Many of us never imagined we would have to face the drastic economic downturn that we are currently enduring. It is difficult not to be angry at those who led us into this collapse. Nothing short of fraud on the part of key players in the mortgage and banking industries is at the heart of the problem. Yet there have been no major prosecutions of those who have caused the financial devastation. Indeed, many of them benefited from the efforts of the government to keep the nation from very complete financial breakdown. Then many of those beneficiaries have had the arrogance to express outrage at reforms that aim to avert future debacles because these might inhibit their antics.
Since the collapse, the vast majority of the country is worse off than they were before it occurred. On the other hand, the wealthy elite, the top 1% on the economic ladder, have actually seen an increase in their wealth. Presently, the bottom one half of the American population own only about 2% of the wealth. In contrast, the top 1% controls approximately 35% of the total wealth. While some in our country express fear at the thought of “spreading around the wealth,” wealth redistribution has been going on for a long time. The wealth flows fro the pockets of the less advantaged into the pockets of the most advantaged.
The middle class is disappearing for the simple fact that there isn’t enough money in the “middle” to sustain a middle class. The inequity is so vast that anyone who denies this is an issue of justice has abandoned any notion of justice that is historically recognizable.
Christian scripture states
that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The “love of money” is the profit motive when it is unrestrained by concern for the common good. It is the desire to have ever more wealth without regard for the needs of others. The “love of money” leads to the distain of justice and the deadening of compassion. The love of money is a spiritual problem whether one is rich or poor. But it becomes a social problem when the love of money infects those
who are the most advantaged.
The great abolitionist and freed slave Frederick Douglass declared that “the want of money is the root of all evil” for the least advantaged. Without money the result is inadequate food, housing, healthcare and education. All of this leads to even fewer opportunities in the future. The love of money on the part of some is not unrelated to the lack of money on the part of others.
Despite the inequities that have only increased as
a result of the economic downturn, most of us have much for which to give thanks. Gratitude must triumph over anger and frustration. It is important to know how to be content, even in conditions that are far from ideal. The apostle Paul provides a model: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:11-12). Most of us would prefer to have plenty. But it is better to be content than to be tormented by dissatisfaction. However, contentment must not degenerate into complacency because we need to work the good of those who have the least.