The Matthew Principle and Inequality

Secular sociologists occasionally borrow from Scripture. Robert Merton did. He discovered in the realm of science a law of inequality. A law with a direct correlation with the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:29, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Economists often call this the Pareto principle, but for you and I, in simple terms, can call it The Matthew Principle. 

Apparently, the maxim, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is true. Half true, anyways.

The Matthew Principle

This Matthew Effect, or Matthew Principal, was initially used to describe how fame and glory attracts more fame and glory in a disproportionate degree. For example, famous scientists continually get credit for the, sometimes better, work of non-famous scientists. The same holds true in broader academics; famous works are cited disproportionately, even if they are equal or even inferior to obscure works.

However, the best does not always rise to the top.

This law shows up even in technology; network hubs that initially have a greater number of links continue to grow at a multiplicative rate. The Matthew Effect influences education as well. Those who struggle to read will cumulatively fall behind.

Consequently, it is sort of true that initial failure leads to more failure, and initial success brings more success. Our pasts define us more than we care to admit.

How God Views Inequality

The Creator does not want equality; it was the LORD’s sovereign pleasure to make Solomon the wisest and richest man. But notice, he already had wisdom. He had enough wisdom to ask for wisdom, instead of money or fame (2 Chron. 1). “To everyone who has, more will be given…”

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the top 1% of the economic spectrum are in the most volatile percentile. They will not “have” for long.

Commentators explain it like a splash of water going down the drain. It is sort of like a concentrated amount of liquid that is constantly moving. Likewise, money is always a largely concentrated amount of money that is constantly on the move. As a Christian, we are not surprised by this. We know that to try to control wealth-movement is to try to play God.

For as the Scriptures teach, “But it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another,” (Psalm 75:7).

Although is true that Karl Marx noticed this effect in capitalism. It is not true that it only exists in capitalism. Fact: it exists in every economic system to date. This is because God will always be in control of the economic system. The results of the product of creativity will often favor the more creative. “For the laborer deserves his wages,” (Luke 10:7).

Admittedly, the precise meaning of Jesus’s words are not the most clear. But natural theology (from sociology, economics, etc.) tells us something.

God does not care about equality the way we do.

Daniel Mason

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Daniel Mason studied theology in his undergrad, and currently pursuing graduate studies, with a particular interest in the Dutch statesman, Groen van Prinsterer. Daniel Mason is the co-founder of The Reformed Conservative.

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