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"AND THE RICH HE HATH SENT EMPTY AWAY........."
The Swiss bank USB, recently produced some interesting statistics about the world's richest people. Globally, 2,158 billionaires each hold assets worth an average of £3.2 billion. In China, supposedly a communist country, 2 new billionaires are being created each week.
We will all have our own political views about the creation and distribution of wealth. We will all have our own understandings of the way that economies work. But it seems a funny old world to me, that, according to Oxfam, the world's richest 85 people control more wealth than the 3.5 billion of the world's poorest.
Of course, weak economies are in no one's interests, especially the poor. As Margaret Thatcher famously argued in a lecture to the Church of Scotland, it was only because the Good Samaritan had money, that he was able to pay for food and accommodation for the wounded traveler!
We know that in many countries, poverty is exacerbated by corruption and exploitation by those in power. As an experiment, communism has certainly not resulted in societies that are more just and compassionate.
Think of Stalin's Russia, or Kim Jong Un's North Korea. But neither has capitalism always resulted in the "trickling down" of wealth from the richest to the poorest, as is often claimed. All the evidence shows that in our own society the gap between the richest and the poorest is widening. Perhaps the fundamental problem is not in political theory, but in human nature.
Contrary to what people think, the New Testament does not say that money is the root of all evil. It says that "the love of money is the root of all evil". Certainly the Bible warns that wealth can create many temptations for those striving to reach the kingdom of heaven.
The concept of Stewardship has always been an important part of Christian Jan 2019 teaching. Wealth is not bad in itself, indeed, it can be a source of blessing. But with wealth comes responsibility. And if it becomes the most important thing in your life, you are in spiritual danger.
It is easy to find examples of those driven by greed: the chief executive pocketing a huge annual bonus, or the footballer earning £200,000 a week. But there are others who use their wealth for the common good.
Most of us have huge respect for Bill Gates, for the wealth that he ploughs back into helping the world's poorest, not least in his campaign to eradicate polio. The owner of Leicester City, Vichai Srivaddhanaprbha, clearly saw his wealth as a privilege to be shared. Not only did he achieve great things for his football club, he funded local hospitals and universities.
If the Bible teaches us anything, it is that in God's eyes, we are valued not by the money and possessions we own. He will judge us by the people we are, and our response to the needs of our neighbour.
Perhaps it is these values that we should be passing on to our children and grandchildren.