The Matthew Effect

Matthew-EffectI have been re-reading the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke in preparation for a talk to be given in December for the local Unitarian fellowship. Matthew 25:29 resonated with me because of the political activity in the USA at this time of year. Does this passage provide biblical backing for the US Republicans’ tax program?

Matthew 25:29 “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

The Matthew effect has been studied in science, education, academy awards, etc., but Matthew and US federal tax policy?

Here is an academic paper on topic.

7 thoughts on “The Matthew Effect

  1. And even more information earlier in the chapter. Here we are told that we should invest our capital and not save it under the mattress!

    The Parable of the Talents  “For  it will be like a man  going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five  talents,  to another two, to another one,  to each according to his ability. Then he  went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and  dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now  after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and  faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little;   I will set you over much. Enter into  a the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be  a hard man, reaping  where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 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.

    Bibles, Crossway (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 152582-152622). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

    So there you have it. Biblical authority for investment bankers.


  2. I like the story about the ten virgins and their lamps best! I googled the Matthew Effect and OMG there is all sorts of stuff out there – from tax policy to reading skills to Nobel prizes. Lots of fun. Thanks, Bob! 🙂
    There is a slide show with formulas and all here.


  3. Sad to see how biblical text is interpreted to justify greed.
    What about Matthew 19:21 where Jesus, in response to a young man’s question about what good thing he should do to obtain eternal life, says
    “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven …” But the man “… went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.” (M 19:22)


    • Thanks for the comment! One of the fascinations of reading the bible for me is that one can find whatever one looks for! It’s more like a mirror than most texts are. E.g., those who seek the historical Jesus tend to look at the texts and the time and then produce a “picture” of him that fits their preconceptions. Cherry picking is awesome! 🙂

      That’s why I so like the insight of our first born son: When our first son was about four he went to play school one day and immediately went over to an easel and stood there holding a brush ready to start painting. The teacher came up behind him and said, “What are you going to paint?” “God,” he said. “And do you know what God looks like?”

      “I will when I finish the painting,” he said as he began to paint. [RTB, p. 118]


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