you? Am I not free to be generous with what is my own? Or are you jealous because I am kind?" (Matthew 20:12-15). If you were expecting Jesus to be a soft, indulgent socialist, the capitalist Jesus just delivered a significant smack-down.
The argument Jesus lays out is one of pure capitalism. First of all, the workers the landowner hired were in a binding agreement regarding wages. If they had thought their wages to be unfair, they could have haggled a better deal at the beginning. Secondly, the landowner believes and acts upon the notion that His land is his private property and that he is free to do what he wants with what is his own, including being generous toward whomever he chooses. The landowner exercises his capitalist prerogatives by being generous.
The downfall of socialism as a Christian government system is that a socialist has nothing to give out of his own resources. The socialist looks generous, but he is generous with other people's money. That is not generosity at all. That is stealing the wealth and the benevolent character of another to boost one's own sense of goodness and social standing. It is only the capitalist who has something of his own to give or to use to hire.
If Jesus were a socialist, he would have given other people's lives as a ransom for the world's deliverance instead of His own. He would have sent in the troops. But Jesus gave His own personal property. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for many. And even in Jesus' death on the cross, He practiced capitalism. Because with His blood, He purchased for Himself,
men and women from every tribe, nation, and tongue. And those who Jesus purchases, He also sets free to become good and generous landowners like Himself.
Do you give to the poor, or are you generous with someone else's money?