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‘God’s Gardener’ is better choice

April 22, 2015
By WILL BRONSON , Lehigh Acres Citizen

I am content to be God's gardener. Ownership and property are troublesome concepts. They start wars and revolutions.

Some greedy types want to own everything. They squeeze the less powerful until they foment a revolution. The Communists thought that the solution was to let everybody own everything, or at least that was their propaganda. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin. A new small set of ruthless villains ended up controlling everything, which is the same thing as owning everything. Today's oligarchs are doing just as well, but the iron fist is hidden under a velvet glove called the "free market," but equally as painful and ruthless. Ask anyone who can't afford health or dental care, or, for that matter, the quarter of the world population that goes to bed hungry.

When Israel arrived at their "Promised Land," the land was apportioned to the tribes of the twelve sons of Jacob and their families. But God maintained His ownership over the land which was made clear by the Jubilee Laws which forbade anyone from selling "their" land. They could only lease it out until the fifty year Jubilee arrived when the land reverted back to the original should I say "gardeners." Many times in the history of this troubled land, God gave the country over to foreign powers when Israel went astray, oppressed the poor (reference the prophets), and followed after other gods.

Now we have the whole Middle East in turmoil as the children of Abraham press their respective ancient ownership claims. Maybe the Israelis would do better to insist that God "owns" the Holy Land. But then they are stuck with a very inconvenient truth that God is a generous God and forgiving, or as Muhammad might say: "merciful."

G.K. Chesterton said that angels fly so nicely because they take themselves so lightly. What if humans took ownership concepts less seriously and stewardship concepts more seriously? As a gardener I should care as much about making the land fruitful as about my ownership claims.

When it comes to free enterprise and capitalism, shouldn't the primary decisions about the distribution of product and profits be those of the producers? Wouldn't workers be better served by borrowing their capital rather than selling their "stock?" That is how small business has always functioned and small business is the backbone of our country. Huge corporations with absentee owners are literally killing us.

For a good picture of how business should work consider Mondragon Industries. Begun in Spain after WWII by a teacher priest and his high school students, it is now a large multinational enterprise run completely by its employees who rotate into management who are never paid more than six times that of the average worker. Profits are keep within the company and used for retirement and health plans, education, vacations, and other generous benefits for its workers. In other words, it is run like a family business where all the workers are truly part of the family and benefit accordingly. No board of directors and stock owners are squeezing suppliers and workers to gain a higher stock price to justify CEO pay hundreds of times higher than their low paid workers. Mondragon borrows its capital (now from its own bank) and decisions, profits, and leadership are all kept "in house." Because ownership is in the hands of the workers, this type of capitalism works very well for everyone, especially the consumer who receives a quality product. This is the path to a peaceful future.

So let me be God's gardener. Don't hassle me about who owns what. Naked I came from the dust of the earth and so I will return. In the meantime I pray that God will allow me to apply myself to enough of his stuff to survive these four score years. May we all live more generously, less obsessed about our "ownership" and more obedient to the true Owner of the Universe, who, by the way, purchased us with his own blood.

Will Bronson is president of the Democrat Club of Lehigh Acres and holds a doctor of ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School.



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