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Inequality of wealth is not God’s plan

In ancient Israel, it was not possible to enrich yourself at the expense of the others because, at the coming of the jubilee year, in fact, all must be returned to the legitimate owners (Leviticus 25). 

Those who are not afraid of the punishment of God had already begun to add house to house and join field to field (Isaiah 5:8).

The small family properties got gradually absorbed by big landowners and the lands ended up in the hands of a very restricted group of people.

In the time of Jesus, the reversal of this situation was hoped for and they thought the rich would be punished and the poor would become their judges. The parable must be read in this background. 

Interestingly the parable does not demonise the rich man nor canonise the poor man. So, the point in question is not their morality, but the tragedy of inequality itself. 

For many, it seems logical and natural to distinguish between good rich people and the evil rich.

The conviction is that inequalities can continue in this world and that the super-rich can live next to the miserable, provided they do not steal and they give alms.

Jesus considers this way of thinking dangerous. And this is the conviction that he wants to attack. 

In the parable he speaks of a rich man who was condemned, not because he was bad, but simply because he was rich, that is, he locked himself in his world and did not accept the logic of sharing.

Jesus wants his disciples to understand that the existence in this world of two types of people—the rich and the poor—is not in God’s plan. Goods are given to all and those who have more must share with those who have less or have none, so that there is equality (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:13). 

St. Ambrose said: “When you give something to the poor, you don’t offer him what is yours, you give back what is his, because the earth and the goods of this world are of all people, not of the rich.”

The five brothers of the rich man who continue to live in this world run the risk of misusing the assets.

They represent the Christian communities who are tempted to attach the heart to wealth. 

How can they be diverted from the seduction it irresistibly exerts? The rich man has his own proposal. He pleads to father Abraham to convey miracullously—through a vision or a dream—a message from beyond the grave.

Abraham’s response to this trust in the persuasive ability of miracles is firm and clear: the only force capable of detaching the heart of the rich from his goods is God’s word.

“Moses and the prophets” had all the sacred scripture in the time of Jesus. Whoever does not let themself be struck by the word of God cannot make radical change.


Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications