In the spirit of post-election and inauguration season, we are all accustomed to turning on the network or cable news and hearing pundits metaphorically throw around euphemisms. Some of the favorites are “stimulating the economy,” “supporting the infrastructure,” and the ever-popular “distribution of wealth.”
It is no secret that the far left is a proponent of the “distribution of wealth” philosophy – the rich are too rich, the poor are too poor, and as a result the government should have control over how much everyone from CEOs to small business owners should make – forgetting about those who actually paid their dues and made honest person’s living.
The far left has one thing right – the poor are indeed too poor. However, taking money away from those who worked hard for it is not the solution. The answer to the question of what is the solution remains to be seen, except for one thing: generosity.
Yes, it is idealistic. But it is at the core of our faith.
The far left happens to have more than one thing partially right when its proponents typecast the very wealthy as greedy. It is the truth – there are some rich folks who do want all of the money for themselves. There are some who did not work hard for their money. The mistake is in the broad generalizations. Not all those who have enormous wealth are greedy. By the same token, the greatest generosity can come from the most unexpected of places.
Upon hearing the Gospel from Mark 12 soon after the Presidential Election, the solution came to me: if everyone who could afford to “distribute the wealth” did – of their own conscience – there is a chance that the poor would not be too poor after all. The key words in that statement are “of their own conscience.” Those who worked for their living deserve to take pride in what they do, and in how they provide for themselves and their families. The poor would feel a different satisfaction if they no longer had to depend on endless government handouts. They would feel more certain that someone with greater means had thought enough – as Jesus would have – to ensure their well being and basic rights as a human being. The means would not come from the government – they would come from people who had enough means to take care of themselves and of those who needed it more than they did.
The Widow featured in Mark 12: 41-44 is an example of someone we should at least make an attempt to emulate. With the utmost humility, she – of her own conscience – gives the last cents she has to the treasury. The government (the Scribes) did not have to tell her that it was the right thing to do – it was not required for her by law. Fueled by her desire to be more like Christ, she distributed not only her money, but also her love. If the very rich and greedy all thought as the Widow did, we could “distribute the wealth” ourselves. Mark captures Jesus’ reaction at the end of the chapter, as he speaks to the “many rich people” gathered at the treasury collection: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Two days before Christmas a few years back, I had gone with my parents and our family friends to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, followed by a meal at the old Tavern on the Green. My father, in disbelief of the life he made for himself, wanted only to share it with Manhattan’s most impoverished. Upon our departure from Tavern on the Green, my father set out in search of those searching for their spots on the streets. We made multiple stops to hand out $20 bills to every homeless person he found. It was a decision made completely of his own conscience. My father was received with hugs and tear-filled cries of “Merry Christmas.”
If that is not “distributing the wealth” – and the love – then I am not sure what is.