Redistribution of wealth in the Bible

Wealth Redistribution is Biblical

Wealth redistribution is a hot political topic these days. Some argue President Obama’s economic policies are essentially moving money from one group of people to another by raising and lower taxes accordingly. The term “wealth redistribution”, equated to socialism by some, could be defined as taking money from the rich and giving it to the middle class or poor. Whether you agree with this definition of wealth redistribution or the use of the term itself, Jesus Himself supports it, but in reverse.

Reverse Wealth Redistribution

For those who are good stewards or managers of the financial resources God has given them, wealth redistribution is a very exciting thing. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-28), Jesus speaks of three servants whose master gave them money to manage while he went on a journey. Two of the servants made their money grow while the master was away, but the third servant did not. The master returned and, after seeing that the third servant did not manage his money in a way as to receive increase, commanded that the money be taken from him and given to one of the other servants. Verse 28, 29 – “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

The servant who initially received the ten talents became the recipient of reverse wealth redistribution. The money was taken from the one who had less and given to the one who had more, just the opposite of the wealth redistribution we hear about in the news. This was not an injustice, but rather an example of rewards and consequences of individual behavior. Take personal responsibility for your finances, make wise money management decisions, and more money will come your way.

It’s true – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Dave Ramsey says, “Money naturally flows from those who do not manage it to those who do.” This begs an important question:

How do you get in the “rich get richer” crowd?

1. Utilize a spending plan (financial budget). This is the best way to show God that you have a plan for managing the resources he entrust to you. Without one, your money will disappear quickly, and you’ll constantly be controlled by a “lack of money”. Financial pressure will become a way of life.

2. Cut out un-necessary spending. Creating a budget will shine a spotlight on areas where you have been spending more than you realized. Often times, the problem is not too little income; it’s too much lifestyle. You may not be able to increase your income right away, but you can immediately take action by cutting expenses. You may have to stop buying fast food, downgrade to a less expensive car, and stay away from clearance sales, but God will honor and bless your diligence and commitment in controlling what is within your control.

3. Begin tithing immediately. The first 10% of all your increase is God’s. It is to be given to your local church. God promises financial blessings to those who do this, but many chose to disobey God’s directive in this area. As a result, they are not the recipient of the blessings that He promises. (Key scriptures regarding tithing are Leviticus, 27:30-32, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 23:23, and Proverbs 3:9) Failing to tithe nullifies the benefits of doing numbers 1 and 2 above. Despite your best efforts, it puts you in the “poor gets poorer” crowd because God cannot bless your disobedience. If you wait until you can afford to tithe, you never will. Begin immediately and God will begin to bless you for it.

If you want to receive financial increase, become like the first two servants – Properly manage the resources you have already been given. Performing the three steps above will lay a good foundation for your financial success and get you on the receiving end of biblical wealth redistribution.

Ready to Quit Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck?

Just click to join 163,000+ others and take our FREE email course to better manage your money, pay off debt, and save!

  1. Josh Quintero

    I’d also like to confine the phrase “redistribution of wealth” to the Church alone as shown in Acts where there was spiritual accountability between members. Acts describes almost the utopian nature of the early Church, but remember that God’s plan is for the Church to model true Christian spirituality. Redistribution outside spiritual lines is almost impossible since all hearts involved do not uniformly grasp the blessings associated with redistributing wealth.

  2. Mike S

    Thanks for your article, and I agree with you that the Lord wants us to be good stewards of the resources we’ve been given. While I think that you are right to apply this parable to how we manage our money, I believe that it’s intended scope is far greater. For those of us who belong to Him, he has given us time, money and spiritual gifts that should be used for His glory. Managing money for ourselves is fine, but do we manage it as a resource that doesn’t really belong to us, but to Him? What about time? How often do we spend time in fruitless pursuits, when it could be invested in things that last forever? Do I use my gifts for the Lord, or for myself? We’ll be called to account for how faithful we are with all three, and how well we managed them, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God. Thank you again for your article and for keeping these things at the forefront of our attention.

  3. John

    Wow, such an intriguing what to look at this. I’ve heard this parable I don’t know how many times but have never thought of it in the context shown here. Good stuff.

  4. John

    Doh – typo….of course I meant to say an intriguing “way” to look at this. (how can I spell ‘intriguing’ correctly but not ‘way?’)

  5. Sgillesp

    Wow, sorry – I’m pretty horrified by this post. It’s pretty clear to me in reading the whole Bible, that God calls those who look out for the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan “righteous” and roundly condemns those who plunder the poor to make themselves richer. Check out, for example, Isaiah 5. God explicity commands the king to stand on the side of the poor, the widow and the orphan (Ps 72).
    While your advice to us in getting our own financial houses in order is sound and wise, your use of this parable is deplorable: this is not what it is about at all. Jesus is using the ways of the world as a metaphor to help us understand that God holds us accountable for what he has given us in everything – and most notably, in faith and knowledge of the gospel. I’m pretty sure that Jesus would be quite saddened at the idea that his people would take from his metaphor that God will take from the poor and unwise and give it to those who already have – especially since the Bible over and over and over again commends quite the opposite in terms of wealth distribution.
    Your regular emails are full of good advice and more than once have strengthened me spiritually, but this one was a real clunker that’s been bothering me all day.

  6. bob

    I can’t speak for Steven (the author of this article), but I am not sure I follow what you are saying. What I got from the article was another angle at the importance of stewardship. As we are more faithful with what God has given us, He will give us more. The parable came from Jesus lips Himself, and I don’t think it in any way nullifies that fact that we are still supposed to take care of the poor around us.

  7. Steve Toschlog

    Bob said it best. This post was intended to be more about personal money management than anything else. My hope is that someone who has not been doing 1 or more of the 3 points mentioned in the post will begin doing so. It will improve their financial situation, which will enable them to better help others. I also agree with Mike S.- this parable has many applications extending beyond money.

  8. I have to agree with Sgillesp, strickly speaking, this parable is not about money, it’s about sharing the God-given knowledge of the Gospel and growing the harvest of believers. It’s likely that Jesus framed the parable in monetary terms because that’s what people would understand.

    But moving back to the original point of the post, redistribution of wealth, I think that debate on public spending is kind of moot from a biblical perspective. The commands to give to and care for the poor were directed at us primarily as INDIVIDUALS.

    I don’t think that we’ll be able stand before the throne of judgement and hide behind the point in the matter of the poor that we voted for and supported politicians who favored more public money for the poor. We’ll be held accountable for what we did with what we had, not the people and programs we supported through the political process.

    This is where we can get into some hot water using scripture in support of public policy. It’s OK to make some effort to keep public policy in line with biblical principles to the degree we’re able, but we have to understand that public policy doesn’t in any way relieve us of the burden of caring for others, and of course that in itself isn’t always strickly a monetary issue either.

  9. The Happy Rock

    I think we only need to look a few verses further to see the real redistribution of wealth that Jesus talks about. In a verse just a sentence or two after the talents parable we have:

    “35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ”

    I really think the thrust of the parable of the talents is very different that the message in this post, even though the three points are excellent advice.

    Yes, the talents are about stewardship, but to me the goal is not monetary profit but spiritual profit. Especially when you take that in conjunction with the surrounding message. Giving your money and time to the poor,those in prison, and orphans and widows, and giving your food and clothes away is not monetary profit yet is creates great amounts of spiritual profit.

    You could try and argue that if you give your money away God will give you much more, but I am not sure that fits with the parable, which says work hard and create profit. If we give our money away which Jesus extols a few sentences later, it is impossible to create monetary profit. But it would create significant spiritual profit. The type of profit that the master would be trying to create for himself if he were here. Add to that passages about Jubilee, the rich young ruler, and many others and I think we might get a clearer picture of real wealth distribution.

    With the previous arguments in mind, I would argue that saving for retirement and playing it safe by following ‘all the rules’ is probably more like the third servant who is scared to take risks, trust his master, and be about his master’s business than it is like the other two.

  10. Happy Rock, I’ll have to disagree with your last paragraph. Wisely managing our money has nothing to do with fear of risks, not trusting God, or not doing His work. There are many places in the Bible, including the New Testament, where wisdom in dealing with material wealth is commended and encouraged.

    What is not encouraged is hoarding and spending all your wealth on your own pleasures and wants. There’s a distinct difference between someone who saves for a retirement where their needs are met because they can no longer work and someone who saves for a retirement where they can live in luxury and recreation all the time.

  11. A Reader

    How exactly the rich could get so rich by, ostensibly, ripping the poor who have hardly anything to be ripped of? A research done by a renowned economist and chairman of Economic Dept at U.C. Davis, Dr. Gregory Clark, reveals that in (post-) industrial societies these are the poor that are living off the rich and not the other way around.

    Here is a link to an article that elaborates on this paradigm:

  12. bobby copher

    Any reference to scripture in comparrison to 21st century society is weak in my opinion. The bible was written in a time when man did not populate the earth in the same density as we have today. In a time when well intended actions were rewarded and a persons efforts and ingenuity reaped benefits in due proportion. We now have a world full of outside influences and hidden agendas. To ignore the fact that we can no longer take responsibility for everything that happens to us in our life is to blind ourselves of reality. Even the best of intentions and smartest of God’s children are blindsided by circumstances out of their control. It is the first lesson that I recommend counseling to those considering suicide. You can’t take responsibility for everything in your life and blame your circumstances on only yourself. Once they realize that in many cases they are victim to the evils that prey on us in this world even though they have done everything exactly right, they begin to find new hope. So in my opinion, this message, more so than most in religious texts, has very little application in the 21st century world.

  13. Dr. Paul Anderson

    From an intellectual standpoint, one can distort the intent of the mind of God, in regards to such things as re-distribution of wealth.
    For the federal goverment to take (steal) from the rich, which have gained their wealth from discipline and hard work, and re-distribute to the poor, which often have chosen to enroll in wellfare programs, rather than work, is not the intent of the God of the Scriptures.
    Proverbs 10:4 ” A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the dilligent makes rich ”
    II Thessalonians 3:10 ” For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

    Historically, what most fail to realize, re-distribution of wealth, is one of the 10 planks of Communism, and is used to bring about the control of the masses by controlling and re-distributing wealth.

    The re-distribution of wealth is one of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations in their efforts to establish “Global Governance” ie One World Goverment.

  14. Hev

    A talent is an special God given ability and has little to do with finance. If one uses his/her talents for God then God will bless the person with more talents. Increasing one’s wealth without consideraton of those who have not is greed without compassion. Increasing one’s wealth by oppression is also Biblical. I suggest everyone read that verse!

  15. Accurate

    Re Hev’s Comments: A Talent in the Jewish times was a system of measurement (as applicable to this parable) has nothing to do with talents mentioned elsewhere in scripture. A talent (weight) used in New Testament Times was about 58.9 kgs (130 lbs). A talent was used to measure the weight of precious metals – which was the subject of the parable.

  16. Accurate

    To understand this parable we must observe that Jewish law in operation at the time of Jesus’ ministry made it a crime for Jews to lend money at interest to fellow Jews. (see Leviticus 25:36-37).

    To help us weigh the character of the master in the parable, Jesus said that the servant with the least business ability (sufficient to be trusted with “one talent) says “Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not scattered. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; and lo, here is thy talent; take it from me as thou hast from thine other servants, for it is thine.” (Matt 25:24-25)

    What sort of person harvests where he has NOT sown and demands MORE than what belongs to him ? Those who demand interest from poor farmers often take their land together with harvests that the moneylender did not himself sow. This goes on today as it has for thousands of years. The more we look at the behaviour of this master, the more we realise that Jesus is describing a very different kind of master compared what we have been taught to believe over the years.

    This is a master who wants 100% interest on his money as the normal going rate, which was a criminal offense under Jewish law at that time (also see Nehemiah 5:10-11).

    So the question is why did the servant with 1 talent bury that talent and disobey his master? It would have been easy for him to have deposited the money at the bank unless he was responding to a higher law than the word of a such a master to these servants. Letting the banker make money on his behalf would not have required more business acumen than he must have had to have been entrusted with so much money. This would have involved no more effort than burying it so we don’t have to accept the accusation that he buried it out of laziness. But he knew very well the character of the master who loaned him the talent. This implies that he was more afraid of breaking God’s law against usury (or interest) than of antagonising this hard and greedy master.

    He was responding to Higher Law!
    It is dangerous to use scripture in isolation to support an agenda unless you understand the context of the scripture and why the scripture was written. As Peter says in II Peter 3:16, those “who wrest the scriptures, do so do their destruction”

    Reading this parable in conjunction with ALL scripture and in context with the time it was written gives it an entirely new perspective on the one placed on it by modern day conservative “prosperity” theologians.

    (full disclosure: I am neither conservative, liberal or centrist in my political views)