Playing the God “Equality” Card

Playing the God card.

All through the Scriptures, God places special value in helping the poor. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor. When we give to the poor we are “lending to the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:17) James decries those who have defrauded the workers by keeping back their wages. (James 5:4)

When discussing income inequality, people are fond of playing the God card. “God wants us all equal,” they would shout!  “God hates inequality.” the Reverend Jim Wallace proclaimed on the floor of the Senate after a minimum wage vote.

But does God hate inequality? Or are there other issues of greater importance? Often Christians will use Acts 4:32 to substantiate a belief in a command economy (socialist/communist).  Speaking of the early church It says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” But does this verse really point to the church favoring communism? After all, they had all things in common.

They say never to read a single Bible verse but to always read the context. The next verses give us the rest of the story. “There were no needy ones among them, because those who owned lands or houses would sell their property, bring the proceeds from the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet for distribution to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

These passages do not support a command economy. They point to a group of people living in relationship to one another under a shared vision. No government official took their property and redistributed it. The individuals owned property, the means of producing wealth, and they willingly shared it. What these passages really affirm is wealth creation, community, and generosity as a means for helping others.

Even the ten commandments affirm private property rights. “Do not steal” and “Do not covet,” both assume a right to private property, not property collectively owned by the state.

Other passages point to the fact that God really doesn’t demand economic equality but rather he rewards those who make the most of what they are given. He prizes uniqueness over sameness. The parable of the talents and the minas (Matthew 25, Luke 19) describe the master giving unequal resources and rewarding different levels of productivity.  When he disciplined the lazy workers, he took away their resources and gave it to the productive ones.

Matthew 20 describes the master recruiting different workers at different times of the day. Those who worked part of the day received the same as those who worked a full day. Naturally those who worked the full day spoke up about this “injustice.” The master called them on their envy and pointed out that he paid them what they had agreed to and he had a right to do with his money what he wanted.

While these parables aren’t necessarily trying to teach economics, we can, however, learn from secondary principles regarding our issue of income inequality. The master represents God, and God doesn’t seem too concerned about it.

Jay Richards, in his book, Money, Greed and God, writes, “Instead of being pleased for receiving what they were promised, the early risers envy the others for what they have received. We all tend to do that—to link inequality of outcome or opportunity with injustice. But they are not the same thing.”[1]

What can we take away from what the Scriptures say? First, the Bible doesn’t endorse socialistic, command economies. It endorses wealth creation, community, and generosity for helping others. Second, God grades on both a straight scale and a curve. In other words, we all share equal value and equal indebtedness to a holy, infinite God. Jesus came to establish our value and pay our debt of sin through his redemptive acts on the cross and the empty tomb. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

But with regards to productivity, God didn’t give us equal talent or opportunity. He grades us on what we have and what we can do with it for his glory. To whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) For God, it seems, inequality isn’t the problem, injustice, poor stewardship, and absolute poverty are. We should focus on those issues and not chase illusory goals of economic equality.

[1] Jay Richards, Money, Greed and God, 107

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