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Religion, Poverty and Wealth Essay

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Describe how followers of this religion may put their ideas into practice.

Helping others is a big part of being a Christian, because of the importance of the commandment “Love thy neighbour”. Since the 19th Century, Christians have been setting up homes for the poor and needy. However recently there has been an increase in awareness of poorer people, putting more pressure on people to help others.

A very popular way of helping others is by setting up, and giving to charities. There are many different charities, both Christian and non-Christian, which offer a wide range of help. The Church of England Children’s Society helps to better the lives of underprivileged children; The Hospice Movement aims to help the dying spend their last days in a loving, caring environment; the L’Arche Community helps disabled people.

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Christian Aid is one of the most famous Christian charities. It was set up in Britain and Ireland at the end of the Second World War, with its main aims being to improve the quality of peoples lives, particularly those of refugees who were struggling to cope with the aftermath of World War II. It also funded Churches to help repair damage caused by the war. Gradually over time, the work of Christian Aid began to involve other countries around the world. It now has an income of approximately �40 million a year, and there are forty churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland who are a part of Christian Aid. Most of the money, which they make through door-to-door collections and donations from members of the public and various churches, is put towards development work to help people in the long term.

Another famous charitable organisation is The Samaritans. The Samaritans was set up in 1953 when Chad Varah, a priest, was horrified to find out that three suicides took place every day in London. He believed that the best way to help someone who was contemplating committing suicide was to talk to them. So he set up a phone in his church and advertised that people could phone for helpful advice if they were feeling suicidal. Today The Samaritans speak to 2 250 000 people a year.

Aside from charities, many Christians feel that they should give a small percentage of their wages to help the less fortunate. Sir John Templeton grew up in a poor family on a farm in Tennessee. He was educated at both Yale and Oxford University, after which he became a financial consultant in New York. Throughout his life he gave 10% of his earnings to help the poor (a process called ‘tithing’).

Eventually he became very wealthy running a multimillion dollar investment company, where he successfully managed funds for over two million people worldwide. In 1972 he started the Templeton prize to be awarded for progress in religion, which is worth more money than the Nobel Peace Prize. Fifteen years later he was knighted for ‘services to philanthropy’. In 1992, he sold his investment company for a colossal $400 million. He still gives money to support projects around the world which further understanding of spirituality and the importance of the human character.

George Macleod felt so strongly about helping others that, in 1938, he formed a Christian Community on Iona, an island off of Scotland. He found volunteers to learn building, stone masonry and carpentry skills and together they rebuilt Iona’s ruined abbey. After that he opened a centre to provide shelter for young people from across the world, and to allow them to live in a close community. The people of the community feel it is more important to live like this and share everything than to be rich and not live as closely. They take it in turns to cook, clean, garden and work away. When they are not working, they pray.

This is very similar to the ideas expressed by Jesus according to the Bible. The first Christians followed Jesus’ teachings very closely.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”

Not only are there many passages in the Bible that tell Christians how to treat the poor, there are also some in the Old Testament.

“Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear.” Isaiah 58:6-8

Another example of how Christians helped the poor was the Liberation Theology movement. This started in the late 1960’s when the poorer inhabitants of South American countries decided that they didn’t want to be exploited any more. They made a decision to stand against the corrupt governments, with inspiration from the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has appointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

The Christian followers of Liberation Theology try to fight out against poverty, lack of human rights and the exploitation of certain peoples. Many Priests, especially Oscar Romero, involved in this endanger their lives by speaking out against their government. Romero knew he was in danger, but felt that it was his Christian duty to fight against oppression and injustice. He was shot dead in March 1980 whilst conducting mass. In South America, many people see him as a great martyr.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them.”

All Christians feel it is their duty to God to help the poor and needy, and to be kind to those who need their kindness.

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