Love of Money

Jesus surely wants us uplifted and fulfilled by giving with empathetic generosity

Some billionaires have asked to be taxed more, and that is about to happen. Golden State legislators are pushing a first-in-the-nation net wealth tax bill, called AB-2088, that would affect some 300 Californians with a net worth of $30 million or more. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has $118 billion – the richest person alive. A wealth tax of 0.4% would annually relieve him of $472 million to help pay for California’s deficit spending. Not if but when the bill becomes law, it’s a sure bet the asset threshold will be ratcheted lower to grab more tax revenue. California is a trendsetter and the winds of wealth confiscation for “fair” distribution to the poor will blow eastward.

Because the new wealth tax targets the rich who know how to hoard their surplus wealth, many are emigrating from California. A clause in AB-2088 would levy a prorated tax for ten years from folks like Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, who is moving to Texas.

Yet, a surprising number of wealthy Democrats like Warren Buffet have invited net wealth taxes. Buffet legitimately earned his vast fortune. So if we assume he feels no guilt from ill-gotten gains, what is it about extreme wealth that weighs on the man? Perhaps it’s an innate sense of justice that everyone has deep down inside. It induces even an art thief to adjust a priceless museum painting that’s tilted to one side, so it hangs just right before he robs it. The canyon between the rich and poor so deeply divides us, even the robber barons ache to bridge the gap.

Conscience is the hound of heaven. The rich man asks himself, why am I so highly favored but not Sloppy Joe Sixpack?

By lucky accident of birth, I inherited good genes, was born in a wealthy industrial nation, and was raised by a conscientious and industrious father and stay-at-home mother. They provided me with a first-rate education and examples of ethics and discipline. I held no sway over any of those biological, psychological, and social advantages. Appraisal of my privileged circumstance reveals just how much I owe society in payback.

So how can I callously observe all the homeless who are tenting in parks with their kids, queuing up for soup kitchens and warm clothing, and not feel the injustice in it all? Whining over increased taxes borders on the inhumane.

I don’t believe Christ requires everyone who’s rich to sell off everything and give it all to the poor. But the parable of The Last Judgment (cf. Matt 25:31-46) makes it clear that those who are deaf to the cries of the poor and the marginalized, who do nothing to help feed, clothe, and educate them, should not deceive themselves that they will pass God’s final entrance exam.

The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). Jesus surely wants us uplifted and fulfilled by giving with empathetic generosity to whatever extent we can.

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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