God gives but does not share. –Haitian Proverb
This will not be true forever, but I deeply believe that at this point in history, the earth offers enough of what humans need to survive. There is enough food, water and wealth to provide a life of decency for everyone. God has given enough, but we are in charge of sharing. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, how to share ethically becomes a more urgent question. The work of compassionate distribution becomes necessary.
Last week I hosted our annual clothes swap. Deep in Minnesota winter, all my friends bring clothes they are sick of over and we swap them out. What is new to me is new. It cuts down on consumerism, and we donate what is left over to organizations that redistribute. It is fun, and it makes too much sense not to do. Women are encouraging of each other instead of critical. We celebrate changes in life as one pregnant woman gets clothes from someone through with being pregnant. We see one person’s trash become another person’s treasure. This year was the biggest swap I have hosted. And the piles upon piles of clothes became deeply overwhelming. It is an annual reminder that we have too much stuff while others do not have enough. It all comes down to compassionate distribution.
There are some theologians who think that Jesus did not actually multiply bread and fish in the loaves and fishes story. It is possible that the story is about redistribution. Maybe Jesus got all the fish and bread that people were hoarding and passed it out to everyone. And everyone had enough, with plenty left over. So the miracle was compassionate distribution. That is the work of the gospel.
I am not calling for communism or socialism. There will be people with more and people with less. But I do think it is possible for everyone to have a decent life without the rich needing to change their lifestyle all that dramatically. Scriptures says that if one person has two coats and another has none, the former should offer one coat to the latter. But my clothes swap made it abundantly clear, we are talking about a person with seven coats giving one coat away to someone who has none. In this case, both people benefit from the redistribution. When we see the abundance God has offered us, we must recognize our responsibility to share. The work of redistribution not sexy, but tedious. But is good work, and work we who have too much are called to daily.