Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 08 October 2015


By Jim Jordal

 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. Those riches perish by misfortune, and if he has fathered a son, there is nothing in his hand.                                                               Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 WEB

 Then I returned and saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold, the tears of those who were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.                   Ecc. 4:1 WEB

God cares mightily about the distribution of wealth among his people. Of course you might ask, if he cares so much why has he allowed such a vast gulf of wealth to develop between the top one percent and the rest of us?  

Historian Edward T. O’Donnell in one of his Great Courses lectures on Turning Points in American History proposes that these so-called “turning points” arise from several factors: surprise, conflict, agency, crisis, causes, and choices. Of these six possibilities, I think the desperately unequal distribution of income and wealth now so evident in the U.S. arose directly from O’Donnell’s final factor: choices made by  individuals rather than by mysterious groups.

Great wealth produces more wealth, and with it the power to suppress justice and corrupt government. A recent example arises from the Amtrac wreck in Philadelphia on May12, 2015. Commentators now say that a system does exist that would have prevented the accident by slowing the train automatically. But unfortunately, that area did not have this system because Amtrac could not afford it, in spite of government mandates that it be installed. And it turns out in a May 14 CNN interview of Rep. Steve Israel, D. N.Y .that conservative congress people are cutting the Amtrac budget by over a billion dollars in order to be able to end hated estate taxes for a few billionaires. As Rep. Israel so clearly said several times, “That’s wrong.”

God also says it’s wrong! In the reading above he calls it a “grievous evil” for owners of great wealth to grasp for even more wealth to the exclusion of their peace of mind and the welfare of the majority. Gaining wealth becomes an obsession for many who already have far more than they could possibly use. And it’s even worse as it begins to erode their humanity, moral values, and sense of justice. How else can you explain the current rush for the ultra-rich to build even bigger yachts and houses? After all, you can only live in one room at a time, so who needs scores of rooms and special abodes for even their pets and antique cars?

Yes, it’s a sickness of the soul that doesn’t improve with the acquisition of ever more possessions, psychological treatments, or mind-altering drugs.

The second reading deals with oppression arising from accumulating wealth. Oppression cannot exist without victims, whose plight becomes increasingly hopeless as the few people controlling great wealth use their power to skew legislation and regulatory decisions in their favor. Having little formal power, victims are left with no recourse other than picketing public affairs, writing letters to political powers, and e-mailing office-holders in usually pathetic attempts to influence entrenched power. 

So their actions are usually futile as the money-creating express rumbles onward. Economic power creates political power. Baron Rothschild of English banking fame put it roughly like this:  “ I don’t care who makes the law; give me the power to create the money and I’ll rule the country.”

When the power structure of a nation is codified into law, supported by Supreme Court decisions, and backed by public power groups seemingly bereft of common sense or political wisdom, then you have a situation like King Solomon said: “On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.”

That’s where God comes in with his “preferential option for the poor.” God loves the poor who suffer silently under great oppression simply because they have nothing to trust except his loving presence and awesome power. That’s what wins in the long run!