Our Government wants us to break the 10th Commandment

"You shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's." 10th commandment taken from Deut 5: 21b

Recently this past week as I was watching The O" Reilly Factor I was struck by a comment made by one of the viewers of the show.  The comment stated  that our government by attempting to raise the taxes on the rich were encouraging our country to break the 10th commandment.  I was struck by the magnitude of the comment. I began to ask myself, "Can it be true that our government can be encouraging us all to break the 10th commandment?"

The answer came to me as I read the 10th commandment itself.  In the 10th commandment God instructs the Israelites not to envy those who had more lands, servants, or livestock, simply put riches.  The key word here is envy, which is more severe than simple jealousy.  The difference between the two is profound, jealousy which is less severe than envy is generally a passing feeling where one wants something that he/she does not have.  A jealous person might say something like, " Boy I wish I had that car, that house, that money. While in envy the person begins to obsess over another's successes and might even begin to devise a way of acquiring those riches unjustly as the Compendium of the Catechism states,

"This commandment (10th), which completes the preceding commandment, requires an interior attitude of respect for the property of others and forbids greed, unbridled covetousness for the goods of others, and envy which is the sadness one experiences at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself." ( Section 531)

In Father Robert Barron's work, The Strangest Wayenvy is considered a close relative of pride. Pride is described as an disordered looking into oneself,  while envy which is grown from this perverted self introspection is the unhealthy viewing of oneself in comparison to others as Fr. Barron writes,

"Envy is looking out at the world, but not in self-forgetting wonder; instead, it looks out and compares what it sees with what the ego has.  Therefore, it is not ecstatic vision, but an anxious and resentful vision that only intensifies the agony of pride. The novelist Gore Vidal, in an acid but wonderfully honest remark observed, "When a friend of mine succeeds something in me dies." That is the voice of pure envy."  (pg.82)

So how is our government encouraging us to break the 10th commandment?

By attempting to redistribute the wealth by taxing the rich more and by perpetuating a class warfare mindset.  One does not need to look further than in the past two weeks when congress debated fiercely on expanding the Bush era tax cuts to all of the sectors of the population.  Supporting this redistribution mindset were the more liberal, socially progressive wing of the Democratic party.  They supported this notion on the dubious grounds that the rich should pay more taxes to help offset our country's deficits. 

On the surface this might seem fair and even Christian but beneath the surface one is confronted by the glaring injustice of this proposed measure.  Why do the most affluent people have to pay more taxes for their successes?  What incentive will it provide for aspiring entrepreneurs to become more successful if their riches will be taken away by the government?  How will it benefit our economy by taxing the rich?  How can one increase taxes without addressing spending? 

My belief is that the liberals in congress are purposely stoking the familiar fires of class warfare between the age old proletariat and bourgeoisie. This rhetoric might win some votes in elections but in the long term it does far more damage to our country because it encourages the envy of the rich.  Taken to it's worst extent we get communism, or as in Western Europe a softer derivative of Communism manifested through cradle to the grave socialism.  Both of these I firmly believe come from the breaking of the 10th commandment, which unfortunately our government is encouraging through its redistribution mindset.

I admit that for most of my life I have also succumbed to this mindset. Most of my attitudes towards the rich were shaped through my negative experiences I had with my wealthier classmates in high school.  I remember how in high school the class distinctions were razor clear.  You had typically three groups, the rich kids, the middle class kids, and the city kids. The city and middle class kids generally got a long since we all hated the rich kids.  Unfortunately many of the rich kids gave us good reason to dislike them since they were pompous, arrogant, and spoiled.  There was this one kid that got a Porsche boxster as his first car.  After he wrecked that car he got another sports car.  My high school years unfortunately jaded my views of the rich and it took many years to undo my faulty perceptions which were shaped through my high school experiences.

However, little by little my attitude began to change regarding the rich. For example this year a great part of my healing took place as I became a parishioner of Holy Cross in Rumson. At Holy Cross I witnessed that the wealthy parishioners were kind, generous, and used their money to do great things for the parish and community.  Another part of my healing took place when I witnessed several of my wealthy relatives doing the same with their money.  Unfortunately I also witnessed the arrogance, jealousy, and small mindedness in the poorer classes. Most importantly I learned through my healing that the Lord wants us to be "poor in spirit" not necessarily poor. St. France de Sales elaborates on this distinction,

"Don't have a full and explicit desire for wealth you do not possess.  Don't set your heart deeply in what you have.  Don't grieve over losses you incur.  Then you will have some grounds to believe that although rich in effect you are not so in affection but poor in spirit and consequently blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to you." (from Introduction to the Devout Life, pg. 152)

It is important to note that I am not implying that the rich have not played a part in our country's current economic recession or that the government should not intervene to help the poorest.  What I am saying instead is that politicians should stop trying to create class divisions among our citizens.

Ultimately the solution to the our country's ills will come from all of us, the poor, middle class, and rich. This awesome responsibility should never be placed solely in the hands of the government  Why? Because by doing this we are all abdicating our own Christian responsibility of creating a more just society. 

Prayer:  Lord I ask you to free my heart from envy.  Enliven in me a sympathy for all of your people rich and poor alike.  Help me to be grateful for all the blessings that you have given me.  Let my heart not be fixated on material riches, prestige, or esteem, but instead let my joy and security lie in serving your holy will only, which is true happiness itself.  Amen


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