A Message to the Rich

To the rich of this nation, we ask you to share your blessings with those who are in need. This we peacefully ask according to the love and mercy that God has shown us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Who are in need? They are the poor of this nation, where over 40 percent of the 82 million Filipinos are suffering from poverty. Somehow, many Filipinos are poor because only a few own most of the country's wealth.

In its 2000 survey of family income and expenditure, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said that the average income of the population's 10th decile, representing the richest 10 percent of the Filipinos, was 14 times higher than the average earnings of the first decile, representing the poorest 10 percent.

While Filipinos had a per capita income of less than US$1,000, four of them were listed among the world's 497 billionaires (in US dollars) in 2001. Ironically, Finland and Austria, two European countries where per capita income exceeded US$24,000, had no representative in the billionaires' list.

According to the Commission on Population, about 30 million or 39.4 percent of the population in 2000 were affected by poverty incidence. Real number of poor families reached 5.1 million, 1.5 million of them in urban areas and 3.6 million in rural areas. Some 2.5 million families were living in subsistence level, meaning their income was not enough to buy their basic food requirements.

In its 2001 report, the World Bank said 12.7 percent of Filipinos were "poor", a term it assigned to those who lived on less than US$1 a day while 45.9 percent were "near poor" or those who lived on less than US$2 a day.

About 20 to 34 percent of 74.2 million Filipinos in the period 1998 to 2000 were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report entitled "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002."

So critical was the poverty incidence in the country that many Filipino children had to find work in 2001. According to the NSO, 4 million out of the total 25 million Filipino children were working during the survey period from October 1, 2000 to September 30, 2001. These figures were consistent with the findings of an international institution. According to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef), some four million Filipino children were forced to work as of 2002 because their parents could not find jobs.

A 2002 study conducted by the Philippine Congress showed that about 15.6 million or more than 60 percent of the 25 million Filipino children (below 18 years old) were malnourished. In a separate study conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), three out of 10 Filipino pre-schoolers were found malnourished or underweight in 2001. In actual numbers, there were 3.7 million malnourished pre-school children.

A 1996 report of the non-government movement End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) showed that the Philippines had 1.5 million children living or working in the street of 65 cities. Manila alone had at least 100,000 street children.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that as of April 2002, there were 4.866 million unemployed Filipinos accounting for 13.9 percent of the total labor force estimated at 35.052 million workers. About 5.922 million others or 19.6 percent of the labor force were also underemployed, meaning they had no regular sources of income.
In its 2002 study, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has cited the need to improve the lives of some 3.4 million Filipinos living in the slums of Metro Manila.

On July 12, 2000, the Philippines witnessed one of the world's most horrifying images of social tragedy in history. Nearly 500 garbage scavengers who were living literally at the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City were buried alive under tons of garbage when a 50-foot garbage mountain collapsed on their makeshift houses at the height of torrential rains. It was a tragic commentary on poverty in the Philippines, yet the lesson remains to be learned to this day.

Who Are the Rich?

Being rich in this country and doing nothing to alleviate the burdens of the poor is hard to understand. How can they call themselves Christians, yet turn their back to those who call for help in the forms of alms, donations, higher wages, lower prices of commodities or even kindly considerations such as jobs and livelihood opportunities?

Are they the same people who were described by a psalmist in the Bible? "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression; their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, 'How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?' This is what the wicked are like - always carefree, they increase in wealth" (Psalms 73:3-13).

Warnings Against the Rich

If the rich people of this nation are like the wicked rich described by the psalmist, then they must take heed of the warnings. "Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotten and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent men, who were not opposing you" (James 5:1-6).

"Woe to those who make unjust laws, and to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of My people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?" (Isaiah 10:1-3)

Greed and Arrogance

While it is not a sin to become rich, we believe that being rich at the expense of the poor is a sin of greed. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).

It is even a form of arrogance. "Now listen to you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:13-14).

Gaining wealth for the sake of satisfying one's greed for money is one of the worst forms of sins. "But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (I Timothy 6:6-10).

We know that the greedy would not have a place in heaven. "Jesus said to His disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'" (Matthew 19:23-24).

One of the most important questions about man's purpose in life is this: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

The problem starts when the rich begin to look at their money as the driving force of their life. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

This is why a wise man asked the Lord not to give him riches. "Two things I ask of You, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, 'Who is Lord?' or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:7-9).

In the same way, showing favor for the rich is also a sin. "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here is a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand here,' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" (James 2:1-4).

Salvation For Everyone

Of course, we are not saying that only the poor will inherit the kingdom of God. The good news of salvation is for everyone. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Such salvation, however, must manifest in good deeds. "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Ephesians 4:28).

Duties of the Rich

What we are saying is that to whom much is given, much is required. Some people have more than what they need in order to glorify God, by giving to the poor. "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11).

He wants to remind the rich that He cares for the poor. "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing" (Deuteronomy 10:17-18).

God in fact commands the rich to help the poor. "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your bothers and toward the poor and needy in your land" (Deuteronomy 10:11).

In the same way, Paul asked Timothy to remind the rich of their responsibility. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (I Timothy 6:17).

However, giving should be done with gracious heart. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:2-4).

Source of Sustenance

God also wants the rich to acknowledge Him as the only source of our sustenance. "This is the promise of Jesus Christ. 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty'" (John 6:35). "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).

Acknowledging Him as our Lord means abandoning our reliance on our own strength and wisdom, which are limited by time and space. "So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:31-34).

Love for Fellowman

Our love for those who are in need measures how much we treasure our riches in heaven. Time will come when we are to appear before God who will reward us for the things we have done for the poor.

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.'"

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever You did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me'" (Matthew 25:34-40).

The apostle John explained that our salvation in Jesus Christ is manifested in the way we love our fellowmen, particularly the poor. "If anyone says 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21).

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity in him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (I John 3:16-18).

Love is important, because by this we know that we have eternal life. John said "we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers" (I John 3:14).

The Coming of the Lord

Jesus Christ will come again to Earth, this time to bring salvation to those who believe in Him. "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Hebrews 9:27-28).

He will bring us who love Him together in one body. "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, together by every supporting ligaments, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

In Jesus Christ, we have a new life. We rejoice at the fact that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). We say these things to you because these are true, and because God wants you to know that He loves you very much and patiently waits for your acceptance of His gift of eternal life.

Invitation

Jesus Christ says: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne" (Revelation 3: 20-21).

If you have not yet accepted the love of God in Jesus Christ His Son, we invite you to open your heart, confess that you are a sinner and receive His gift of salvation. Below is a suggested prayer:

God, the most high, I praise You with all my heart. Forgive me, Lord, for the sins I have committed against You and the people around me. I confess that I am a sinner and could not do anything by myself to reach your righteousness. I am humbled by Your love. Though I deserve death, You love me so much that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to die for my sins instead. From now on, I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and claim the salvation that He offers to me. I allow Him to dwell in me, so that I will always keep Your decrees in my heart. Let me live as a new creation, with love in my heart. Let me love with actions and in truth, as Jesus Christ loves us, to the glory of God in the highest. Amen!

Friends, if you want to know more about the life offered by Jesus Christ and the wonderful things that He has done for us, we invite you to join us in our worship service every Sunday at Emmaus Bible Fellowship Center in Mandaluyong City. We would also be glad to conduct Bible studies at places near you. 

To contact us, please visit http://emmaus.50megs.com, email juan@txtmania.com or fill up the forms below.

The article does not necessarily reflect the official stand of the church on the issue but only represents the author's own conviction based on the Word of God.

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1 John 3:1

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God".

Bible verses were quoted from the New International Version.