by Shane Claiborne
There is no better time to talk about redistribution than right now. The world is aching. Inequality smacks us in the face again and again. Technology has connected the world into a global neighborhood where it is nearly impossible to ignore the invisible faces behind the lifestyles many of us live, or the painful poverty much of our world experiences. Daily news headlines highlight the economic instability of the market, and call us to question the unsustainable patterns of consumption that we call the American Dream.
People are wondering if God had another dream in mind.
God’s dream for creation is different from Pharaoh’s dream or Rome’s dream or Wall street’s dream. At the center of God’s economy is the idea of REDISTRIBUTION.
One of the first stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Exodus, in which God rescues a group of Hebrew slaves from the oppressive world of Pharaoh. They were building the storehouses of Egypt – that is to say, they were building banks to store other people’s money, while their own families struggled to live. God hears their cry and rescues them. As they are being led out of Egypt, God begins forming them into a “holy nation” by establishing some new laws and patterns for these people. They are to be “holy”, in the sense that they have been “called out” of the destructive patterns of their world to demonstrate what a society of love looks like.
One of these new laws is the practice of the Sabbath: resting their bodies and land with the intent of keeping work holy so that it doesn’t become meaningless toil. They are also to practice hospitality to strangers and take special care of immigrants and foreigners. Then there is gleaning, where farmers are to leave the edges of the crops un-harvested for the poor to freely harvest for themselves. The most special of all is the Jubilee. Jubilee was God’s regular and systemic dismantling of inequality where slaves were set free, property was redistributed, and debts were freely forgiven. It was a celebration that Wall Street has much to learn from.
It is as if God is saying, “If you do not do these things, then you will end up like Egypt again.” God is a God of abundance if we will only trust, and a God of redistribution when we do not. God’s people are not to accumulate stuff for the sake of security, but to share indiscriminately with the scandalous and holy confidence that God will provide for tomorrow. We need not stockpile stuff in barns or 401ks, especially when there is someone in need.
One of the first lessons God’s people get is Holy Economics 101. As they wander through the wilderness, they complain about how hungry they are. Again God hears their pain, and drops ‘manna’ down from heaven to feed them in the wilderness. As the bread falls from heaven, God commands them not to take more than their daily bread. If they try to take more than they need for one day, it will be consumed by maggots. This lesson is echoed in the “daily bread” in the Lord’s prayer. After all, to pray for tomorrow’s bread contradicts the Lord’s prayer, as Jesus prayed for today’s bread. Neither should we pray only for “my” bread: it is not enough for me to have bread while others go hungry, so we pray for “our” daily bread. The original verse in Exodus 16 is quoted by Paul as he reminds the early Church in Corinth:
“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little'”
(2 Cor. 8:14-15).
There is a promise in Scripture that there is enough: that God did not mess up and make too many people or not enough stuff.
There is enough.
Gandhi said it so well: “There is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed.” This theme is echoed throughout the entire narrative of the Bible.