Summary: #21 in a series on 1 Timothy. This one deals with money, contentment and a desire to be rich.
When Wall Street Occupies ME! 1 Timothy 6:3-10
On Guard – Defending the Truth: 1 Timothy Sermon 21
For the past month, thousands of Americans have “occupied” a park near Wall Street in New York, as well as in many other American cities. While the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) throngs have had a hard time agreeing on a coherent list of demands, they seem to agree that America’s free enterprise system—or what’s left of it—has got to go. They look at America and see greed, inequality, and a top one percent of income earners who take more than their fair share, and leave the rest of the 99% percent, supposedly, in destitution and poverty. If there’s one policy the protesters seem to agree on, it’s that the government needs to confiscate the wealth of this one percent and give it to the “99%.”
I think that most of us would admit that we’re bothered by some of the same things that these protestors are upset about. They’re right to be bothered by the cozy relationship between the federal government and some businesses and banks. After the 2008 financial crisis, Americans sensed that the rules were manipulated and suspended for the politically well-connected. We saw the government protect and bail out certain banks and businesses because they were supposedly “too big to fail.” Whatever you call this—crony capitalism, crony socialism, corporatism—it’s a real problem.
OWS is also fueled by the fact that millions of Americans are hurting. Unemployment has been over nine percent for most of the last three years. Most experts think that won’t drop much in 2012. Many of the protesters are disillusioned college students who have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, yet they can’t find jobs that pay well enough to repay their debt, and our hearts rightly should go out to them.
Many are bothered by what they presume to be the “haves,” particularly if they feel that they themselves are a “have not.” The Occupy Wall Street protesters are angered with the greed, opulence and seemingly moral insensitivity of the haves – the Wall Streeters. But they need to take a hard look in the mirror, THEY ARE Wall Street. Ironically, compared to the poor in much of the world, most of the OWSers are rolling in it. The occupiers’ incomes, on average, are in the top 5 to 10% worldwide. They themselves are benefiting from free enterprise and they consistently use Wall Street for their own advantage.
For example, Oakland, California anti-Wall Streeters who blame large banks for the economic downturn have decided that one of those same institutions is the best place to stash their money. Protesters at an Occupy Oakland meeting last week voted to deposit a $20,000 donation into a Wells Fargo account. The move comes just days after one of Wells Fargo’s branches was vandalized during a massive downtown demonstration.
Many OWS protesters arrested in New York City “occupy” much more luxurious homes than their 99% rhetoric suggests. For each of the 984 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested in New York City between September 18th and October 15th, police collected and filed an information sheet recording the arrestee’s name, age, sex, criminal charge, home address and — in most cases — race. Among addresses for which information is available, single-family homes listed on those police intake forms have a median value of $305,000, a much higher number than the $185,400 median value of owner-occupied housing units in the US. Even in the nation’s currently depressed housing market, at least 95 of the protesters’ residences are worth approximately $500,000 or more. The median monthly rent for those living in apartments whose information is readily available is $1,850. Add to that, they own cell phones, laptops and even Kindles. They need to look in the mirror, they are Wall Street. And so are we…
That fact was vividly brought home to our home recently. A tragedy took place – our son, Aaron, who’s away at college in Minnesota – well, his cell phone broke. And for a brief moment in time, life as we know it ended on planet earth. In his defense, Aaron does have several leadership responsibilities at school and needs to be available. Yet, he still did have his computer with Internet access, Skype and Instant Messenger. He also has an I-pod with Internet access that he can send emails from. And shock of shock, even though he’s in Minnesota and the land of the snow (not to mention Vikings), they still have snail mail. You know, stick a letter in an envelope, put a stamp on it and you’ve got mail.
We are Wall Street. Nearly all of us went out to eat this past week. We have cable TV, Internet, cell phones, more food in our refrigerators, freezers and pantries than our grandparents ever dreamed of. We are Wall Street but the problem is When Wall Street Occupies ME!