Wealth and power are good, but only when used justly to serve everyone
Pope Francis, who is well-known for championing the poor, has spoken out against the abuse of wealth and power: “Wealth and power are realities which can be good and useful for the common good, if they are put at the service of the poor and of everyone, with justice and charity”. However, if they are not used for the service of society, especially the poor, “as too often happens, they are transformed into instruments of corruption and death.”
Francis noted that throughout scripture, prophets, kings and leaders were frequently guilty of “arrogance and abuses”. He recalled the story of Naboth in the First Book of Kings, who was killed for refusing to sell his vineyard to king Ahab: “This is how the story ends: Naboth dies and the king can take possession of his vineyard” adding that this isn’t just “a story of the past, it’s a story of today.”
Putting the biblical narrative in a modern context, the Pope said it was a story “of the powerful who, in order to get more money, exploit the poor, exploit people; it’s the story of the trafficking of persons, of slave labor, of poor people who work in the black economy for the minimum payment, it’s the story of corrupt politicians who always want more and more and more.”
The Pope stated that where authority is exercised without justice, mercy or respect for life: “And this is what brings the thirst for power: it becomes greed and wants to possess everything.”
Francis recalled the words of Jesus that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” He warned that when the aspect of service is lost, “power becomes arrogance, domination and abuse. This is exactly what happens in the episode of the vineyard of Naboth.”
Reminding us that King Ahab eventually understands the extent of his sin, humbles himself and asks forgiveness, the Pope commented that it would be good if “the powerful exploiters of today” imitated the king’s gesture. Nevertheless even though Ahab repented, an innocent person was killed, which is an act that will continue to have “inevitable consequences.” He added “The evil done in fact leaves its painful traces, and the story of mankind bears the wounds”.