One way or another, life is unfair. Some people are incredibly smart while others are intellectually slow. Some people are tall while others are short. Some are strong while others are weak. What makes it even worse, there really isn't anything any of us can do about it. Life is a game of genetic roulette and only God controls the wheel. That's just how the game is played.
Much the same thing can be said of financial success. There are those of us who can take a small nest egg and turn it into a gigantic fortune while others of us can take a vast fortune and fritter it away into a small nest egg. To show how lasting this situation is, even the Bible states unequivocally that the poor will always be with us. Faced with this unfortunate fact of life the question is how do we human beings handle this perpetual state of inequality?
Yes, each of us are endowed by our Creator with certain gifts and talents. These gifts are seemingly distributed without rhyme or reason. At least up until now we haven't been able to significantly change this genetic equation that makes us what we are. However, this does not extend to the distribution of wealth. By using the brains the God has given us we are able to level the playing field, to balance the equation in such a way as to make our society just that much fairer. Some might call this socialism. I choose to call it basic human fairness.
The fact is that creating a fair and just society has nothing to do with a particular philosophy of government, political system or economic methodology. Ultimately it comes down to our obligation to each other as human beings. Jesus Christ had much to say about wealth and the wealthy, a lot of it negative. But I don't think Jesus was against financial success per se. He recognized that some humans are more ambitious than others, that some have a talent and a flair for making huge sums of money. I don't think He would ever begrudge someone the fruits of their labors. No, Jesus was not against the pursuit of wealth. His pronouncements against the wealthy had nothing to do with the money they accumulated. What He constantly railed against was the very human tendency to be indifferent to the suffering of others. And thus he set up the basic conflict which confronts human society to this very day, fairness vs. greed.
The truly significant question we encounter throughout out lives is whether or not we owe an obligation to our fellow human beings. There is nothing wrong with a Jeff Bezos amassing a fortune in the neighborhood of some sixty billion dollars. But having been the beneficiary of the blessings that enabled him to earn such a fortune do these blessings impose on Mr. Bezos the obligation to share some of his good fortune with others who are less fortunate? Ideally that decision should be made by Mr. Bezos and Mr. Bezos alone. But here's where greed enters the picture. Sometimes, for certain people, the idea creeps into their minds that they and they alone are responsible for their good fortune, that they have no obligation whatsoever to give aid and assistance to the less fortunate. Greed impels them to hoard their fortunes, refusing to share the blessings that their Creator showered on them and which they did nothing to earn. It is at this juncture that government in some way has to step in.
Now the effort to create a fair society through government action is called socialism by some. And I suppose it's only natural to try to put a label on what is, after all, a basic human obligation. But when you get right down to it, this has nothing to do with government, economics or political science. It's about doing what is right because it's the right thing to do. Jesus tells us time after time in His parables that we owe a debt of gratitude to our Creator for the blessings He has bestowed and the way we have to express that gratitude is to look after those who are less fortunate than ourselves, that the real evil in the world isn't wealth or the desire for financial success, rather it is indifference to the suffering of others.
I will concede to my conservative friends that the ideal solution to the problem of economic inequality is through individual effort, that the government should stay out. But we have to take into consideration the powerful force that greed places on government, the economy and our political system. It deliberately stands in the way of our realization that we need to extend a helping hand to those less affluent and less fortunate than ourselves. It is at this point that something bigger and stronger than the individual must intervene to produce a society that is fairer and more just. If you call that socialism, then so be it!
Filed under: Politics