May I begin with a big thankyou to all who read my blog and, apparently, find some interest in my public sharing of my thought processes on various matters.
Thanks, too, for your responses. I’ve been looking recently at the blessed are the poor / woe to the rich idea in Matthew and Luke. C asked me a very important question. Where is the dividing line, she asked, between rich and poor? In the UK the vast majority, excepting the most unfortunate, would be wildly rich in comparison with the majority in places such as Haiti. On the other hand, £10 may do a lot more in some countries than it would here.
I have thought about this often, conscious as I am of my own wealth in comparison with so much of the world.
It seems to me that being rich or poor is more than just about the amount of material wealth we have, or even about the wealth of our various communities in such things as access to healthcare, clean water, education etc. It is also about power and the use of power. Where one may have no money, no education, no vote, no access to the media, others have all of those things in unbelievable measure. Perhaps what might begin to define that dividing line is what use is made of any access to those elements of being “rich”.
One Dudley Turner, in a Guardian letter yesterday, expressed concern about the Murdochs’ involvement in “entertainment (TV) and opinion-forming (newspapers)” while they now want “to build schools.” His final comments suggest that he does not believe that the corporation’s aims are entirely altruistic: “They don’t just want our minds. They want our children’s as well.” What’s the motivation behind the use of wealth / power?
Most of us in this country will fall in the very large area between those two extremes, yet that may still leave us “rich” in global terms and therefore, relatively at least, powerful. So how will we use our power? Asking the question is the beginning of a response, acknowledging that we have the power and can use it in various ways. The next question sis to what end we shall use that power, to increase it for ourselves or for the benefit of others? Should we decide that we wish to use it for those who are poor, we have many options: We may give to charity – a small donation from us may make a huge difference elsewhere; we may shop ethically – supporting Fair Trade for example (we are now in Fair Trade fortnight); we may campaign for the political and economic change that will see fairer distribution of the world’s resources; we may take ourselves off to build schools or hospitals for the poorest; we may disseminate information that works towards justice by use of social media.
The most drastic step, of course, would be for those of us who consider ourselves wealthy to give all we have to the poor and become poor ourselves. That thought is often with me, but I am not sure how much help it would be and to whom and for how long.
Perhaps this quote from John Wesley helps, pointing as it does to the attitude to wealth that may underpin this whole question:
“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”
I’m not sure I have answered C’s question but I am grateful to her for asking it and allowing me the opportunity to consider it with you all.
May you be rich in love, grace and wisdom.