Reflections on the 99% and the 1%

I honestly don’t know much of anything about economics. I hardly know how to handle my finances.

But after reading these charts on Business Insider, I’m stunned. They say some powerful things about our country… shocking and heartbreaking things, reminders that no matter how privileged we think we are, we are still a broken nation.

One hundred percent of us.

The Occupy Wall Street movement that has spilled out from New York to major cities across the nation reached its one-month birthday today. The large-scale protest is leaderless and decentralized, with all its participants loosely bound by a single thread, encapsulated in the mantra “We Are The 99%”– that is, the 99% of people who are not the richest and most powerful top 1% of executives in the country.

The 99% are said to generally feel the effects of corporate greed in a nation that promises all its inhabitants the “American Dream”– the promise that hard work and determination will, eventually, allow anyone to accomplish their dreams. They feel jipped, cheated, hopelessly entangled in a web of bureaucracy. They desperately want to be freed of the debt they’ve acquired in an attempt to achieve their goals, and are deeply hurt by the bailouts made to the nation’s biggest banks that freed those corporations to now achieve their highest profits in years.

The 99% say they deserve the fruits of their hard work. They aren’t asking for handouts or special favors. They just want a more level playing field, a fair shot at achieving their dreams, like they were promised.

I can’t say I completely understand the crisis. Politics and the economy are not my areas of expertise. But from what I understand of their concerns, it does sound like America’s big wigs– the 1%– are wrong, chasing wealth with little concern for reality.

But then again, so are the 99%.

Let me be clear: I believe that we as human beings don’t deserve anything. Let me restate that: none of us deserve a thing. Not the top of the pyramid, not the bottom, not the ambiguously defined middle. Nobody.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all broken sinners. We all need rescue from the consequences of our sin. But we develop a false sense of entitlement, like we deserve to make money because we worked hard. We feel like we’ve earned happiness because we’ve provided it for others.

Both the working class 99% and the elite 1% work to make money and live comfortably. But in reality, neither side has earned the right to financial security. We don’t have that right. Everything we receive is a gift from God. In light of God’s perfection, we are the 100%, a people whose good deeds and bad deeds don’t measure up to even a fraction of the greatness of God. The haves and have-nots are weighed equally before the Father, and all fall short.

Yet Jesus Christ, 100% man and 100% God, took on the sins of the world so that we might be free to live joyfully, freely, with hope.

This nation that promises to protect its inhabitants’ right to seek life and liberty and to pursue happiness? It’s a goal, an economic system, and it can’t be our savior. The best intentions of the noblest men still go awry if the goal is to find yourself, be yourself, bring yourself complete financial and personal security. You can have a job and make money, and that’s wonderful, but in the end, we are all weighed the same on God’s scale. Our sin warrants justice. Without Christ, we all fail.

Someone might read this and think that I’m unsympathetic to the plight of the street protestors and the millions struggling under mountains of debt or other collapsed dreams. I am not. My heart breaks for them. I hope desperately that lawmakers and government powers will take note of their cries and give those who are truly suffering the justice they deserve. I pray that any corrupt higher-ups will be convicted by the disparity and inequality that plagues their nation and will repent of hoarding wealth and exploiting others to get to a point of such excess. But I pray equally that those who call themselves the 99% would know that the only one who gives us freedom and security is Christ.

Ultimately, the efforts of the protestors will merit nothing if their ultimate goal is getting the freedom they “deserve.” That goal brings them to the same level as their high-rolling opponents. Both camps suffer from a false and misdirected sense of entitlement.

The only one who brings real freedom is Jesus. If we give it all to Him, He takes our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our good and our bad, and makes our stories far more than we would ever imagine. In Him is security, fulfillment, and rescue. We’re not entitled to His gifts, but He offers them freely. Our hearts and our lives are a meager reciprocal gift compared to the glory He gives us.

My plea to the 1% and the 99%: trust in Him. He loves you. In Him, you are truly free.

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