Wealth and Poverty

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Key Ideas

  • Wealth: all the things that make you rich, such as money, houses, valuable items etc.
  • Poverty: this is having no wealth; money, property or valuable items etc.
  • Materially rich: when you have lots of wealth: money, property, investments etc.
  • Spiritually rich: when you are a good person. Your qualities include kindness, care for others and compassion. You have lots of spiritual qualities.
  • Debt: his is money you owe to someone else. This means you have to repay them with interest (pay more than you borrowed).
  • Inheritance: the wealth handed down or passed on from wealthy relatives when they die.
  • Earnings: the money (salary, wages or increase in shares etc) you get from your job or interest on your assets.
  • Dependency: being dependent on others for financial support (i.e pensioners and the unemployed may depend on welfare benefits).
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Christian Views on the Causes of Poverty

  • Some Christians see poverty as caused by human greed, which links it to Eve’s sin of temptation. Human sin, such as greed, causes poverty.
  • Some Christians see poverty as a test of faith, like Job in the Bible.
  • Some Christians see the devil as a cause of poverty. Poverty is evil and therefore the opposite of what God wants.
  • Other Christians see poverty as caused by humans, but may explain it through non-religious ideas, such as employment, famine, nurture etc.
  • Some Christians will see poverty as caused by people ignoring Christian teachings on charity and helping the poor etc. If everyone followed Jesus’ teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’, then there would be less poverty.
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Buddhist views on the cause of Poverty

  • Buddhists would see wealth and poverty as related to karma.
  • Wealth could be due to ‘good karma’ and poverty due to bad karma.
  • Being rich or poor could be seen as a ‘rebirth’.
  • Being poor could be related to the Three Poisons (the **** (greed), the snake (hatred) and the pig (ignorance)). These could all lead to poverty, especially greed. For example, you gamble all your money in the hope of being mega-rich.
  • Someone desperate to be rich could be seen as a ‘hungry ghost’.
  • The Buddha was a mendicant (a beggar). He was materially poor, but spiritually rich.
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Teachings on the poor and rich people

Jesus said “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God” during His Sermon on the Mount. This means the poor are holy and He loves them as much as the rich. The poor will go to heaven.

Jesus said He had come to “preach good news to the poor”, which suggests He wanted to offer the poor hope and salvation.

Jesus said he had come to help “outcasts”. In Biblical times this would include the poorest in society who were often mistreated by others.

Jesus taught that ‘It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven’, which suggests just being rich is no guarantee of going to heaven.

In the Bible it says ‘love you neighbour as yourself’. If someone is need you should help them as you would want the same done if you were in a similar situation.

Jesus also taught that the “treasure in Heaven” was better than treasure on earth.

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Teaching about the right use of money & giving to

  • Jesus also taught that you ‘cannot serve two masters’. This means that you should not put money and wealth above the love of God and your neighbours.
  • Jesus taught that the ‘root of all evil is the love of money’. This suggests those that love money above all else will forget their humanity and think of money and wealth before others.
  • Spending money on things that cause sin is bad. For example, gambling and prostitution would cause greed and adultery, which are wrong.
  • Christians believe using money for charity is a good way of showing love to your neighbours.
  • In the Bible, Jesus said you should give ‘secretly’ and not use giving to charity for showing off or personal gain.
  • The Salvation Army is a Christian group that helps the poor, homeless and drug addicts. It offers spiritual and material help. Run like an army it seeks to ‘save’ those in need.
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Buddhists views on the use of money and charity

  • Buddhists believe that greed leads to suffering. So hording wealth may make you suffer if you do not share.
  • Greed could lead to suffering as you ignore the feelings and needs of others. Greed is one of the Three Poisons.
  • Ignorance of others poverty leads to their suffering (ignorance is one of the Three Poisons).
  • Buddhists believe you should help others with your wealth as this is metta – loving kindness.
  • Buddhists see giving to charity as ‘making merit’ for your next life.
  • Giving to charity builds good karma and leads to a good rebirth.
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