The Right Way to Distribute Wealth

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the story of the Rich Young Ruler that is found in three of the Gospels of the Christian New Testament. Here it is from Mark 10:17-22 in the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

17 As He [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

There are those who believe that this story gives carte blanche for wealth distribution. It does not. Notice that Jesus reminded the young rich man of several of the Commandments from the Old Testament: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, and Honor your father and mother. These commandants are infallible. They are the beginnings of righteousness not the end.

After the young man declared that he had always followed these precepts, Jesus looked him with love before pronouncing that one remaining commandment that our liberal friends are so keen on banging us over the heads with. “…go and sell all you possess and give to the poor,…” It is at this point that liberals declare that not only is wealth distribution fair, but it is holy, according to Jesus’ words.

richyoungrulerHere’s where they mess up. First of all, Jesus’ declaration is preceded by a reminder that the rich young man should obey the commandments against murder, adultery, stealing, lying, fraudulent actions and words, and respect for elders. At no time in the political maneuverings that liberals do on the local or the national scene, are any of these commandments mentioned. Why not? Could it be that liberals are more prone to acceding to these “sins” and would just as soon they not be brought up? I don’t know, but for whatever reason, they are not mentioned in the same breath as is wealth distribution.

Jesus looked at the young man and “felt a love for him.” How many times in the presence of some liberal have you felt his or her love emanating to you? Wasn’t it a liberal that made that lovely scatological remark about somebody doing something into Sarah Palin’s mouth? Does that sound like someone feeling love for Ms Palin? Have you ever read the facebook entries that Michelle Malkin receives from liberal detractors? I haven’t heard that kind of language used since I left the army in 1956. Is that the only way they have to answer her remarks? Apparently.

At no time in their declarations of wealth distribution, do liberals invoke rewards in the hereafter. Could it be because they aren’t concerned with the hereafter? They seem only to be concerned about rewards of their own wealth and power.

Last, Jesus told the young man to sell all that he has and “give it to the poor.” He didn’t tell the young man to pay more into the IRS in order for them to distribute it as they see fit or according to some formula that has been devised by a committee of six figure salaried bureaucrats who go on business trips to Las Vegas and stay in luxury hotels, eat four course dinners, and spend their off hours doing God knows what. Jesus didn’t even tell him to give the money to the United Way for local distribution. Jesus told him to give the money from the proceeds of the sale of his goods to the poor.

And, it’s worth pointing out, Jesus gave the rich young ruler the option of doing what He told him to do or not doing it. There was no order for the Sanhedrin to pass a law requiring the young man or anybody else to pay taxes so the money could be distributed to the poor. And the young man turned away sorrowfully.

Alms giving, helping the “widows” and “orphans” has always been of paramount important to the Jewish people as it is today. Christianity took this practice from the Jewish people, probably because the first Christians were Jews. How many institutions of benevolence owe their beginnings to the Church or Synagogue? Name the colleges, both small and great, name the hospitals, both general and specializing, name the children’s homes in small towns and in huge cities, name the derelict rescue missions that are outreach missions of one religious organization or another. One on one; two on two; three on three, people help and are helped by religious organizations.

As wonderful as the United States government is and as much as I love and am proud of my country, the University of Notre Dame, Cedar Sinai Hospital, John 3:16 mission in downtown Tulsa, OK are not the results of the love some federal bureaucrat has for the people of this country.

Sure, Jesus was a benevolent person and he preached benevolence, but he didn’t demand it and he didn’t pretend it was from anyone in the Roman government. Read the stories from both the Old and New Testaments and pay attention to the contexts.


The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Harry Livermore

Harry Livermore spent a lifetime teaching English in high schools and junior colleges in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. He now writes for and is editor of the Valdosta Magazine. Harry and his wife Janice live in Valdosta, GA. They are members of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Valdosta. Harry has two sons, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren who live in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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