Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 03 December 2007


By Jim Jordal

Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock, And calves from the midst of the stall; Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David: Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Amos 6:3-6 (NKJV)

A September 21, 2007 article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press comments on the newly released Forbes 400 listing of America's richest persons. The cutoff net worth amount needed to make the list rose 30 percent from $1 billion last year to a record setting $1.3 billion this year--and that's just to make 400th place.

Heading the list again was Microsoft's Bill Gates with a fortune estimated at $59 billion. Next was noted investor Warren Buffet with $52 billion. The richest Minnesotan, Best Buy's Richard Schultze, ranked 102nd with a meager $3.4 billion. The collective worth of the top 400 totaled $1.54 billion, up 23 percent from $1.25 billion last year.

But even more revealing is that almost half of the newcomers to the list made their pile as hedge fund and private equity fund managers and investors. These are the same people who a few years ago persuaded a compliant Congress to tax most of their earnings as "carried interest" deserving of the capital gains rate of 15 percent. Absent this law, most of their earnings would have been taxed as ordinary income at 35 percent. So the result is that people who serve them by emptying their trash and cleaning their toilets may actually be paying higher tax rates.

That's what Scripture means when it proclaims, "Woe unto those who decree unrighteous decrees….To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!" (Isa. 10:1-2, KJV).

At the other end of the wealth continuum lie the 200 million Americans whose annual incomes adjusted for inflation have remained stagnant over the past generation. The web site Too Much reveals recent Census Bureau data that one-fourth of U.S. renters now pay half their incomes for housing. And a study by Policy Matters Ohio reports that "two-parent Ohio families, are working 17 percent more hours — over 12 extra weeks a work a year — than they did back in 1979. But they don’t have much to show for that labor" because incomes for average Ohio families have slightly dropped since 1988. Meanwhile the average incomes of Ohio's wealthiest 1 percent have risen over 40 percent. How's that for balance and justice?

According to Too Much, "America’s 400 richest now appear to hold more wealth than the 56 million or so families that make up the bottom half of the U.S. wealth distribution. In 2004, the most recent year with Federal Reserve wealth figures for all Americans, the bottom half of America’s households held only $1.28 trillion in combined wealth."

Scripture is not against honest wealth earned through hard work and the willingness to take risks. Such wealth can be a blessing when used for the betterment of society. But the Bible stands adamant against wealth gained through manipulation, oppression, and injustice--especially when this wealth is the product of unjust laws and discriminatory judicial systems. Scripture also labels it as sin when wealth is used in the causes of injustice and oppression.

It becomes more evident every day that wealth distribution in the U.S. (and in most of the remaining world) is dangerously skewed. Why "dangerously"? Because seldom do the super rich perceive the true effects of their amassing of wealth upon the remainder of the country. They fail to heed the cries of the poor, preferring to think that somehow they deserve their plight. They think their wealth and gated enclaves can protect them against social forces arising because of poverty and oppression. And they don’t seem to heed even the voices of many of their own that too much wealth in too few hands damages the very democratic political system and free enterprise economy that allowed them their largesse in the first place.

Yes, folks, it's seemingly out of control. Don't wait for Congress to solve the problem because the very same people charged with caring for the people are also dependent upon the power elite for their campaign expenses. We need to actively make our voices heard in our local political structures and in our churches, since the morality of the teachings of Christ and the prophets seems about all we have left. But that's enough, should we choose to use it.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Last Updated ( Monday, 03 December 2007 )