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Pointers along the way #301

To the rich!
- Jacob Ninan

Let us define the rich as those who have more than they need, and the poor as those who lack what they need. This places all who are reading this in the category of the rich. Then let us see what God would have us to do.

God recognises that there would always be poor and needy people in this world (Mt.26:11). So He tells us to do something about it. He tells the rich essentially not to place our trust in our wealth but in God, and to be generous towards the poor (1Ti.6:17-19). The principle behind sharing is that those who have can supply the needs of those who don't have, working towards equality (2Co.8:13,14).

But we know that this is easy to state, but there are philosophical and practical dilemmas in carrying it out. We recognise immediately that none of us can remove all the needs in this world, and we may even give up trying. This is when a story can help.

One man went to the beach one morning and found thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore at night. They would all die on the beach. He thought about his helplessness and went on to muse about all the problems of the world. Then he saw a boy picking up the fish one by one and throwing them into the sea. He asked, "What difference will it make, you silly boy?" The boy threw another starfish and said, "It made a difference to that one, didn't it?"

We think of the big problems of the world that we can't handle, and don't even do the small things we can. We hide behind excuses and and entirely shirk the responsibility God places on us. Thus we fail to be the light and salt of this world God wants us to be, and we fail to draw attention to God and what He has done in us (Mt.5:16).

God may ask just a few to 'sell all that they have and give to the poor' (Mt.19:21). Disciples who recognise that all that they have belongs to the Lord will be willing to do this. But God asks everyone to be compassionate towards the needy and to give cheerfully from what they have (2Co.9:7). Each of us needs to decide how much we want to give (2Co.8:1,2) and who to give to, keeping in mind that we would also receive blessings proportionately (2Co.9:6).

If we aren't able to give directly to those in need, we can identify reliable agencies that are helping out in areas we are concerned about. I would also like to make a practical suggestion to think about and follow. Even those who hesitate to make big sacrifices in giving can find ways of doing what they can! For example, suppose we are planning to spend X for something we need, and instead we manage to find a cheaper option and spend only Y which will still meet our need. We can set aside X-Y for the needy. If we think of the many needs in the world, we may even decide not to spend for certain things as we would have, and then keep away X itself for the needy. What we need is just a sense of responsibility.


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