Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Home Essential Documents Themes All Documents Authors Glossary Links Contact Us


The Least of These

If government's purpose is to protect us from others who would trample our rights, shouldn't it be protecting our right to equal opportunity? Shouldn't it be protecting our right to what we create? Shouldn't it be focused on protecting those at the bottom of our spectrum — not by giving them charity, but by protecting their genuine rights?

Henry George: Thou Shalt Not Steal  (1887 speech)

"Thou shalt not steal." That means, of course, that we ourselves must not steal. But does it not also mean that we must not suffer anybody else to steal if we can help it?

"Thou shalt not steal." Does it not also mean: "Thou shalt not suffer thyself or anybody else to be stolen from?" If it does, then we, all of us, rich and poor alike, are responsible for this social crime that produces poverty. Not merely the people who monopolize the land — they are not to blame above anyone else, but we who permit them to monopolize land are also parties to the theft.

The Christianity that ignores this social responsibility has really forgotten the teachings of Christ. Where He in the Gospels speaks of the judgment, the question which is put to the people is never, "Did you praise me?" "Did you pray to me?" "Did you believe this or did you believe that?" It is only this: "What did you do to relieve distress; to abolish poverty?" To those who are condemned, the Judge is represented as saying: "I was ahungered and ye gave me no meat, I was athirst and ye gave me no drink, I was sick and in prison and ye visited me not." Then they say, "Lord, Lord, when did we fail to do these things to thee?" The answer is: "Inasmuch as ye failed to do it to the least of these, so also did ye fail to do it unto me; depart into the place prepared for the devil and his angels."

On the other hand, what is said to the blessed is: "I was ahungered and ye gave me meat, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was naked and ye clothed me, I was sick and in prison and ye visited me." And when they say: "Lord, Lord, when did we do these things to thee?" The answer is: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Here is the essential spirit of Christianity. The essence of its teaching is not "Provide for your own body and save your own soul!" but "Do what you can to make this world a better world for all!" It was a protest against the doctrine of "each for himself and the devil takes the hindermost!" It was the proclamation of a common fatherhood of God and a common brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women. This was why the rich and powerful, the high priests and the rulers persecuted Christianity with fire and sword. It was not religion (what in so many of our churches today is called religion) that pagan Rome sought to tear out — it was the doctrine of the equality of human rights!

Now imagine, when we men and women of today go before that awful bar, that there we should behold the spirits of those who in our time under this accursed social system were driven into crime; of those who were starved in body and mind; of those little children who, in this city of New York, are being sent out of the world by thousands when they have scarcely entered it — because they do not get food enough, nor air enough; because they are crowded together in these tenement districts under conditions in which all diseases rage and destroy.

Supposing we are confronted with those souls, what will it avail us to say that we individually were not responsible for their earthly conditions? What, in the spirit of the parable of Matthew, would be the reply from the Judgment seat? Would it not be: "I provided for them all. The earth that I made was broad enough to give them room. The materials that are placed in it were abundant enough for all their needs. Did you or did you not lift up your voice against the wrong that robbed them of their fair share in the provision made for all?"

"Thou shalt not steal!" It is theft, it is robbery that is producing poverty and disease and vice and crime among us. It is by virtue of laws that we uphold; and those who do not raise their voices against that crime, they are accessories. The standard has now been raised, the cross of the new crusade at last is lifted. Some of us, aye, many of us, have sworn in our hearts that we will never rest as long as we have life and strength until we expose and abolish that wrong. We have declared war upon it. Those who are not with us, let us count them against us. For us there will be no faltering, no compromise, no turning back until the end. ...  read the whole article


Alanna Hartzok: Who Would Jesus Tax?  The Saga of Susan Pace Hamill's Alabama Tax Crusade

What makes Hamill's work so compelling is her deep grasp of the Alabama tax code combined with her thorough documentation of the scriptural bases for economic justice. She quotes chapters and verses which proclaim that the poor should not be oppressed and that society should create conditions for their advance. Among her favorites are Jesus' words in Matthew 25:45: "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Luke 16:19-31 is a parable of a rich man sent to hell because of his indifference to the disadvantaged and in Jeremiah 22:15-16, "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well."


To share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and add your comments.

Red links have not been visited; .
Green links are pages you've seen

Essential Documents pertinent to this theme:

Top of page
Essential Documents
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper