Justice: not just for the afterlife


Don’t make it your life’s work to accumulate and hang onto money. It corrupts your humanity, ruins your soul. Several times in the Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that the road to heaven will be extremely narrow and hard for folks who do that.
Most Christians have read and heard the parables in which Jesus portrays the rich as losing everything in the end. They won’t recognize the call of God’s kingdom until too late. Can this message of the Gospel be translated from individual to community life? Yes it can. The Catholic view of social justice is based on it.
Consider the United States economy. For three decades now we have been on a track where money becomes concentrated in fewer hands. This has accelerated during our long economic recession which began in 2007-08. Most Americans are not better off than we were 10 years ago, while the folks at the top incomes are doing much better.
From 2009, when we passed the deepest point of the recession, to 2012, the highest one percent of earners captured 95 percent of income gains. During the same period, the other 99 percent of us saw income growth of 0.4 percent. Unemployment continued at a high rate and average pay hasn’t changed. Today, when recovery seems to be well along, there are still 2.6 people per job opening compared to 1.6 persons prior to the recession.
Banks are still not lending money in a way that leads to good jobs, and businesses are still not investing in workers. As a result, there is less money circulating among the people who spend it on products. There is less demand in the economy, and ours is an economy that runs on consumer demand.
Former President Bill Clinton is no enemy of big business or big money individuals. He is credited by some and blamed by others for making the Democratic Party friendly to big money support during his party leadership in the 1990s. Thus, when Bill Clinton speaks openly of problems with the way big business has operated in recent years, attention should be paid. In late September during the annual meeting of business and political leaders for his Clinton Global Initiative, he said this.
“Gross domestic product growth doesn’t lead to growth in median incomes because company after company takes more of its profit and spends it on dividends, stock buybacks, management increases … and less on sharing it with the employees broadly.”
Clinton knows what he’s talking about. The money, the profits, the material gains that should be part of our common good have gone to the top only. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the poor beggar at his gate (Luke 16:19-30), too many of us are closer to the beggar Lazarus getting along on scraps. The rich man is our top one percent — especially the top 0.1 percent — enjoying the benefits of the system managed for their benefit.
For a long time it was thought that nothing could be done about such things short of the next life in heaven, when the rich man would finally learn God’s way. Old time Socialists mocked that version of Christianity as “Pie in the sky when you die.” We now know that justice is not only for the afterlife. It begins here in our material existence through material means like politics and tax policy and business practices and personal action that seeks the common good.
On that stairway we either go up to the bosom of Abraham or down into Luke’s Hades.
Frank Wessling

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on