As we continue through yet another year of American recession, people continue to struggle, and many are even losing homes and livelihoods. Help agencies are struggling to meet the many needs. In an election year, politicians are utilizing the stumbling economy to blame political rivals.
But, what about people faith? What responsibility do people of faith have toward those who are struggling
and in need?
The difficulty of this problem is illustrated well by a Buddhist story about a new king who, at the beginning of his reign was told by a wise man to rule his land with great justice. The wise man advised him to alleviate poverty by giving property to the poor.
But, the King forgot this advice after a while and there was great suffering with many poor people. Some people became so poor that they started to steal. One of these poor people was caught and dragged before the King for judgement. The King demanded to know why the man had stole. The man said that his family was starving and there was nothing else he could do to avoid starvation.
In response, the King remembered the wise man's counsel and gave the thief a plot of land to cultivate and survive from its fruits. When poor people heard of the King's charity, some started stealing just to gain such a piece of property. The frustrated King dragged one such real estate speculator before him and made an example by having the thief decapitated.
Seeing the power of the sword, all the people of the land took up weapons. They started robbing and killing and the world became a hellish place of violence and greed.
The story illustrated well the troubles faced by governments and leaders. But, what should be done?
Here are some thoughts from religious texts:
“He who sleeps on a full stomach whilst his neighbour goes hungry is not one of us.”(Prophet Muhammad)
"The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want" (Jesus of Nazareth)
There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation, and as long as the weak and small continue to be trodden by the mighty and powerful. (Dalai Lama)
Who is supposed to help the poor? Are they required only to help themselves? Is this the role of government, faith institutions, or something else? What personal responsibilities do we have?
Join us for a conversation about ethics and poverty this Wednesday at Short's Brewing Company, 7pm.
picture credit: http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/2009/01/give-and-take.html