And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.
But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”
The quote is from Luke 12:48, and the Greek original is
παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, πολὺ ζητηθήσεται παρ' αὐτοῦ
"but to each one to whom much has been given, much will be required from him"
The Latin Vulgate has
omni autem cui multum datum est multum quaeretur ab eo
"but to whomsoever much has been given, much will be asked of him"
The KJV is
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required
The English Standard Version is
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required
Unlike all of these, President Obama's version leaves out the "of him" or "from him" associated with required. The omission is more obvious if we put the relative clause in its usual place:
Much shall be required of him unto whom much is given.
If we chop out "of him", the result is ungrammatical.
*Much shall be required unto whom much is given.
If we swap the order of the clauses in the unchopped version, we get an awkward but (marginally) grammatical English sentence:
Unto whom much is given, much shall be required of him.
Chopping out the prepositional phrase from the second clause of the swapped version makes it smoother, but also makes it ungrammatical and semantically incoherent:
*Unto whom much is given, much shall be required.
President Obama is far from the first person to garble this quotation in an analogous way. The Gates Foundation did it on their web site, announced as one of their two founding principles ("To whom much has been given, much is expected"); President George W. Bush did it in a State of the Union message ("Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required") — and many others have done it over the centuries, starting with JC Bingham, "Report Respecting the Religious State of Spanish America", The Missionary Herald, Nov. 1826 ("Unto whom much is given, much will be required"). There's even a version in verse (George Henry Boker, "The Lesson of Life", 1848):
517 "But woe to you who love the gilded cage,
518 Who pander basely to the present hour,
519 Who build not on that firm foundation, Truth!
526 Who seek, with untaught power of mighty verse,
527 To lure their weaker brothers far astray;
528 Or praise their blinded errings. Each one knows,
529 Within his heart, himself a hypocrite;
530 Sees the sad tears the ravished muses shed
531 O'er their undoing; hears a potent voice
532 Thunder within his hollow soul—"Thou Traitor!
533 Unto whom much is given, much is required."
534 How back in horror draws the shuddering mind
535 When pondering the fate of erring genius!