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A current mantra and the envy of Jesus

By Ray Barraclough - posted Wednesday, 18 July 2018


Two phrases are currently being voiced in the political landscape as if they were revealed truth.

They are repeated like a fundamentalist chorus or mantra: The politics of envy and class warfare.

It is a mantra that judges those who aspire to a more equitable sharing of the wellbeing of a community, of a country or among humanity. In the imminent by-elections, this mantra is already being intoned.

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Those who propose a more equitable sharing vary in their suggested programs. But the mantra judges them starkly as being motivated by envy and as promoters of conflict. 

Over the years there have been those who voiced their desire that economic sharing be a primary issue in society. It may be in terms of drawing a contrast between the rich and the poor. In history there is one person in particular who voiced such a contrast. According to the record that we have, his words were as follows:

Blessed are you who are poor...But woe to you who are rich...' - Luke 6:20,24.

They are straightforward and stark words. Indeed, they may be seen as being too stark. Economic relations in a modern Western economy are complicated affairs.

But there is no doubting that these words come within the mantra's terms of reference. They were uttered by Jesus. So, if the mantra is to be believed, presumably, Jesus was infected by envy. Presumably Jesus gave voice to the the 'politics of envy'.

Nor was he alone in this. One of his most influential followers, the apostle Paul, sang from the same song sheet. Amongst the writings in the New Testament Paul is the only Christian writer who uses the word “equality”. And he uses it in regard to economic sharing. He writes:

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Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality.- 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 [NIV]

In this particular instance Paul is urging mutual sharing toward economic equity amongst his fellow Christians. But his words can be taken up in a wider vision as regards common wealth in a community, a country, and among wider humanity. If one wanted a slogan expressing St Paul's view, it could be one such as this: 

From those according to their abundance, to those according to their need.

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About the Author

Dr Ray Barraclough is a theologian who has lectured at St Francis College in Brisbane and St George's college in Jerusalem.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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