Social Justice, not welfare

In today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 4:32-37), we note that “the community of believers was of one heart and mind, meaning that there was only one church, those who believed in Jesus and what he taught, lock, stock and barrel.

How did they know what Jesus taught? They trusted the bishops, the apostles, to tell them.

How could they be certain that the apostles weren’t teaching them some error or heresy? They had the Holy Spirit to guide them.

Also “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.”

Some today who think Jesus taught some form of communism (small c, not captial) have it wrong.  Communism (maybe a better word is communalism) is like tribalism, where everyone works for the good of the whole.  In Fiji, some work in the field, some govern, some fish, some have jobs in town, some even go overseas and send most of their paycheck home to help the tribe.  People don’t join a tribe, they are born into it, and that’s the way they’ve lived for centuries.  I noticed, when there, that there was nobody that was very poor, and nobody that was very rich, in the tribe.  It’s also the tribe that polices its own, for if you disgrace your chief, it reflects badly on the chief.

No, Jesus didn’t teach this.  He taught for those who have are to share some (at their own discretion), voluntarily.  He taught that we should not be unduly attached to possessions and wealth here on earth, because our true reward is in heaven.  So the believers would sell their possessions as necessary to help those believers in need.  In this passage, we meet Barnabas, who sold his land for the benefit of the infant Church.  This type of giving is a calling by the Holy Spirit to help someone in need.


8 thoughts on “Social Justice, not welfare

  1. David,


    Remember, it was the poor widow who gave all she could give with a willing heart that was pleasing to God and not the “rich men” who flaunted their gifts in the temple.

    Money does not equal holiness. It is the gifts given with a willing heart that God can multiply and those are the one’s that bring God the most glory.

  2. I used to wonder about Jesus’ commentary on the Ten Commandments in Matt 5-6-7. Why did He not illuminate on the commandment “Thou shalt not steal?” Why did He seem to ignore stealing? Especially when it’s OK to any tribe to steal from another! There are millions of ways we all steal in one way or another.

    Finally I found my answer–Jesus did COMMENT on GREED! He warns us to BEWARE OF ALL KINDS OF GREED. Luke 12:15 All KINDS! In other words, Jesus teaches us, “Thou shalt not greed.” QED

  3. By the way, welcome to my blog! Yes, we steal in many ways. Greed can be one of them. Goofing off at work can be one. Taking someone else’s words as your own can be another. A poor man trying to feed his family is not stealing. Jesus was always teaching us not to be so attached to earthly things. They will all be left behind when we die.

  4. Thanks David.

    Our American economic system has been almost torn down by greed. Greed ruined Russia’s godless communism where they said, “You pretend to pay me and I pretend to work.” That’s sin in other words. But the same sin is at work here in America.

    Supposedly, free markets magically make greedy individuals actually provide benefits to all. In theory, the delusion of getting ahead by working hard for it (and being unable to FIX prices) drives individuals to compete to produce which forces the cornucopia of plenty to function. All well and good so far.

    But buyers are the only ones who LOVE free markets where prices float freely and cannot be fixed. SELLERs on the other hand HATE to have to compete by lowering their prices, so they make official and unofficial agreements NOT to lower prices. It’s called negotiating. And contracts. After all, a seller can’t sell for so little that he goes out of business.

    So what’s an answer to this dilemma? A change of heart. Not a change of heart next life around, but NOW.

    We need to stop saying life is unfair, as if that were the golden rule. Of course, life is unfair. It’s up to homo sapiens, under God, to constantly labor to increase fairness, until His Kingdom comes.

    “Ask not what your country can do for you” and ask not what you can do for your country, either! Ask, “Is this fair?” If not, then what can we DO to make it more fair?

  5. I was originally attracted to the main title of this blog: Social Justice not Welfare. I’d like to see us get back to that subject.

    The words Social Justice tell us that we should be promoting a just society. Obvious to all, the animal kingdom cares little about justice or fairness. I saw the amazing birthing of thousands of wildebeests, all within the same hour! One little guy was born with short legs. His mother called to him but he couldn’t walk well at all. So she abandoned him and a lion killed him. This is reality in the animal kingdom. It gets worse, in the spider kingdom, there is incredible carnage every minute of every day. Life must eat life in order to live. I say God made it that way, like it or not.

    But among us homo sapiens, so called, we have a concept of fairness or justice betweeen man and man. It either came to us from God Himself or else it came by way of the social contract known as I agree to not hurt you if you agree to not hurt me. And if you do, then an eye for an eye, etc. It is so easy to ‘get it’ that children catch on to it at an early age. I have witnessed this!

    The Catholic church does a better job of teaching turn the other cheek than my own protestant church. Yet, I conclude from comparing South America (mostly Catholic) with NA (mostly protestant) that socalled highly divided protestantism has been ‘beneficial’ to the democratization of We the People! On the other hand, the existence of a surplus of lawyers and over crowded courts and jails is not good either.

    So we need to resume making progress with a good form of socialism. Sweden’s socialism is likely the best example of ‘good socialism’. There, everyone gets to consume produced stuff more equally. They don’t nationalize the means of producion like the Russians did. This appears to be significant. Swedes ‘nationalize’ or equalize consumption. Everybody gets a doctor for free (via taxes, of course)–even the rich millionaire can get a doctor for free (via same taxes). But if he wants to pay tons of money for a more expenisive doctor, he can do it.

    In the 80s, we had ‘supply side economics’ under President Reagan. He deregulated as much as he could. So rich people cheated more and more and now you see what we have reaped.

    First, we need level playing fields for everyone. That requires referees or regulators who will WATCH what’s going on and make everyone play fair.

    Second, the reason for our ‘recovery’ failing is due to lack of consumption on the demand side. Everyone is greedy and hoarding their cash for when prices finally hit bottom. So our economy is grinding to a halt. Empty homes and surplus is everywhere yet not for sale at reasonable prices, so the hoarding and waiting continues. If we let people start consuming more of this surplus (promote demand side economics), the prices will stop falling and people will stop waiting and hoarding what little cash they have left. Jobs will start being created to increase production again.

    Swedish socialism has been praised by some while Cuban socialism has been faulted almost universally. US Capitalism used to be praised while Albanian Capitalism has been condemned as pure Ponzi – ism. (What has crashed US is the huge increase in Ponzi like market schemes).

    Why is socialism bad? The Swedes live well and keep on living better. The Cubans live poor and get nowhere. They practice the principle of everyone equally poor, it seems.

    I wouldn’t mind if we had a good form of socialism where the degree of regulation was reasonable instead of crippling and my standard of living improved as time permitted.

    We need to force society to play fair! But not be insane about it.

  6. This is becoming a political discussion rather than a faith-based discussion. “Social Justice” means helping those who cannot help themselves to live a dignified life. Clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and not lording over them. The concept comes from God, whether we acknowledge God or not. That’s where “natural law” comes in.
    What North America does better than South America is legislate and enforce. Most of SA is dictatorship or socialist, whereas most of NA is democratic. Have not’s in North America have more of a say in public policy than in South America. But wherever the Catholic Church is, the poor can expect to have a certain dignity, whether they have money or food, or not. Catholics tend to live more like the early church in Acts of the Apostles, sharing with those in need. North America has never been very Catholic, in fact, the original US was founded around the same time that Europe was rebelling against the Catholic Church. The humanists, like Adam Smith, founded this country, giving lip service to God, but little else, mainly because of what Henry VIII did in creating a state religion. The truth is that, when you teach charity, and really give it from the heart, the church does a very good job of taking care of the needy. The US Government does little. It’s very inefficient. Less than 50% of cash collected to serve as welfare gets into the hands that need it. Socialism is bad because it takes away the incentive for people to do better, to rise above the muck and mire.

  7. You got this part quite right, I’d admit.

    There appear to be two realms: the realm of faith in a God who says, “Take care of my brothers, sisters, mothers, and the fatherless.”

    The other realm is that of unbelievers, or the secular society. They do not nor cannot submit to God. So we need socially acceptable laws and we need referees (regulators) what WATCH them to make sure they don’t get corrupted.

    The free press was supposed to be the WATCHERs but since it takes so much money to run a national news organization, it ends up being a large corporation that publishes the news and so guess what? Bias! DUH!

    We should question all authorities, even those in the church just to keep them on their toes and honest. They should welcome rather than act miffed that they have been chosen to give account of themselves and when they pass with flying colors, then halelujah! Let them enjoy a tiny bit of pride in being found faithful. We must never ASSUME that any one is above inspection. Only when they have passed inspection with colors flying THEN AND ONLY THEN do they deserve our respect.

    We must never ASSUME holiness. Regular audits and tests must be passed.

  8. And that’s why Catholics have confession. Done right, a Catholic should regularly do an examination of conscience, go to confession with a firm purpose of amendment not to do those things, be sorry for them, and do the penance assigned.

What say you???

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