Insight 8 - The 10th Commandment and the Politics of Envy
The 10th commandment teaches us there will always be inequalities in the real world
This commandment of the Decalogue seeks to govern thought. We are told not to covet. Implicit in this injunction, of course, is a profound truth about life: there will always be inequalities, material and otherwise. We are not promised the idyllic and false world of equality of the communist materialist, but told the hard truth that there will always be someone who has more than we do in one or other respect.
No doubt, billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates spend only a minuscule proportion of their wealth on their total living expenses. The rest is invested in creating more wealth and, in the process, generating more jobs and more taxes. All of this makes their country richer and enables their government to improve infrastructure, and enables it also better to assist the needy and the indigent. Whether they invest out of greed or for altruistic purposes is totally irrelevant. Buffet and Gates are in fact the rulers of economic entities, which are, through their skills, successful in creating wealth, which makes their country richer. They have emerged wealthy because, in competition with others, they have proved to be the best at wealth creation. What is true of them is true to a lesser extent of those entrepreneurs who, although wealthy, are less wealthy than they are.
At the end of the day the most pressing need of all societies is to create wealth. And so people in business should be encouraged to get rich and, as far as possible, helped to do so. It follows that there ought to be no room for the envy of wealthy people, and that the 10th commandment is therefore firmly grounded in reality.
It follows also that the profound wisdom of the 10th commandment is evidence of its authenticity as God’s word, and incidentally is evidence too of its relevance, even after the passage of 3200 years, to the modern world of the free enterprise of commerce and industry.
The 10th commandment is directed to us all, and so each of us has to confront and accept the challenge of coping with being – or having – less than someone else in one or other respect.
Podcast ChaiFM - Insight 8