Pope Francis nailed his audience when he spoke at the United Nations about the “legitimate redistribution” of wealth. The U.N. has an enviable record of “talking the talk” while its bureaucrats line their pockets with taxpayer funds and toss the crumbs left on the table to the world’s poor.
The “problem” of unequally distributed wealth has been around a long time. The same problem exists with good looks, intelligence and a pleasant personality: Some of us have got ’em, and some of us haven’t.
The 80/20 rule applies here: With wealth it’s only a problem if you are part of the 80 percent struggling over 20 percent of the world’s wealth. It’s rarely a problem (beyond academic or cocktail party chit-chat) for the 20 percenters who control 80 percent of the world’s wealth.
Presumably, the pope is using the biblical model here, where Jesus was crucified for preaching wealth redistribution to the Roman government and scolding the Roman army for plundering neighboring civilizations.
Oh, you say that’s not the story? Well, let’s look it up. Hmm … you might be right. But what I did find are these two accounts that seem to apply:
In John 12:1-8 (The Message), Jesus is only a few days out from his death. He has dinner with a family, and one of the women “came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.
“Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, ‘Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.’ He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.
“Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.'”
The second passage, from Luke 18 (RSV), deals specifically with a government official:
“And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’
“And he said, ‘All these I have observed from my youth.’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’
“But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich.”
Three conclusions: Helping the poor at the expense of others is bad for our own soul. Jesus taught private charity, because he knew that we needed it.
Second, private charity is really hard. Government destroys what God is doing between two individuals when they step in, point a gun at the wealthy and take their money, raking off some for themselves. See Judas, above.
Third, there will always be people at the bottom of the economic ladder, no matter what anyone does. We should all help them. On a personal level. Even the pope.
For a “down and dirty” look at failed humanity trying to “do good” without God, check out “Reconnaissance,” Craige’s opening novel in the “Armageddon Story.”
Media wishing to interview Craige McMillan, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.