In kicking off the formal campaign for Prop 30, Gov. Jerry Brown drew upon one of the most famous lines in the Bible, from Luke 12:48: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required.”
Translation to the 2012 California political context: the rich should pay more.
That’s a strong point, but it’s not the only line in Luke.
Indeed, the very next line after the one Brown cited is: “and of him to whom men commit much they will demand more.”
Maybe that’s why some of us would like Brown and our elected officials to pursue top-to-bottom redesign of the broken budget and governing systems. We’re not holding our breath, though.
Brown’s quotation convinced me to re-read Luke, and I was not disappointed. It turns out this gospel is full of commentary that could be applied to contemporary California political realities.
But Luke is also dangerous ground. There are so many shots at tax collectors that a politician bent on collecting more taxes might be wise to stick to the Old Testament. And when you look at Jesus’ message on debt, it’s quite possible that, with all the bonds and revenue anticipation notes the state treasurer’s office has been selling, Bill Lockyer is going to hell.
Or to CSU.
Anyway, here are a few Luke verses that California political players might quote, albeit at the peril.
Luke 12:58: “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and then judge hand you over to the office, and the officer put you in prison.”
Translation: It’s even better advice under realignment, since you really want to avoid these overcrowded county jails.
Luke 14:13: “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will repaid at the resurrection.”
Translation: why bother with cuts to welfare and human services when we’re in recession—and those items are not a big part of the budget anyway?
Luke 16:5-9: “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘ and how much do you owe/ he said, ‘a hundred measures of wheat.” He said to him. Take your bill and write eight.”
Translation: the Lord would approve of write-downs for underwater homeowners.
Luke 14:28 “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’”
Translation: God thinks high-speed rail is going to be a big embarrassment.
Luke 9:50 “John answered: ‘Master we saw a man casting our demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him; for he that is not against is for you.’”
Translation: That’s just what Garry South is always saying about undecided voters.
Luke 12:54-57 “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A Shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”
C’mon, Lord, give us break. These initiatives are so complicated even their authors can’t figure out how they’ll work.