‘Every form of wealth acquired at the cost of other nations, and every kind of economic imperialism, debases the dignity of men and women, and is an infringement of God’s glory.’ Jürgen Moltmann.
The view of wealth articulated by Moltmann, has a solid biblical foundation. Specifically, Jesus’ teachings emphasise stewardship and the true value of wealth – as a means of serving others and preserving, or indeed augmenting, their dignity. Consider Matthew 25:34-45 as an example:
‘34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
And then there is, as another example, the strongly worded warning found in the first Johannine epistle (1 John 3:17):
17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Against this biblical backdrop it is perhaps worth remembering the extent of wealth inequality in contemporary society. Drawing on the 2017 Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, published in 2017, Rupert Neate wrote in The Guardian:
‘The globe’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, according to a new report highlighting the growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else.
The world’s richest people have seen their share of the globe’s total wealth increased from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or $140tn (£106tn)’.
That this is neither just, nor sustainable, is self-evident; the real test comes in developing strategies that ensure and facilitate a more equal distribution of wealth.