Social Justice, Redistribution, and Jesus

Did Jesus advocate redistribution?  Yes.  But not in the way you might think.

Matthew 25:14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The primary point of this parable is to show that those who are preparing for the coming of the King will not play it safe with what they’ve been given.  Playing it safe while waiting for His return only leads to redistribution from the one who produces nothing to the ones who will produce results.  Jesus tells us that the Master in the parable (who is a picture of Jesus Christ, by the way) distributes and then He redistributes based on results (i.e. gain, profit, fruit, etc.).

Doesn’t it seem remarkably unfair in our culture for Jesus to take from one who was given so little and give what that guy had to one who already has so much?

Jesus doesn’t think of fairness the way we do.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we have a capitalist Jesus, but He’s also not a stupid Jesus.  He doesn’t want us to:

Jesus is concerned about fruit…and when you stop and think about it, the giving of anything whether the little or a lot is all by grace.  The rich of this world are rich by grace.  The poor of this world are provided for by grace, too.  Apart from grace, none of us would have anything.

A “stupid Jesus” would give equal amounts to every person and not care what happens from there.  It would have been equality, fairness, or in the eyes of so many political people, social justice.  Everyone has the exact same thing.  Until someone begins to use what they’ve been given.  Suddenly equality is out the window.

Three gospels tell the same story:  John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Did you catch the references to the poor? Both Judas and Jesus mentioned the poor.  Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you.”  Or as it says in the Gospel of Mark, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

Jesus tells us that the poor, as a category, will always exist.

The minute that totally perfect equality encounters unequal action, equality disappears and inequality results.  Suddenly there’s injustice.  Suddenly there’s someone who is poorer than another who, by comparison, is now rich.  This is why Jesus isn’t stupid.  If the poor cannot not be made equal forever on earth, it’s better to show grace to everyone and let each person glorify God with what he’s been given.  Whether rich or comparatively poor, what matters is the return on Jesus’ investment and we all have choices to make with what we’ve been given.  Are you concerned about how the rich use their money?  Encourage them to produce fruit from what they’ve been given and to be charitably minded toward the poor as a response of grace.  Rich and poor will be held accountable someday for what we did with the resources God entrusted to us, whether resources of income, property, or of people for whom to care.

Luke 12:48b “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

given much


Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on November 22, 2013

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