Originally penned and posted in January ARSH 2011.
The weekend before His Passion, Jesus went and stayed with His friend Lazarus (whom He had raised from the dead) and Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary. Mary brought out a very expensive flask of ointment for the dead and applied it to Jesus’ feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the sweet smell of that ointment. And guess who gets all mouthy about this? Yep. Judas Iscariot – who already was planning to sell out Jesus, and had been planning on cashing in on Him since the miracle of the loaves and fishes a few days earlier. Specifically, when Jesus told the people that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, and kept repeating it over and over and over again to be sure that everyone understood that He meant it literally, Judas (with urging from satan) decided that Our Lord was nuts and started planning to betray Him and profit from it. That whole episode is in John chapter 6. Read it.
Back to Lazarus’ house in John 12. Judas gets all holier-than-thou and complains that the flask of ointment could have been sold for 300 pence and “given to the poor”. Does this not sound like the godless Marxist liberals of today who are so quick to tell everyone else what they should be doing with their money and assets, all in the name of the poor, of course?
Then, an absolutely delightful verse – verse 6:
“Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things therein.”
Um, hello? The Holy Spirit is talking to us. Are we listening? That verse should make the hair on your arms stand up. Is this not a PERFECT mapping to our contemporary situation? You have a “disciple” who doesn’t really believe in Jesus or what He says – he just pretends to because he thinks he can gain power and wealth by associating with Jesus for now. He’s just working the “Jesus angle”. But everything he is doing behind the scenes is working in direct opposition to Our Lord. Now, this “disciple” starts trying to appear pious and devout by pontificating that all wealth and resources should, by definition, be redistributed to “the poor”. But in truth, he is just a thief.
Dude. Can this be any more obvious?
Now here is the key passage from Jesus Himself:
“Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of My burial. For the poor you have always with you; but Me you have not always.”
First of all, Jesus says, “Let her alone.” (Sinite illam.)
Judas has appointed himself the arbiter of wealth and asset distribution and has decided that Mary’s flask of ointment (or the cash value thereof) should have gone to the poor. And Jesus says, “Let her alone.”
It is hers to do with as she (and her family) sees fit, and they have seen fit to use it to anoint their beloved Jesus.
Judas, sit down and shut your proto-Marxist piehole. THWAP!
In the next phrase, Jesus explains economics in eight words (FIVE in Latin):
“For the poor you have always with you.”
(Pauperes enim semper habetis vobiscum.)
What does He mean? Does He mean, “Bah, forget the poor! Live it up!”
Absolutely not. What He is explaining is that in all free societies wealth will always exist within a SPECTRUM.
Let’s compare a “poor” person in the U.S. to a “poor” person in Bangladesh. A poor person in Bangladesh lives in the gutter without so much as a cardboard shelter to sleep under. They are sick from malnutrition and starvation. They probably dress in rags, and certainly do not own a pair of shoes. Bathing only occurs when they can immerse themselves in a river, which is opaque with sewage. They own nothing except the rags that they wear. Every day is a struggle to get a bit of clean water and enough food to merely survive. That’s a poor person in Bangladesh.
What constitutes a “poor” person in the U.S.? A poor person in the U.S. does not have cable. A poor person in the U.S. does not have broadband internet access, and may not even own a PC. A poor person in the U.S. may have just within the last year or two finally switched from a cathode ray tube television to a flat screen, digital model. A poor person in the U.S. receives food stamps, medicaid and a welfare check. A poor person in the U.S. is probably overweight. A poor person in the U.S. drives a car that is so old that it came with a factory cassette player. A poor person in the U.S. lives either in a trailer or a HUD apartment complex. A poor person in the U.S. probably DOES have a cell phone.
Understand that on a percentage level, these two descriptions are equivalent. A “poor” person in the U.S. has a standard of living that would be considered luxurious in Bangladesh and other impoverished countries. The notions of “wealth” and “poverty”, by logical and mathematical definition, exist within a SPECTRUM. And no matter what we do, that spectrum will always, always exist. That is what Jesus is saying. There will always be a top-end, and there will always be a bottom-end. In some nations (like Bangladesh), that spectrum is very broad and reaches very far down into poverty, indeed. There are billionaires in Bangladesh, and there are people starving in the gutters in rags. In the U.S., we certainly have a wealth spectrum, but the low end is much higher and the spectrum is much narrower. We have many billionaires, but our lower-end is nowhere NEAR as low as Bangladesh’s.
The point is, no matter how much you bring up the bottom-end, there will ALWAYS, by mathematical definition, BE a bottom-end. If the bottom-end was a $100,000 per year household income and a $300,000 home in today’s dollars, then a household with a $100,000 income and a $300,000 home would be considered “poor”, called “poor”, and Marxists would tell those “poor” that they were being “oppressed” and “deserved” and were “entitled to” a $500,000 annual household income and an $800,000 home. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
Someone is always going to have more money and assets than somebody else. It is impossible to have a free society wherein every person has exactly the same level of wealth. Someone has to be the business OWNER, and someone has to be the EMPLOYEE. Someone has to be the wage PAYER and someone has to be the wage EARNER. If everyone in a culture was economically equal at all times, there would be zero employment because no one would work for anyone except themselves. You can’t have a company with 10,000 CEOs. Conversely, you can’t have a company that is nothing but entry-level laborers. Someone has to be responsible. Someone has to sign the paychecks. Someone has to determine the course of the business. Someone has to risk their assets and wealth to start-up the company in the first place. And, at the other end, someone has to scrub the toilets. The only way to get true, complete equality of wealth would be to KILL EVERYBODY.
Since we know from Jesus that there will always be a wealth spectrum, it is obviously disordered to eliminate said spectrum and collapse it down to a single point of “economic equality”. To do that would collapse the society itself and result is chaos and poverty for ALL. (Ahem, MARXISM, TYRANNICAL OLIGARCHY, cough, cough.)
What then should the objective be? I think that the former-U.S. and other free-market capitalist societies were the closest humanity has ever been to the ideal, and though imperfect, are certainly pointed in the right direction. The ideal is a healthy wealth spectrum that is always moving higher through growth and moral technological advancements and innovations, is open-ended on the top side, but has an intrinsic morality such that the top-end of the wealth spectrum always makes certain that the bottom end advances apace and that the spectrum maintains its proportional width – or even narrows a bit. This is achieved through personal charity AND through a moral, lawful society that allows for movement both up AND down the spectrum.
The top-end cooperates with the bottom end to enable upward mobility for those who work hard, and are innovative. Conversely, if someone on the top-end does not work hard or is dishonest in his dealings, he can and will fail and slide back down the spectrum.
This freedom of movement within the spectrum – both up AND down – is essential. Trapping people on the low-end (ahem, cough, WELFARE STATE, CLOWARD-PIVEN STRATEGY, OBAMA REGIME, cough) is equally as immoral as the disgusting patrician upper-classes who think themselves immune from morality, the rule of law or personal responsibility (ahem, cough, OBAMA REGIME AND ENTIRE POLITICAL CLASS, cough, cough).
So, there you go. Economics as explained by our Blessed Lord in five little words while He was hanging out at His friends’ house having supper the weekend before He died. And proof that Judas Iscariot was the intellectual father of Marxism and of scumbag politicians in general.