Demand Economic Justice
The Moral Deficit
Currently, the United States has the largest debt of any country in the world, and the national debt continues to grow at a pace that assures economic crisis. For almost every year over the past fifty years, the federal government has spent more money than it takes in, a habit that is devastating on a household level, and exponentially so on a national level.
There is also a poverty crisis in the United States. In the past thirty years, the poorest 20% of Americans have only grown poorer. There are now more Americans living in poverty than at any other point in the last fifty years.
Both the poverty crisis and the deficit crisis point to a larger justice crisis: the richest twenty percent of Americans are growing wealthier while the country falls more deeply into debt; a debt that our children and grandchildren will have to repay. The undisputed facts should disturb any Christian:
- In 2009, the bottom 80% of Americans owned 12.8% of the wealth, while the richest 20% owned 87.2% of all wealth. The richest 1% owned 35.6% of the total wealth, more than the total wealth of the bottom 90%.
- In 2010, the average salary of a CEO was 185 times as much as an average worker's pay. CEOs at Fortune 500 companies took home salaries that were 325 times that of an average American worker's pay.
- Even millionaires realize how unjust and dangerous the current situation is. In a letter to the New York Times in August 2011, multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett insisted that the wealthy, including himself, must contribute more in taxes, and that the rest of us most stop "coddling the super-rich."
A Biblically Faithful Response
The gospel message of how a Christian is to prioritize their life and relationship to material things is crystal clear: "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught the importance of prioritizing right relationships both with our brothers and sisters on earth and God in heaven. Disciples of Christ were to "leave your gift there before the altar" and "not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" so that they could "be reconciled to your brother or sister" and "not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink." The parable of the sower warned of the dire consequences for those who worship money: "The cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing." Jesus tells the rich ruler, a man who had faithfully kept all of the commandments, that "there is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
Jesus has especially critical words for the Pharisees, who observed the law and their own purity, but continued to "neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others." In other words, Christians are to honor God's special concern for the poor through their actions, not just their words. Further, it is important to note Jesus' economic spirituality. Everything is God's and everything we have comes from God, thus "our" resources must benefit everyone. Again, Jesus' words to the Pharisees (lovers of money, according to Luke) are the touchstone: " . . . what is prized by humans [the love of money] is an abomination in the sight of God."
And yet, despite these clear teachings, our society has repeatedly failed to love God, serve the poor, share resources, and reject the consumerism and materialism that mark modern culture. This has created a dramatic moral, spiritual, and physical deficit that must be remedied to ensure the future health of all God's people. Learn how to protect our children's future.