Religious Studies

Christianity: poverty and wealth

The world’s religions teach that God is good, and that God wants all people to enjoy a ‘good life’. Religious people believe that they have a responsibility to try to make the world a better, more equal place for everyone.

Human rights

The world is a place where many people are poor and suffering, while there are some very rich people and institutions living more comfortable lives. People living in developing countries often have a very low standard of living: they do not benefit from modern medical care, have few opportunities for education and little or no access to technology.

Religions teach that this is wrong; everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the wealth that God’s world has to offer.

The First Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The Declaration also says:

Freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, the peoples of the United Nations have … determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

Christian teaching on wealth

The Tenth Commandment makes it clear that people should be content with what they have:

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Exodus 20:17

The Great Commandment which Jesus gave to his disciples is at the heart of Christian teaching:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30-31

The second is this:

Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31

Jesus told his followers that being wealthy is not easy. He said:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

Luke 18:25

Jesus taught that people should use their wealth unselfishly, to look after one another:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:35-36

When it comes to business, Christians must make sure that they earn their living an an honest way that does not hurt other people. People argue that Christians should not be involved in the arms trade, in prostitution or pornography. Some people say that Christian doctors and nurses must never take part in abortion.

In the past some Christians and some churches were involved in South Africa in a way that helped strengthen the apartheid system (segregrating black people from white).

The law in the United Kingdom now allows shops to open on Sundays. Some people say that this breaks the Fourth Commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8

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