Walls and wealth

Samizdata has a couple of posts on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By coincidence, I happen to have recently heard a few sermons on Mark 10, the encounter with the rich young man who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. Now, at the time, the priests and teachers had a long list of things one could do to earn eternal life, and these all involved keeping the commandments. The young man says he’s kept the commandments… but he still knows that there’s something missing.

But notice that when Jesus tells him to go and sell his possessions and become a disciple, the young man walks away sad. And Jesus says that it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Humanly impossible, that is. (It’s a good thing that all things are possible with God, because every American is rich when compared to the rest of the world. If it were totally impossible for rich people to enter the kingdom of God, all Americans would be in a whole lotta trouble!)

Jesus doesn’t give the rich young man the Job treatment, and have temporal disaster befall the young man so that all his riches are taken away. Jesus looked at him, loved him, but let him go away saddened by the truth that he was too attached to his possessions. “Giving” those possessions to the poor doesn’t confer one whit of virtue if someone else comes along and takes those possessions by force from their owner. The point is not for the worldly goods to be given to the poor; the point is for the young man to stop clinging to and trusting in his wealth rather than in God. God could have very easily caused the rich young man to lose all his worldly possessions, but that was not the point.

Marxism is a perversion of this warning against trusting in wealth. Rather than seeing wealth as a temptation to trust in temporal power rather than God, Marxists envy wealth and seek to take it by force from those who possess it, for the good of the proletariat or some other such nonsense. But if God Himself refuses to take wealth away from a young man, whose “only” bar from eternal life is an attachment to wealth, how can anyone else consider that taking wealth by force is something that the Church can condone?

Well, Marxists are hardly Christian; it’s an atheist religion that worships envy, so no surprise there. But there are an awful lot of “Christians” who seem to think that it’s all right to authorize the government to take wealth by force from the rich and bestow those material goods on the poor.

They’re missing the point entirely. It doesn’t count, unless it’s voluntary. Giving your tax money to the government, which takes it and then gives some of that money to the poor, is not the same thing at all as you personally taking your money and giving it directly to someone who needs it or a charity that will use it to responsibly lift people up out of material hardship. Nobody gets any virtue points for government redistribution!


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