Religion, Poverty and Wealth

Religion, Poverty and Wealth

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Religion, Poverty and Wealth

All Christians believe that the world and everything in it have been
created by God. They believe that the world is holy, special, divine,
worthy of respect and honour.

'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who
live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon
the waters.' Psalm 24:1-2

Because 'the earth is the Lord's', Christians believe they are
stewards or caretakers. They should be committed to the proper
management of the world and its resources. Since the earth has been
delegated to people by God they have to manage it responsibly and
productively for the sake of both their own and subsequent
generations. The following bible quotes tell us that everything
belongs to God. God made the mountains, the sea, dry land and the
skies. They also show that God's creation reveals his greatness:

'For the Lord is the great God… In his hand are the depths of the
earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he
made it, and his hands form the dry land' Psalm 95:3-6

Christianity teaches us that God is the God of nature, as well as of
religion. God made the physical universe, sustains it, and still
pronounces it good. God is interested in, and looks after his

'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.' Genesis 1:31

Christians believe that God made human beings to be like himself.

'So God created man in his own image… male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number,
fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the
birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the
ground.' Genesis 1:27-28

Human beings are godlike beings made in Gods likeness and possessing
capacities which distinguish them from the animal creation. Since God
is interested in the earth, so should the Christian want to care for

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all that God has made. God tells man to look after the earth and
Christians believe they have a responsible task in God's plan for
creation. God tells man they should care for the world and Christians
believe that they should look after it because he has given it to
them. Therefore they should respect it and protect it.

As well as caring for the earth, Jesus taught his followers to love
God with all their heart, and to love their neighbours as themselves.
In Matthew 19:16-21 Jesus told a rich, young man that if he wanted
eternal life he should love his neighbour as himself, which included
selling his processions and giving to the poor. Love of God cannot be
separated from love for humanity. Christians try to live their lives
by this rule.

Christians believe they should take what they say and sing in church,
in to their everyday lives, so that it affects all of their life, at
home, work, school etc.

'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress.' James 1:27

Christians should truly love their neighbours and should be concerned
for their total welfare: the well being of their soul, their body, and
their community.

Christians look to Jesus for an example for their lives. Jesus humbled
himself and became weak and vulnerable to serve people. He healed the
sick, feed the hungry and was a friend to the dropouts. He said he did
not come to be served but to serve. Therefore if the Christian models
his or her life on Jesus, it will involve entering into other people's
worlds. Jesus was moved with compassion by the sight of needy human
beings and Christians follow this example.

Faith and love go together for Christians:

'Faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action is dead…I will
show you my faith by what I do.' James 2:17-18

This implies that the Christian should show their faith by loving and
serving others.

'If anyone has material possessions and seize his brother in need but
has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him.' 1 John 3:17

These verses give an example of how Christians should lay down their
lives for others - to help those in need.

When Jesus was asked to define what he meant by 'neighbour', he told
the well known parable of the good Samaritan which is found in Luke
chapter 10. Jesus paints the scene of a man lying mugged by the side
of a road. Two kind of religious leaders, a priest and a Levite pass
him without stopping. The audience expect a third person to come by
and help the victim who will be an ordinary layman, a fellow Jew. But
Jesus surprises them. The third man is a Samaritan, an enemy. Jesus
shows that loving your neighbour means acting when you meet a person
in need, even if it is an enemy or an inconvenience to you. Jesus
tells the people not to sit about debating who counts as your
neighbour but to go out and be a good neighbour as the need arises.
Christians believe that their neighbour is not just the person who
looks like them, but people of all races throughout the world who are
all bound together in the human family.

Jesus bases this love for enemies on the example of God. As the
creator God, involved with every detail of the universe, he does not
discriminate between deserving and undeserving human beings. He sends
the essential gifts of sun and rain on all. Those who love him, who
are under his rule, must love others with the same unrestricted love.

Christians believe they have a responsibility to care for Gods
creation. This includes the physical earth and the people that live in
it. To love God and your neighbour implies that Christians should get
involved in peoples lives and help them when they need it even if it
is an inconvenience. Dr Martin Luther King said, 'We need to affirm
the sacredness of all human life. Every person is somebody because she
or he is a child of God.' In other words, every person is important to
God and Christians should live their lives to help others and respect
the world they live in.

Religion, Poverty and Wealth Rachel Stevens

Religious Studies Coursework

b.) How might Christians best fulfil their responsibilities towards
the world


Christians in the world today have many ways in which they can best
fulfil their responsibilities towards it. A lot of Christians see that
there are many problems with the world and feel that they need to take
an active part in improving these issues. Three key areas that many
see as problems in the world today are: environmental issues, our
responsibilities to and for animals, and poverty. Environmental issues
are seen to be of great importance today. For many people the
environmental destruction has become the greatest threat to the human
race. Some Christians may join 'The Friends of the Earth,' which deals
with a host of environmental issues with the aim to save the planet.
This dedicated campaigning minority has succeeded in alerting the
public to 'green concerns.' Nearly everybody nowadays is aware of the
destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, the depletion of the ozone
layer, the green house effect, and the slaughter of whales, elephants
and seals.

There seem to be four main areas of widespread environmental concern.
The first is population growth, the second is resource depletion and
loss of biodiversity, the third is waste disposal and the forth is the
damaged atmosphere which includes ozone depletion and global warming.
Together these cause an interlocking global crisis.

Christians see that God has given them dominion over the earth. They
are caretakers of Gods property. Christians feel that humans are not
landowners but the bailiffs who should manage and farm it on Gods
behalf. Christians think they should therefore manage the earth
responsibly and productively. Because of human greed vast areas of
America, Africa and Asia are now deserts or dust bowls. Each year ten
trees are cut down for every one replanted, which has resulted in the
loss of nearly half the tropical rain forest in the world.

Many Christians have found ways in which they can take a part in
fulfilling their responsibilities to these environmental concerns. The
most common approach Christians have taken is praying about these
problems. However many feel that a more active approach is needed for
these issues to be sorted out. Christians may choose to use their
votes in favour of candidates who show concern for environmental
issues. Or perhaps they might become involved in protests about
environmental issues, by writing to MP's or taking part in marching
and demonstrations. Some Christians choose to cut down the amount they
waste at home by choosing products with packaging that can be recycled
wherever possible. For example, people make garden composts, or put
their glass bottles in a bottle bank. Such stores as Oxfam are a good
way to recycle clothes. Christians may feel that making an effort to
use less fuel in the home is a way of looking after the planet. This
can be done by buying energy efficient household appliances,
insulating your home properly to loose less heat, or by investigating
the use of solar power. Some Christians also choose to organise car
sharing, or to walk or cycle to work/church/etc. This is to reduce the
number of cars on the road and the energy consumption and pollution
that is a result from too much traffic. Some Christians even choose to
join organisations that work to provoke conservation.

Our responsibilities towards animals are another key area of concern
today. There is much public debate about various practices such as
vivisection, intensive farming, the shipping and slaughter of animals
for food, the caging of wild animals and the use of animals for sport
where the animals welfare is not respected, for example, dog fights
and fox hunting.

From looking at the Bible many Christians believe that God is asking
them to look after animals. Psalm 104 tells Christians that God is
concerned for animals by giving them life, food and water. According
to Proverbs 12:10 'a righteous man cares for the needs of his
animals.' Christians therefore feel that it is their responsibility to
respect and care for the animals of this planet. There are many ways
in which Christians can help prevent cruelty to animals. For example
Christians can protest against all perceived cruelty to animals and
campaign for their humane treatment in all circumstances. Some support
organisations such as the RSPCA or the RSPCB.

Poverty is another key area in which Christians feel they should have
responsibility in. Poverty is not just a problem for the third world
countries. In the United States in 1995 there were 36.4 million people
living below the poverty line. In Britain in 1995 there were still 9.7
million people living on incomes at or below the level of
supplementary benefit. There are almost 6 billion inhabitants on
earth, a quarter of whom remain in severe poverty. In the developing
world only 68% of the population have access to safe drinking water.
Almost two billion people in the third world are without access to
proper sanitation farcicalities that cause diseases which are
responsible for more than 35% of the deaths of young children in
Africa, Asia and South America. Whereas one-fifth of the world
population lack the basic necessities for survival, more than another
one-fifth live in wealth and consume about four-fifths of the worlds

Christians follow their teaching from the Bible when dealing with
their responsibility with the poor. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, 'If there
are poor among you, in one of the towns of the land the Lord your God
is giving you, do not be selfish or greedy towards them. But give
freely to them and freely lend them whatever they need.' Jesus made
friends with the needy and fed the hungry. He told his disciples to
sell their possessions and give to the poor. Christians therefore feel
that they should also care for those in poverty. There are many
different ways in which they choose to respond to this. Many choose to
support charities like Christian Aid and The Red Cross. This can be
done by either giving money or actively joining the organisation and
travelling around the world to help people in countries hit with a
crisis. The charities Tearcraft and Traidcraft work to provide
employment opportunities, fair wages and a new sense of dignity for
craft workers in countries such as Bangladesh, Peru and South Africa.
Christians can support these charities by buying the products that are
produced in these countries at fair triad costs. Tearfund is another
organisation which some Christians choose to support by giving money
to help food related projects in some of the worlds poorest regions or
chances to support and educate poor children all over the world. The
Oasis trust is a Christian charity that focuses its activities on the
poor and marginalized in society. It has set up housing and health
care for the homeless in Britain. It works directly with partners in
13 countries around the world to help the world's poorest people.
Again Christians can give money to help fund this organisation, or
students can take gap years to volunteer and help the charity.

Many Christians feel that they have a responsibility to look after all
aspects of this world. In the past Christian organisations have done a
lot in improving the serious issues in the world. For example,
schools, hospitals and refuges for the outcast have been set up.
Christians helped abolish the slave trade and freed the slaves. They
also improved the conditions of workers in mills, mines and the
prisoners in jails. They have protected children from commercial
exploitation in the factories of the West and from ritual prostitution
in the temples of the East.

Religion, Poverty and Wealth Rachel Stevens

Religious Studies Coursework

c.) The problems of the 3rd World Communities are 'their own fault.'

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you
have thought of different points of view. You must refer to
Christianity in your answer.

There are many problems for Third World countries. The main problem is
poverty. This is due to many causes. For example unfair trade,
drought, famine, AIDS, debt, lack of education, war and conflict, lack
of health care and an oversized population.

Personally I don't think that the problems of Third World Communities
are their own fault. Most of these poor people are born into their
situations. Therefore you cannot blame them. I believe that it is due
to the selfishness and greed of many developed countries that has put
these Third World Communities in this situation.

However some people feel that Third World countries have caused their
own problems. For example these developing countries have cut down
many of their own trees that has caused floods, landslides and soil
erosion which has led to infertile land for growing their crops. Some
people would argue that the Third World have too many children for
their families to look after and they spread AIDS by their lack of
moral responsibility. People would also say that wars which 'they
started' have lead to starvation in many African countries. All these
factors are believed by many individuals to be the fault of the Third
World and therefore they have put themselves in this situation.

On the other hand if you look more closely at these problems in the 3rd
World you can see that it often is not their own fault, but a lack of
basic necessities of life and unfair trade agreements with developed
countries. Third world countries used to sell mainly raw materials.
Today they also sell manufactured goods; especially those that need
intensive labour. Developed countries use third world communities to
make goods because wages are lower there than in their own country.
This means that it costs manufactures less to make goods, however it
also means that the Third World are paid small wages and can therefore
not afford a decent lifestyle. Therefore it is the developed world's
fault because they need to pay them bigger wages. They has already
been some help in this area with fair trade agreements, some companies
have agreed to pay higher more stable prices for Third World
producers. Many Christian organisations support these fair trade

Also, one cannot argue that it is the fault of Third world communities
having too many children when they don't have access to contraception
and basic healthcare. They need free or affordable healthcare to help
prevent diseases like AIDS spreading. Education is also needed to
inform these people of the cause of the spread of these diseases.
Education is vital to getting themselves out of the vicious circle of
poverty. Affordable, secure food supplies are also needed to prevent
malnutrition. People cannot argue that it is the fault of third world
communities for cutting down trees and creating infertile land,
because they needed to make money by selling the wood. Also, many
people in the Third world cannot grow their own food anyway because
much of the land has been taken over by large businesses, often to
grow crops for export. It is the greed of the developed world that is
adding to the problems of the poor countries.

Over the years these Third World countries debts have been
increasingly rising. They also have to pay interest on top of these
debts. This means they cannot afford to spend enough on basic services
like health and education; nor on things like transport or
communications which might attract investment. The UNDP Human
Development Report in 1997 stated that, "What poor countries in Africa
spend on debt repayments each year could save the lives of 3 million
children and prevent 1 million cases of malnutrition." In the 1980's
when recession hit the industrialised world, they raised interest
rates, including rates on loans to the Third World. At the same time
the Third World countries were not earning so much money from their
exports, the price of everything was going down. In other words they
were earning less but having to pay more. The developed world should
not have done this because they knew that the Third world would not be
able to pay such high interest rates. It just meant that these
countries were dropped deeper into the realms of poverty making it
harder for them to ever climb out of it. The Jubilee 2000, Debt
cutter's handbook stated that, "In 1993 rich countries took back £3 in
debt repayments for every £1 given in aid." It is easy to see why
these Third World countries are having problems, it also tells us that
many developed words are simply making it harder for the Third World
when they have no need to.

Many Christians believe that they should take action in helping these
countries. Psalm 24:1 says "The earth is the Lord's and everything in
it, the world and all who live in it." God has created us single
people (human race) and placed us in a single habitat (planet earth).
In other words all people are to share in its God giving riches.
Christians see that all people have equal worth and each person should
have equal opportunity to develop his or her God given potential for
the common good. Millions of people are unable to develop their human
potential which Christians see as being an offence to God who gave
gifts to them to be used and developed, not wasted. Many Christians
therefore support programmes which give people opportunities for
education. Christians also believe in supporting fair trade deals to
give the people a chance to earn decent wages.

Christians believe that the present situation in the Third World is
not God's fault (because he has provided plenty of resources in the
earth and sea), nor is it the fault of the poor (because they were
mostly born into it, although some government leaders are to blame for
corruption), nor is it necessarily the fault of the developed world
(although in the past some ancestors may have had a share in creating
it). It is instead the responsibility of those who have plenty to
share with the Third world so that they can overcome their poverty.
Christians believe they have a duty to make sure the situation does
not continue.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "Everyone has
the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of him/herself and his/her family, including food,
clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social service.
Everyone has the right to education.' As we know 3rd World countries
often do not have these basic rights. More needs to be done by the
developed world to ensure a normal lifestyle for these communities.
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