Redistribution of the Wealth

For me, the most irritating episode of the 2008 election was the Republican attack on Obama for being a “socialist” after he suggested to the faux plumber that it might be a good thing to spread the wealth around some. In an interview with Joe Biden, a Florida television news reporter tried to tie Obama to Karl Marx’s dictum

From each according to his ability to each according to his need.

Biden, to his credit, replied, “Are you joking? Is this a joke?” She might well have tried to tie Obama to

And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need,

which is from Acts in the Bible and predates Marx by nearly two thousand years. But that would have foiled her aim. To the Republicans, redistribution of the wealth is, of course, a Great Evil. And yet, here’s Jesus in Matthew telling a rich man:

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

Here Jesus is clearly advocating redistribution of the wealth. And it’s hardly the only instance of it in the Bible, which is radical in its condemnation of materialism. But within the general culture, it was decided long ago to ignore this sort of statement. They are always explained away. I did an Internet search on the second quote and found a forum where somebody asked what Jesus meant. The response was invariably, “Well, he didn’t mean that,” and “He certainly didn’t want people to be homeless.” But Jesus urged his disciples to leave their jobs and their homes and to follow him in his wanderings.

I tend to see a blog as a ridiculous place to explore this kind of idea in depth. The Internet is too ephemeral for deep discussion. But somebody needs to point out that you can’t condemn redistribution of the wealth while simultaneously embracing Jesus, as most Republicans do.


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3 Responses to “Redistribution of the Wealth”

  1. 4clicks Says:

    Thanks for your post. From your quotes above, it seems that the bible is saying to voluntarily give to the poor. “Wealth re-distribution” today is done at the end of a gun. There are limited choices in the matter… either give up your earned wealth to those who produce nothing or spend your time in jail.

  2. markbittner Says:

    Voluntary, yes. But that doesn’t mean optional. That which is truly spiritual is not coercive. But as one Buddhist teacher said, “Real teaching sounds like something is being forced on you. If it doesn’t sound like it’s being forced on you, it isn’t real teaching.” The point is, do we care more about being spiritual or being rich? God or Mammon? There are inexorable outcomes for each path.

  3. Elaine Loftin Says:

    Interesting – Jesus is speaking of his disciples not his followers. It was not about wealth re-distribution. It was about being part of a mission that required the “disciples” to be free of ties and responsibilities that would hinder their spiritual mission that they were called to be a part of. Not every living soul in biblical times were disciples of Jesus Christ – in fact, only 12 individuals were. In order to clearly know your path and mission one must be able to “hear” the message – and if one is worried about ones possessions and family & friends – then that stress and worry would hinder the path and thusly the mission. Not everyone can – even sometimes when they choose – live the missionary life – thus the ones that leave the convent, seminary, or organizations that are geared as such. I do not belief that God or Jesus Christ wanted any human to be in poverty, anymore than he wanted the more fortunate to use their wealth in greed. One can be rich – monetarily or spiritually – and be greedy…or not. That is a personal choice and a karma builder. This of course is my personal interpretation of The Holy Bible and my own opinion.

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