I recently read an article where the author asked if evangelical pastors were ready and willing to call economic inequality and inequality of opportunity a sin? (Here is a link to that article.) The writer of this article stated, “…the Bible does not promote equality of income or wealth. When laziness and other forms of sin result in less income, inequality is appropriate. When parents rightly pass on an inheritance of skill and wealth to children, some inequality is proper…When the economic rewards of work create incentives for creativity and diligence, some inequality is desirable.”
So far so good, right?
He then writes, “On the other hand… (Don’t you just hate that phrase? You know something disturbing is about to come.) “…I believe the Bible suggests at least two limits on inequality. For one, the biblical principle of justice demands that each person and family has access to productive resources so that if they act responsibly, they can earn a decent living and be dignified members of society…”
Yep, and when a person or family does not have access to productive resources, that type of intentional or unintentional inequality which is usually created by power, greed, racism, classism, and/or discrimination is a sin.
“The second limitation on inequality,” he continues, “flows from the biblical understanding of sin and power. In our broken world, whenever one group of people acquires excessive unbalanced power, they will almost always use it for their own selfish advantage.”
In other words, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A sin as well.
In our present situation, when you see how inequality is getting worse and how inequality keeps people, despite their best efforts, from resources and from getting opportunities to better themselves, then that is a problem and it does need to be addressed from a biblical perspective.
Consider the following uncomfortable realities of present life in the U.S.; some are from the article, others I have picked up along the way from various sources:
- In 2010, 1% of the U.S. population controlled 10% of all income in the U.S., while 10% controlled 50% of all income.
- The income disparity in the U.S. now is greater than it was in 1774.
- 1% of the U.S. controls 40% of all the wealth in the U.S.
- 80% of the U.S. population only has a combined total of 7% of U.S. wealth.
- Between 1993 and 2007, more than half of all the income increase in the U.S. went to the richest 1%.
- Between 2002 and 2007, 66% of all increased income went tothe richest 1%. And in 2009-2010, 93% of all the increased income in the U.S. went to the richest 1%.
- Over the last 30 years, the average income of the richest 1% has jumped by $700,000, while the average Joe has lost ground.
- More than 46 million (out of 300 million) Americans live in poverty (total household income for a family of 4 less than $22,000 per year).
I don’t fault or envy anyone for how much money they make or don’t make or how much wealth they have accumulated or not accumulated. I am a capitalist and I am not advocating socialism or some sort of class warfare or redistribution of wealth. (I would like nothing more than my blogs to become so well publicized I could start charging for advertising.) I am simply asking you to open your eyes and see how the inequality of wealth and income perpetuate the inequality of resources and opportunity and thereby keeps people in poverty in poverty and people in power in power.
Take health as an example. Studies have long concluded that the more wealth you have the more healthy you are and the more healthy you are the better you do in school and the better you do in school they better opportunities you have for higher income occupations. Contrary to popular belief, those in poverty have less access to healthcare, not more.
And speaking of education, There is a direct correlation between the economic condition of a child and the quality of education that child receives and how well that child does in school. And, of course, the degree of education you receive does effect your earning potential and thus your opportunity to rise above poverty.
My reason for bringing this to your attention is because our country is facing a huge financial crisis. We have to get control of governmental spending. We have to figure out a way to cut our national expenses and balance the budget. But we cannot place the overwhelming burden of our budget deficit on the backs of the poor, increasing inequality of resources and opportunities. Doing so would be a sin. Everyone needs to feel the pain of the necessary cutbacks, but no one category of people, especially those on the lower end of the economic spectrum, needs to bare the blunt of the burden.
The author that prompted this post, writes, “(many politicians) say that our serious budget deficits mean that we must slash effective programs that empower poor people. (Some politicians) have called for cutting $128 billion from food stamps; cutting Pell grants that help poor kids afford college from $5,500 to $3,000; cutting effective foreign aid that saves the lives of millions around the world. At the same time, they want to give more tax cuts to the richest Americans.”
One of the greatest sins our nation can commit is to neglect the poor and vulnerable. When we do so, we are going against God who has declared He is the defender of the poor.
Was that too harsh? Here is how God describes His relationship with the poor.
- Defender of the fatherless and widows (Deut. 10:18; Psalm 10:16-18; 40:17, 68:5; Jeremiah 22:16)
- Protector of the poor (Psalm 12:5)
- Rescuer of the poor (I Sam 2:8, Psalm 35:10, 72:4, 12-14, Isaiah 19:20, Jeremiah 20:13)
- Provider of the poor (Psalm 68:10, 146:7, Isaiah 41:17)
- Savior of the poor (Psalm 34:6, 109:31)
- Refuge of the poor (Psalm 14:6, Isaiah 25:4).
Yes! Something must be done about our gross deficit, but not at the expense of the poor.
The writer of the article concludes, “It is time for evangelical preachers to label today’s gross inequality what it is: SIN. If we believe what the Bible says about God’s concern for the poor; if we believe what the Bible says about justice; then we must denounce the gross inequality of opportunity and income in our country today as blatantly sinful.”
(NOTE: Here is a link to a movement by some in the faith community asking for a moral budget to be passed. I post this link, not as a 100% endorsement, but just to show the other side of the coin.)