What Jesus DIDN’T say

  • Golden AppleBlessed are the rich and prosperous, for they already have their reward.
  • Blessed are those who seek a trouble-free life, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the strong, for they think they can rule the world.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after fame, but they will not be satisfied.
  • Blessed are they that look after number one, for noone else will do that for them.
  • Blessed are they that make up their own rules, for they will be seen as successful.
  • Blessed are the warmongers, Continue reading “What Jesus DIDN’T say”

Paul and Slavery

Painting entitled "Le marché aux esclaves...
The Slave Market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The apostle Paul has been accused of discrimination against women, and of being supportive of slavery, amongst other things. But the fact is that he made some revolutionary statements considering the accepted wisdom and culture of his day, striking at the heart of discrimination. Let’s explore the matter further.

Throughout human history slavery has been an accepted feature of society. It has been in existence for thousands of years. All of the ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Aztecs, Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians and Romans were economically dependent on the institution of slavery. Continue reading “Paul and Slavery”

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Greater Works

Polio drops
Polio Drops

As he came near to the end of his time on earth, Jesus told his disciples that they would do what he did and “greater works” than him. This is quite an amazing statement. What are the “greater works’ for us to do. Signs and Miracles are an obvious contender, but are there other things for us to do which qualify? What about the abolition of slavery? What about fighting against injustice? What about feeding the hungry?  Do these things qualify?

In this article I do not intend to negate a more conventional interpretation, but to add to it. Continue reading “Greater Works”

God’s chosen fast

English: Homeless woman in Toronto.
Homeless woman in Toronto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we please God? Do we please God by religious observances or is God more interested in how we treat our fellow human beings? This is not a rhetorical question. God loves each man, woman and child on the earth – and he wants us to do the same.

The Bible makes it very plain that unless our actions match up to our words, we can deny ourselves, beat ourselves, and starve ourselves to no avail. The way we treat our neighbours, our communities and people throughout the world is vitally important. Unless we stand up for justice, treat our workers correctly and feed the hungry we cannot hope to please my creator, God. Unless we show compassion to, and love those around us, who we can see, we cannot claim to love God. Continue reading “God’s chosen fast”

Freedom from the slavery of poverty

Freedom

Bangledeshi kids
Bangladeshi kids

The desire for freedom is one of the most basic human needs. Wars and civil wars have been fought to seek freedom. This article explains how extreme poverty, and relative poverty, can be expressed as a lack of basic freedom.

Slavery involves a total lack of freedom over every aspect of  life. A slave has no rights, no income and no hope of a better life. Extreme poverty means that in terms of freedom, people living under extreme poverty are virtual slaves to that poverty. They can no more set themselves free than a slave can, by self-effort, become a free man or woman. Even people living in relative poverty lack freedoms in various ways. Continue reading “Freedom from the slavery of poverty”

Extreme poverty

Slum in Delhi, India
Slum in Delhi, India

Imagine living on the streets of a large city. Your income is pathetically small and is all spent on feeding your family. Your children seem always to be hungry and are susceptible to sickness and disease. Your daughter wants to get married but you cannot afford it. You are considering selling one of your kidneys.

Imagine living in a remote village. You have a very small plot of land but the soil is not fertile and the rains have failed. You have a little grain which you plan to plant next year but you wonder, should you give it to your children to save them from starvation.

Imagine you were born in Africa. Continue reading “Extreme poverty”

The root causes of Poverty

Mumbai slum street scene
Mumbai slum street scene

War, disease, famine, debt, unsafe water and many other things contribute to poverty in the world, But are these the root causes of poverty? We need to drill a bit deeper, and as we do, we come face to face with human nature and attitudes.  In this article I argue that things like greed, fear, power and prejudice are the real root causes of a state of affairs where a quarter of the world lives in absolute poverty and many more live without the “necessities” that we take for granted.

Take war and conflict for instance. There is no doubt that violence between nations, or communities within a nation, causes vast poverty among the civilian population. But wars are caused by fear of other cultures or by the seeking of power or economic benefit over enemies. Civil wars or violence between governments and “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” have their source in fear, prejudice or injustice.

It is not very popular to talk about fear and greed. But their opposites, compassion and unselfishness, would transform society and eliminate poverty.  The Bible declares that God loves justice and cares for the poor, and he urges us to be motivated by compassion and justice. As Christians we often pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. As we seek God’s help in changing our own attitudes, we can affect the whole world and see an increase of the rule of God in our world.

Greed

land-grabGreed [1] is an ugly word and yet it is encouraged by some economists as the basis of a free market, or capitalism. It is wanting more than our fair share of the worlds resources. Wealth is often accumulated purely for its own sake, or as a measure of a persons status or worth. I long for a world where a person will be valued by the wealth they give away rather than accumulate.

There is enough food produced in the world to give everyone 3000 calories per day. Yet obesity is common while so many suffer from the damaging effects of under-nourishment.

Greed as a root cause of poverty causes unequal distribution of resources, unfair trade, conflict and unethical debt.

Fear

This can be fear of people we see as different to ourselves. It can be fear of other cultures, nationality, tribal group, social status or caste, language or religion. Fear can produce war, conflict or violence. Fear may stop us being generous to other people if we are afraid that giving may have a detrimental effect on our lifestyle.

Corruption

The perception of Corruption throughout the world
The perception of Corruption throughout the word

Corruption [2] is caused by greed, or a love of Power. When corruption is endemic in society its effect on poverty in that society cannot be over-estimated. At a national level it is a positive disincentive to international aid as so often the “aid” ends up in a leader’s Swiss bank account. Ask the average man or woman in one of the aid-donor countries about international aid and he is likely to mention corruption.

People in a position of power over others may seek a bribe. They may be politicians, custom officials, police or lawyers, corporate buyers, or gang members seeking “protection money” from local businesses. The giving and offering of bribes corrupts us all and has a damaging effect on the most vulnerable members of society, the poor.

Indifference

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”
(Generally attributed to Edmund Burke)

Plato-IndifferenceWe do not have to be greedy, fearful or dishonest to have a detrimental effect on others. Indifference to the need of others is a major cause of poverty and enables it to persist. What is the opposite? Love, compassion and generosity is the antidote.

Indifference is not just found in developed nations. Comparatively rich people, living in developing countries, are so often indifferent to the needs of their fellow countrymen.

Each one of us, as well as being generous ourselves, can have a positive influence on our communities, by our example, and by the way we seek to make others aware of needs.

Power

Money is not the only thing which people desire to the detriment of others. The pursuit of power, often for its own sake, can be used to oppress other people, creating or re-enforcing poverty.

Prejudice

This can take the form of racism, or social status snobbery. People of other ethnic groups, language, religion or social class (or caste) are thought of as inferior. Extremes can be regarding others as sub-human or simply that somehow people living “over there” do not share the same thoughts, values or aspirations as ourselves.

Prejudice causes poverty because we may not value others as we value ourselves and therefore they are not worthy of help, or fairness in our dealings with them.

Conclusion

The root causes of poverty are found within human nature. They affect us all, regardless of whether we are Christian, Moslem, Hindu or of no faith at all. As human beings we have been made in the image of God and have an amazing capacity for compassion and selflessness as well as the potential for awful cruelty and indifference. But it is my firm belief that we can change our own attitudes and actions, but we need the help of God.


Note 1  Greed is defined in a Wikipedia article

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness, is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power

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Note 2  Corruption:  Wikipedia says:

The word corrupt when used as an adjective literally means “utterly broken”.

  • The word was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits.
  • Morris, a professor of politics, corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.
  • Economist I. Senior defines corruption as an action to secretly provide a good or a service to a third-party so that he or she can influence certain actions which benefit the corrupt, a third-party, or both in which the corrupt agent has authority.
  • Kauffman, from the World Bank extends the concept to include ‘legal corruption’ in which power is abused within the confines of the law – as those with power often have the ability to shape the law for their protection.

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Comments

I would really welcome any comments on this post. What do you think are the root causes of poverty? Whether you can add to my list, disagree with me or agree with me, your comments will be visible to all. You will need to give your email address, but you can be anonymous. I promise to delete only abusive comments!

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