The phrase “class warfare” may be taken as a descriptive term to identify the power dynamics of politics and economics. “Class” refers most often to the gap between the “haves” who enjoy political leverage and economic advantage over the “have-nots” who are vulnerable and relatively powerless. “Warfare” refers to the inescapable tension been “haves” and “have-nots” that most often is covert but occasionally erupts as active hostility in the form of harsh rhetoric or political action. Thus the phrase calls attention to the undeniable realities of social relationships.
But the term is seldom used descriptively. More often it is employed polemically, most often on the lips of “haves.” It is then used with reference to any active resistance on the part of “have-nots” that calls attention to inequity. When used in this way, it intends to deny the tension or the gap of power and resources, wanting to suggest social solidarity between “haves” and “have-nots.” It is then used to cover over or deny tensions that are inherent in inequitable social relationships. Less often the term is used by “have-nots” to refer to the quiet but effective ways in which “haves” work to keep “have-nots” powerless and resourceless. All of these uses are, in one way or another, part of the tension and problematic of social differentiation on the ground that refuses the cover of noble or polite slogans to the contrary.
The phrase, in relation to the Bible, immediately draws the Bible into socio-political, economic reality, so that the Bible can no longer be read “innocently.” In order to read the Bible knowingly, it is crucial to understand, as best we can, the socio-economic dynamics that recur in the Bible.