I will always remember April 25, 1984. My father was dying of lung cancer caused by smoking. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible during the end. Right before he died, I and a very saintly nurse stood by his bed. She held his hand and right after he passed away, she kissed him on the forehead.
When I think of anyone who lives for riches, whether one is part of the one percent or one is comfortable in their middle class, I think of someone who has something in common with many who are about to die. That is they seek to be in a perpetual state of comfort. And their goal is to both avoid discomfort when possible and, when not possible, eliminate it as soon as possible.
It is certainly understandable, and a moral duty, to make those who are about to die as comfortable as possible. If we know them, doing so shows appreciation for what they done. If we do not know them, then we are showing respect as well as a recognition of how we would like to be treated when it is our turn, and it will be our turn. But the question becomes should we strive to live in a continual state of comfort before that time. By a continual state of comfort, I do not just mean physical comfort, but I include maintaining a personal comfort too. So, in order to live in this pampered mental state, we surround ourselves with the entertaining, the positive and the inspiring while turning a deaf hear to the cries for help coming from those being hurt by others.
When we live for riches, we not only strive to live in constant comfort, we fail to think about the impact that our relaxed lifestyle can have on others--as we just said, we drown out the cries for help coming from others. First, we neglect to think about what we could do for others. And this does not apply just to the time we are enjoying ourselves, it also applies to any extra time we spend to earn the money needed to maintain our lifestyle. What we can do for others includes spending time to learn about today's issues and who needs help, participating in activism, volunteering to help those in need, volunteering to help in the community, and being a good Samaritan. The more we live for riches, the more we care about our own inner world and the less we are involved in the world around us. This is because it takes time, effort and caring to be involved. It takes a willingness to be interrupted and be discomforted by others.
Second, we need to be aware of the fact that the more we consume, the less there is for others. Here, I like to tell a parable about a missionary who met a poor starving man in the village in which he was serving. Remembering the saying, "if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime," he proceeded to teach the man to fish. The missionary left for other villages and when he returned, he found this man in the same state in which he left him. The missionary asked the man what happened. The man replied that while he now knew how to fish, it wasn't long after he began fishing that the pond became fished out because of the number of people fishing and there was no catch limit. He went on to say that while some could afford to go to another fishing hole, he was unable to.
We live in a world with both limited or diminishing resources and an increasing population. When we consume nonrenewable resources, not only are we taking away from those who live now, we take away from those who come after us. So the more we consume beyond our needs, the less we have to share with others and the less there is for others live on.
Finally, we must be aware of the costs others must pay for what we consume. For example, the following link lists the companies that do not employ child-slave labor in the production of cocoa (directory of ethical chocolate companies). In addition, you can read about the previous efforts of some in our government to help stop use of child slaves and trafficking that is involved in cocoa production as well as who resisted (efforts). The same goes for the production of goods like diamonds, to the making of clothing, carpets, and even sporting equipment (child slave labor). This means that, among others, children are often abused in the production of what we consume.
The reason such labor is used is to sell goods and services at low prices by cutting the cost of production. Using slaver, sweatshop, and child labor are ways some major companies employ to reduce the costs and improve their own bottom line. And we enable this when we embrace the consumer version of maximizing profits by always buying our stuff at the lowest price which, in turn, enables us to consume more and more and enjoy more comfort.
Of course, there are costs that others pay besides suffering abuse at work. Another cost can be the efforts our government expends in raising up and maintaining proxy leaders in other countries. Our oil prices, for example, are due to fact that America has joined a few other countries in helping to control who becomes the head of state and who does not. The earliest example of this occurred in 1953 in Iran where the U.S. and the U.K. worked together to overthrow the democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh, who wanted to nationalize Iran's oil resources, and replace him with a dictator. Currently, we support the reign of the royal family in Saudi Arabia as well as the rulers of Bahrain, neither of whom support democracy. And we just participated in a bloody coup in Libya where we demonized a self-demonizing leader while ignoring the injustices those we sided with practiced. If we look back through history we could find other examples where our country overthrew governments, some of them democratically elected, to further the interests of some business which, in turn, often furthered the consumer power of Americans.
Whether we tolerate all of this goes back to why we live. Do we live for riches, to die with the most toys, to be made as comfortable as possible until the end? Will the measure of our lives be based on how much fun we experienced in life and how much we consumed? Or, do we enjoy riches from time to time but live to give to, serve, and help others, especially those who are being oppressed? Here, we could ask ourselves how would Jesus live. Or we should ask, how did Jesus live when He was with us.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10