Bums and Billionaires

I reckon something good is coming out of the Wall Street occupation: it’s getting people talking about one of the seven deadly sins. We really should be talking about greed. We should be talking about how violent a sin greed is. It is violent because the greedy person will invariably do some sort of violence against another person in order to advance his avarice.

The violence may be in the form of harsh working conditions, unfair competition, firing people un necessarily for profit or any other number of ultimately violent actions stemming from the initial sin of greed, so let’s talk about greed, and let’s be down on greed and up on generosity.

However, greed (like every sin) can only be rightly discussed in a religious and theological context because only there can it be discussed objectively. As soon as greed (or any other sin) is discussed in an ideological or social context the discussion of the sin becomes distorted by the assumptions of class warfare, ethnic bigotry, cultural bias and other preconceptions. So the Wall Street protesters blame all the rich people for being greedy, but not all rich people are greedy, and plenty of poor people are greedy and unscrupulous.

Bums and billionaires can both be greedy. Bums and billionaires can also be generous. What matters is not how much money you have, but what you do with it. Furthermore, it is impossible to judge other people by outward appearances. I remember the story of the Christian millionaire R.G. LeTourneau who made lots of money inventing bulldozers or some such. He used to live pretty well– I guess he had a number of houses and a jet and all the fancy stuff. Christians used to blame him for being rich and hypocritical. But he was a quiet, unassuming gentleman and used to just take the flack.

Then when he died it was discovered that for most of his life he gave away 90% of his income, and lived like a prince on only 10%. So who is anybody to judge? The truly generous philanthropist does so humble and anonymously.

So here was a billionaire who was generous. Likewise with the poor. I’ve known bums who would give you the shirt off their back, and many people I now who society would brand as ‘poor’ are sweet and kind and generous to others.

Bums and Billionaires? Stand the whole thing on its head. The billionaire who is a greedy skinflint is a bum. The bum who lives life in the freedom and generosity that often goes with poverty? He’s the billionaire.

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