Let Me Have Some

A Call for Truly Radical Wealth Redistribution

Of all the issues swirling around the Occupy Wall Street protests, the one that seems to have struck the most sensitive nerve is financial inequality.  It prompted one writer, whose article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, to accuse the protesters of calling for “radical wealth redistribution.”

He didn’t define what he meant by “radical,” but you could sense his outrage over the idea of wealth redistribution and his disdain for the protesters.

The problem is, no one is defining their terms very well – the protesters or those protesting what they think the protesters are protesting.

Wealth Redistribution Done Right

At first glance, I don’t believe in “wealth redistribution” either, at least not forced wealth redistribution.  The idea is an opportunity and initiative killer.

However, I do believe in the type promoted by a small group of “radicals” a couple of thousand years ago.

The apostle Paul taught that the primary purpose of wealth is generosity and he encouraged everyone to “excel in this grace of giving.”

In the book of James, thought to have been written by Jesus’ brother, the author implored people to put their faith into action, personally helping those in need.

Far too many of us are doing far too little in this area.  Generosity research shows that the average church member gives less than three percent of his or her income to their church – far lower than the biblical standard of “tithes and offerings.”

Could it be that the solution isn’t “out there” somewhere, but closer to home?  Could it be that the most significant reform needed isn’t on Wall Street or in Washington, but in our own hearts, our own relationships, and our own wallets?

Radical Generosity

What if we didn’t wait for someone else to help – the government, social service agencies, the church?  What if each of us generously supported our place of worship and gave generously to individuals in need?  Now that would be radical.

What if we actually told our close friends and family members when we had needs instead of keeping our problems to ourselves out of fear of embarrassment or not wanting to be a burden?  Now that would be radical.

And to the degree that the government can play a role this area, what if our political leaders came up with ideas and cast a vision for increased individual generosity, instead of spending time on ideas destined to reduce people’s charitable giving?  Now that would be radical.

Being the Change We Want to See

The more I think about the Occupy Wall Street protests, the more it seems that the issues all come down to one question:  Who’s responsible?

And I can’t help but remember the research of Arthur Brooks, author of “Who Really Cares.”  He found that people who believe the government should do more for people tend to be less personally generous.

That’s incredibly ironic, isn’t it?  And, as John Stossel discovered in an ABC News segment on who gives the most, it’s counterintuitive.

Many corporate and government leaders have contributed to our global economic mess.  That’s for sure.  However, as I wrote in my first post about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Let’s Occupy Our Own Streets, our best hope for long-term economic solutions is for us – household by household – to take personal responsibility do the right things.  And one of those right things is greater personal generosity.

Those of us who step up our generosity would very likely experience more joy.  And those who receive from friends and family members would very likely benefit more as well.  If it’s your friend or neighbor who’s helping you out, you’re not going to feel entitled to that assistance, become dependent on it, or take to the streets when the assistance ends.  You’re going to be deeply grateful, and you’re going to do all that you can to become self-sufficient again as quickly as possible.

I’d like to see more corporate leaders manage their businesses with integrity, and I’d like to see a lot more vision and much better ideas from our political leaders.  However, I’m convinced that the greatest lasting changes will only come about when we make the right changes at home, such as growing in our personal generosity.

That’s my point of view.  What’s yours?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

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10 Responses to A Call for Truly Radical Wealth Redistribution

  1. Matt Bell December 6, 2011 at 6:05 PM #

    Paul – If any soldier returns to find that a promised job is not there, that’s an outrageous wrong that needs to be made right. And I’m with you as well in feeling that more should have been done to punish business and political leaders who acted illegally or irresponsibly in regard to the mortgage mess.

    However, I don’t agree that Capitalism produces greed or pride. Those traits seem to be part of the human condition, and certainly predate Capitalism. There’s much harm done in the name of capitalism, to be sure, but there is also much good.

  2. Paul Brush December 6, 2011 at 4:15 PM #

    People are upset because they cannot find jobs. Soldiers returning from war, cannot find jobs, even the ones they left behind, the ones that their employer was supposed to keep. They are angry that our government has not prosecuted nor convicted anybody who was responsible (if you’re talking about “personal responsibility”)for the subprime mortage scandal that brought our nation into a deep recession. They are angry that the tax cuts for the wealthy have not ‘trickled down’ to the 99% who are depending on them for creating jobs.
    Capitalism, secondly, is not necessarily biblical. Yes, it produces opportunity and initiative but it also produces some of the worst traits of humanity including greed (as seen in the bonuses of the wealthiest CEOs) and pride which believes that everything you have is somehow because YOU made it happen. It leaves out the grace of God in YOUR circumstances, whether that be the family you were born into, the neighborhood you grew up in and the connections you were able to make as you became an adult.

    When Jesus returns and sets up his Kingdom-notice that it’s not a free enterprise system-he’ll set everthing right-meaning that capitalism wil not be a top priority in his economic plan. And in that vain, I should be pondering some tough issues as a follower of Jesus: To bring “in” his Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:10)what should I be doing with my life and the family I lead?

  3. Amy November 23, 2011 at 8:46 AM #

    Basically, I agree with you. I believe I should help others in need, be it with money, labor, or just doing small things, but it should not be forced. It should be my own choosing. If “everyone” would do what is right, yes, this world would not have the problems it has now. Yet, there are too many that expect help all the time, not willing to put an effort themselves. I believe that is a problem area.

    • Matt Bell November 23, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

      I think that’s the key, Amy. Generosity should not be forced. At its best, generosity comes as a grateful response to all that we have received.

      As for those who take advantage of generosity, who “expect help all the time,” that’s more challenging. Those who are giving to people like that need a lot of discernment – hearts that “err” on the side of generosity, but also the wisdom to know when continued generosity is hurting more than it’s helping, and may need to use tough love that puts limits on how long the generosity will continue.

  4. Greg November 10, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    Someone once told me that most “money problems” were not actually money problems, but were instead symptoms of a “spiritual problem”.

    I believe if we all lived under the Biblical principle that all assets and wealth belong to God and we are merely stewards of those resources we would have a lot less money problems.

    • Matt Bell November 10, 2011 at 6:01 PM #

      Amen to that, Greg!

  5. Matt Bell October 31, 2011 at 9:38 PM #

    Brad – Thanks for mentioning Brian’s work. It’s some of the best material out there on generosity.

  6. Brad Jack October 31, 2011 at 3:52 PM #

    I just finished Brian Kluth’s new 30-day Generosity Devotional, “7 Keys to Open-Handed Living in a Tight-Fisted World”. It’s a great read and really turns my palms upward, while holding the resources God has given us.

  7. Bill Hayes October 31, 2011 at 1:47 PM #

    Good stuff! I especially relate to ‘forced redistribution’ being an opportunity and initiative killer.

    Generosity affords us the opportunity to bless someone and that initiative can bless us and reinforce the generosity habit.


    • Matt Bell October 31, 2011 at 9:37 PM #

      Well said, Bill. Once someone clears the initial hurdles of generous living, they don’t usually turn back.

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