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Join me in this thought game:
The power is given to someone to confiscate the wealth of every American, wealth in savings, investments and retirement funds. That wealth is distributed equally to every American over the age of 18. Now, everyone over the age of 18 has exactly the same amount of money. Everyone is equal in wealth. How many generations will pass before there are rich, middle class and poor again?
What do you think?
Mark Hudson has been pastor of Medical Lake Community Church since 2001. Before that he served as a missionary in Germany, where he spent a decade planting churches.
Perhaps an interesting case study is Sweden. Sweden is one of the more socialized countries in the world, at yet has a high level of prosperity by many different measures. They also boast some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Volvo, Ericsson, Saab, and both IKEA and ABB (one of the largest electrical companies in the world) were founded in Sweden.
Bruce: You didn’t answer the question. How many generations would it take? What do you think?
It would happen within a year of the experiment, it would not even take a generation!
The question sounds Ayn Randian, almost Calvinistic, as if there are some people in society who are just destined to be rich (saved?) and others who are destined to be poor (unsaved?) If that is so, then who has destined them to be rich if it’s not by God? And if that is true, then why should I care anything about the poor at all, if God has destined them to be poor. What can I do to change God’s will?
Come to think of it, I like your philosophy. I think I’ll go out and make all the money I can, live it up, and just forget about the poor! After all, it’s God’s will, right?
Now, if for some strange reason you don’t agree with the above, then shouldn’t we find every possible way to help the poor to succeed? Shouldn’t we bend over backwards for them? Shouldn’t we give them the shirts on our backs so they can have even more than we do? I don’t care whether we do that through government redistribution or through private giving. The point is, let’s get along with each other and find a way to get it done.
Peace.is probably right. Within a year. And in a few generations the wealthy would start making laws so their kids will keep the wealth. They will then build gated communities to isolate themselves from the poor and justify their wealth. They will then create a theology to justify their wealth. So much so that when a poor Carpenter comes proclaiming the Good News to the poor and captives, they will feel threaten get a some wood and .. well you get the point.
Now the next thought experiment, how long does a society where the just a few own most if not all of the property last? Will they have the inner strength to survive? How much should the wealthy own? Should the top 20% own 50% How many generations will a society where only the wealthy and powerful have a say last before become internally too weak to survive outside forces or internal strife?.
The Biblical witness and Historical witness says not many. (I wonder if this is the reason that God put in a rest button with his people in year seven and the year of jubilee, every 50. Sadly, the Israelites never had a year of Jubilee, they were weakened and fell soon after all, a corrupt society will not have the inner strength.)
This a more important thought experiment as this is the direction (yes the one that the minor prophets warned about) that our country is heading.
The top 1% own 35% of the wealth and the top 20% own a whopping
Probably less than a generation, don’t know about only 1 year … would take a little longer I think. The interesting thing is that the move back to the wealthy having all the money would be well documented and everyone would be able to “see” how it happens. Might be enlightening for some to see how it happens and put it on facebook and other social media. And then … when the rich have all them money again … and are living in their gated communities with laws protecting their wealth and so on … then the poor will start wondering what the rich taste like barbecued … and it will all be documented on personal social media pages … sounds like a good movie !
Bruce: You are reading way too much into the question. The truth is that people are not equal (we are all equal under the law, but we are not equal), so they will not handle wealth the same way.
Now, how many generations would it take? What do you think?
I’m not sure I read too much into the question. You say the “truth is that people are not equal,” so then are we unequal under God?
Bruce: Yes, we are each unique individuals created by God. Each has his or her own gifts and talents. Some are great at math others are not. We are equally loved by God, but we are not equal.
So then, as you have said, God has created each of us with unique talents, some whose talents predispose us to be rich, and others with gifts that predispose us to be poor? Then it would follow that its senseless to help the poor, because God has predisposed them to be such? After all, it was God who gave them these gifts and unequal abilities that made them poor? Why should I try to help them then?
Or is perhaps poverty a more complicated issue than your one-dimensional question allows?
Bruce: I do not accept your premise: “God has created each of us with unique talents, some whose talents predispose us to be rich, and others with gifts that predispose us to be poor. Natural gifts, temperament and abilities do not predispose someone to be rich or poor. It all depends on how a person uses them.
The question was not about poverty at all. If that is what you thought, and it has shaded your comments, then reread the question. The question was to consider the causes of unequal wealth.
Now, how many generations would it take? What do you think?
I guess I still don’t get the question. I’m not sure I understand how a question on unequal wealth distribution is not tied in with implications on poverty?
Also, you said you do not accept the premise that “if God created us with unequal gifts and talents, then God has predisposed us to be rich or poor.” If I understand you correctly, in addition to God creating people in an unequal manner, it depends upon how they use their gifts and talents they have been given. My next question is that if someone is poor, then its their own fault? if they are rich, it was their own doing? After all, God has given them unique gifts and talents, they’ve either used them or haven’t used them? All the poor have to do is work a little harder and they can climb out of their hole. So I still don’t get why I should be called upon to use my hard earned money to help anyone?
Unless perhaps the causes of poverty are much more complex and mysterious than can be answered in the headline question?
Bruce: Perhaps the question should have been clarified with the presupposition that we are talking about America. Another discussion could be generated about other nations, but I want to limit it to our sphere of America.
“My next question is that if someone is poor, then its their own fault?” Maybe. Maybe not. America is the land of opportunity where many have gone from rags to riches.
“if they are rich, it was their own doing?” Maybe. Maybe not. With the exclusion of trust fund babies, and the illegal acquisition of wealth, those who produced wealth worked hard, sacrificed, saved, invested and reinvested. So, yes, they did do it.
“All the poor have to do is work a little harder and they can climb out of their hole.” In America, yes. Also, I would add educating one’s self in managing money, investing and learning how to delay gratification. Again, in America there are countless stories of those who went from rags to riches legally.
“So I still don’t get why I should be called upon to use my hard earned money to help anyone?” Because Christinas are called to be generous people, and God loves a cheerful giver.