How much is too much? And who gets to decide that?
Those are vital questions today. And as we ask and answer those questions, we’re confronted by many uncomfortable realities. One of the biggest (and most uncomfortable) is the issue of wealth inequality.
In his 2014 book “Capital in the 21st Century,” economist Thomas Piketty points to a possible future in which nations sell off public assets like schools, highways and prisons to the wealthy, and then rent them back. Such disturbing ideas, Piketty warns, are supported by “some very smart people.” It makes me wonder: why do “very smart people” often end up taking very immoral stances?
As I write this, one “very smart person” in America has recently used his wealth and business savvy to purchase the rights to a critically important drug, which he promptly increased in price from $13.50 per pill to $750. The CEO has been roundly and rightly criticized in media reports, but lawmakers admitted there were few regulations in place to prevent such practices.
In many corners of society – in business schools, boardrooms and in legislative chambers – values such as the maximization of profit and the consolidation of power are held in high regard. If pursued to their logical end, such values will lead a bright young CEO to increase the price of a cancer drug by 5,000% overnight. It is impossible to reconcile such acts with the compassionate Christ of the New Testament or the community-minded laws and regulations of Israel of the Old Testament.
However, fighting such practices is a difficult process. Many entities will fight off any threat to profit maximization. Eventually, those fighting for fairness are portrayed as thieves and enemies of freedom.
Jesus was also a champion of the sick, poor and disenfranchised – and he endured an all-out PR blitz that attempted to portray him as a reckless, ungodly heretic, while the Pharisees sought to position themselves as the defenders of orthodoxy, purity and proper order. The fight today is no different. Fighting for fairness means you will be turning over someone’s money-changing table in the Temple of Commerce, and they’ll say the worst things about you.
But don’t lose heart. Standing up for the right things can often seem revolutionary, and threatening, in the moment, but in time you earn respect for being the first one there. For example, we forget how hated Abraham Lincoln was while he served as President. It was only later that we saw the rightness of his positions, and his legend grew.
Prayer: Pray that we will bold in standing against injustice, even when we are a lone voice.
Read: Jeremiah 22:3-5