Memo to Jim Wallis: Christ is not a crypto-communist/ socialist

Anthony posted this in the comments but it is so good I am posting it here. Source: On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom:

St. John Chrysostom

Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone?

Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift.

Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm.

Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.


  1. cynthia curran :

    Anyways, I believe that in John Chrysostom time actually in some cases the poor did bear more of the tax burden since senators were exempt from some taxes. Anyway, poorer peasants avoid taxes by becoming farm workers for larger estate farms to avoid these taxes, and the government prevent peasants or coloni from moving from these estates to keep farm production this was the early development of feudalism. I believe that John Chrysostom also wrote about envy of the rich. I don’t have the passage off hand. Also, I think that hatred of the rich has lead to two terrible revoluations, the french were a lot of the nobility was beheaded and of course the one in Russia were a lot of the wealthy and middle class were killed or deported. Also, Stalin made class warfare even worst by elimanting the Kuliks who were not wealthy but peasants that did better than other peasant farmers.

  2. Also, Jim Wallis gets his views from the old testment. The old testment forbidding Jews to lend at interest to other Jews. This cause a lot of problems for christians in the middle ages as well. Joseph serving under Pharoah during the famine but ancient Egypt is not a modern society and Pharoahs own their own grainery and of course this was an emergency and in emergency situations state action can avoid massive stravation not regular economic periods. The old testment law that cancelled debt every seven years, ancient soceties based upon mainly land ownership tended to have debt problems worst than modern ones.not saying that was the best way of dealing with the debt problem in all situations in the ancient world. Finally, property returning to the first owning family every 50 years. As a book I recently read probably a lot of Jews ignore this since it would be difficult to sale property in ancient Judah or Isreal.

  3. I wrote about this and the Orthodox theology that connects with economics back in April.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    well said, Fr Andrew. I often find that Chrysostom is often a bracing corrective for anything that ails the Church throughout the ages.

  5. What does communism have to do with Christianity, especially Orthodox Christianity, you might ask? The truthful and accurate answer should always have been and continue to be “nothing.” Communism is a humanistic heresy that is diametrically opposed to everything Christianity stands for and has tried for decades to substitute itself as the “religion” that replaces God’s ultimate and unchanging truth. An objective, Bible based, and Christ-centered critical evaluation of communist ideas will always show that its ideas and ideologies are wholly alien to Christianity. Unfortunately, for the lives of tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children across multiple generations, this insidious lie has infiltrated Christian thought and preaching. I believe that many still embrace communist ideologies failing to realize or admit just how dangerous and deadly this poisonous heresy is and how subtle in its ability to deceive the masses.

    From the very beginning, theological charlatans and unscrupulous demagogues have tried to equate communism with Christ’s teachings, hoping to bring legitimacy to an evil and corrupt ideology. Such falsehoods found fertile ground among many faithful in Orthodox lands and resulted in a corruption of truth that lead to much suffering and death. For decades since, many religious leaders, clergy, and faithful still see a mistaken synergy and symbiosis between communism and Christianity. Far too many Christians continue to wrongly equate the falsehood and corrupt evil with the truthful and faithful teaching of Christ. Far too many continue to propagate the lie and continue to embrace the heresy, sometimes without really understanding what is really happening.

    I am thankful that Fr. Andrew pointed out St. John Chrysostom’s teachings on this subject and the critical insights this saint of the Orthodox Church provided so long ago. Those strong warnings regarding core principles that form the foundation of socialist/communist ideologies should have been heeded by the Church and taught to the people. Sadly, neither I, nor other Orthodox (even many priests) have ever heard or seen these writings of St. John Chrysostom. Such moral authority and Christian teachings are needed and must be shared with others as we continue to face this deadly heresy in the culture around us, inside our very own churches and among the clergy and even some hierarchs.

  6. Those with cruel hearts and sharp minds would find a way to become rich again. True, the top of the upper hierachy of the communist parties in several countries including the old Soviet Union had special stores, so they didn’t have to weight in line for food and nice cars and houses or apartments.

  7. This quote is not found in any sermon of St. John Chrysostom in Greek, nor is it correctly cited in the book citation provided. Moreover, apart from the rhetorical questions it does not preach in Chrysostom’s style. It seems so out of character” There appears to be no citation of the actual original homily. Can anyone refer me to the original -and what particular work of St. John Chrysostom it is taken from?

  8. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :


    You may be correct. Since publishing this I tried to find the source as well and could not find out. Several people I asked could not find it either.

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