Monday, May 04, 2009

Free Markets (24) - Upset by Inequality

Christians should be upset by inequality of incomes, but they must be precise about their response. Concern about inequality can mean either of two things.

  1. I got too much income from market activity.
  2. Those people over there gained too much.
The first possibility is easy to deal with. People who think that they have earned too much can give some away. Many of them already do.

The second option is different. It usually has a corollary:
The government should force those with too much to give it others.
Many people just assume that governments should take from those who gained “too much” and give it to those who are poor. No justification is given.

If they people have used force or stolen from others, they should be forced to make restitution to their victims. If they have gained “too much” by honest trading, or by producing good quality products, or by producing services that many people want, it is hard to understand why they should be punished.

Those who expect the government to deal with inequality are really saying,
  • I do not like the state of the world
  • I want the state to force the world to change.
Church leaders and theologians assume that the state should be involved solving poverty and inequality, but they do not think about what this means. What they are really saying is:
  • Love cannot change this situation.
  • Compassion will fail.
  • We must use force.
  • Only coercion can deliver the required change.
I can understand Marxists being advocates of force and coercion, but Christians have a better way. Love and compassion should be our trademark.

God has a Solution
God is actually more concerned about poverty than most Christians. His gospel is “good news to the poor”. Paul was certain that He does not want inequality.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality (2 Cor 8:13-14).
God objective is equality, but his solution is unique as it does not require force or coercion. God’s solution to inequality is love and compassion.

God’s requires people with plenty to give generously to those who are hard pressed. He expects people who have prospered to demonstrate compassion for those who have not done so well. Compassion and sharing create equality.

Theologians who are concerned about inequality should be teaching Christians how to assist the poor. Paul did this all the time, because caring for the poor was the heart of his gospel. His letters are full of exhortations about giving.
Now about the collection for God's people…. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made (1 Cor 16:1-3).
Paul taught the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper, because he was concerned about their lack of sharing (1 Cor 11:20-22).

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