Religious Studies

Sikhism: 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.

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

Sikh teaching

Sikhs believe that wealth is only acceptable if it is used for other people such as giving them work or food. It is the responsibility of the rich to look after the poor.

Blessed is the godly person and the riches they possess because they can be used for charitable purposes and to give happiness.

Guru Amar Das

A place in God’s court can only be attained if we do service to others in this world.

Guru Granth Sahib Ji 26

Charity is a very important part of Sikh teachings because equality and compassion [Compassion: A deep human emotion prompted by the pain and suffering of others. ] are essential for a spiritual life. All religions and all nations must be helped to live a good and peaceful life. Hard work is also essential for a Sikh - begging or not working is lazy and selfish.

Charity begins with caring for the family. Sikhs have followed this teaching in their social policies, building hospitals, care homes, special schools and hospices. Many Sikhs also take part in charity work all over the world; they are involved in Oxfam and Christian Aid.

Golden temple in Amritsar India

Golden temple in Amritsar India

Sewa or service to the community (sadhsangat) is essential to the life of a Sikh. They should be prepared to give up some of their time and energy to help others. For a Sikh it is a privilege and a duty to provide langar (food) in the gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) for the whole congregation after the weekly service of worship. The langar is part of the act of worship and a very fundamental aspect of Sikh life.

Guru Nanak (the first Guru) wanted everyone to be able to eat the same food in the langar, to share the tasks of preparation, cooking, serving and cleaning.

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