Posted by: rogermitchell | March 7, 2012

Redistribution of wealth, just economics, an end of law enforcement abuses

This post continues the theme of the ecclesia as counterpolitical activism in relation to the powers. As the previous post concluded, we belong in the community of this world, set as it is in the oppressive context of imperial governance and its successive transformations, but for the peace of the multitude and the undoing of empire, not its promulgation.

The politics of the kingdom of God, or what this blog refers to as kenarchy, views this peacemaking undoing of empire in terms of the positive elevation of children, women, and the poor, back into the egalitarian image of God. In this penultimate look at the first four chapters of Luke’s story, the practical implications of all this for our political engagement with the economic, financial and military powers today is starkly exposed in the advice given by John the Baptist to the crowds who listened to him. The next and final post in the series will consider the implications of this in terms of Jesus’ personal encounter with the devil in Luke chapter four.

The material that follows is not new to this blog, but is, in my view, of enough importance for a revisit. As I see it, it forever positions Jesus and his incarnation in confrontation with the economic and legal-military powers of empire and its political inheritors.
Luke chapter three once again positions the narrative in the unmistakeable context of the Roman imperial powers and their puppet local tetrarchy and high priesthood (vv. 1-2). Into this political order Luke introduces John the Baptist in prophetic terms that bring together as one the way of the Lord and the kingdom of God which he declares to be at hand in Jesus’ incarnate life (vv. 3-6). It is in order to receive this new political way of being that John is preparing the multitudes to change their normative way of thinking. When the people get this and ask him to put it in simple, accessible terms, he does so in no uncertain manner.

According to John the Baptist, three things are necessary in order to receive the kingdom of God, or the way of the Lord, and behave accordingly. The first is the redistribution of wealth, the second is the correction of economic malpractice and the third is to bring an end to the abuse of law enforcement. This is so clear, that it is almost enough just to quote the translators. On the redistribution of wealth: “And the crowds were questioning him, saying, ‘Then what shall we do?’ And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise’” (vv. 10-11 NASB). On the reformation of economic practice, note that tax collectors made their living by incorporating it in the taxes they charged, just as a business man or woman incorporates it in the profit they make: “Tax collectors also came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to,’ he told them” (vv. 12-13 NIV). On bringing an end to the abuse of law enforcement, bear in mind that there were no separate police and military in Roman times: “And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (v. 14 AV).

This is plain and clear, and I suggest, remains the starting point for Christian discipleship today. The next chapter, as we shall see, exposes the demonic strongholds that lie behind these political injustices and sets out a transcendent strategy to accompany the necessary policies of everyday radical politics.


  1. one quick response at first read – yes, challenging words, especially, for those of us who live in wealthy countries with comfort (at least part of the time). I continually return, however, to John Polyani’s thoughts on sin. How, after his research into the causes for WWI, which for him had to do with economics, he realized as a Jew (who had worked with Christians) that sin was no longer just a personal or individual issue. That, indeed, our world was such that sin was collective and corporate and had to be addressed that way. He wrote that in the 1940’s before real globalization came about.

    I’ve recently done some hard thinking about what it means to care for the earth, that is, move forward an agenda of creation care. Yes, it helps that I choose to live car -free, and dry my clothing outdoors in the summer and all those things. But my little efforts don’t change much really. They may make me more mindful and that is helpful but in the end the change, if we actually do choose to care about the planet, will have to be collective and corporate. That presents a whole new challenge. In other words, my personal repentance is great but somehow things have to move beyond that.

    What we are talking about is resocialization of people away from authoritarian, imperialistic forms into something new. And yes, if I live that, in whatever way I can figure out or am led, then I become a model of the new (well, hopefully, at least some days). But there has to be more than that at some point.

    The current hoohaw in the States about Rush Limbaugh’s statements about women are interesting. He has been making similar statements for years but now he has been called out in a big way. Advertisers are leaving his show. And the conversation has gone on long enough with enough folks verbalizing why his comments are unacceptable that I think it actually allows for a rethink. It makes certain comments/behaviours socially unacceptable while rewarding others. Interesting to watch, don’t know if it will really lead to change but interesting.

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