Lately I have been thinking about poverty and the gap between the wealthy in this world and the poor. Oddly enough, I am actually one of the ‘wealthy’ pretty much by virtue of where I happened to be born. So here I am, wondering how we will manage to pay the bills this month, with Christmas and about 6 family birthdays looming, and an economy class summer holiday to scrape some dollars together for, wondering how I happened to get classified as ‘rich’?
Realistically, it costs a lot to live even a modest lifestyle in this country, yet people on the poverty line here are still considered to be among the wealthiest 20% of people in the world! That seems a bit screwy.
Where is our wealth?
Our family has a car. It may be 10 years old and have a few dents in it but it is reliable. However, a car is not much use without roads to drive it on. There is a network of roads from my house to any place in the country that I would like to go. These roads are maintained by thousands of workers using very expensive equipment. All paid for by taxes.
When I want some water I simply turn a tap and there it is, fresh, clean water piped into my house. The city council ensures that the water is of good quality and free from microbial contamination. This is paid for through the combined rates of all property owners in the city. New Zealand has good water supplies, nobody here has to carry water for hours from the nearest well.
At night our family sleeps in peace. Fortunately our politicians have kept our nation free of conflict internally and have provided us with good international relations such that there is no significant threat of invasion. We have a police force that mostly keeps on top of crime and is largely free of corruption. I can go to work, even on night shift, confident that my family will be safe.
I have several tertiary qualifications, my wife also has a degree. My children are all being educated well at little personal expense to me. They learn their own language, are taught science, art and mathematics. At primary school the kids are even taught to swim because our nation is an island and kiwis love to be on, near and in the water. In addition, one of my daughters has been learning violin for 5 years in classes subsidised by the Ministry of Education.
This is only a small sampling of the riches I enjoy simply by being a citizen of this particular nation.
So even when the bills are mounting up and I grumble at the unrelenting costs of living, so long as I have even $1 in my pocket not urgently needed for basic necessities, I am rich. Our society likes to makes us think that everyone should have vast reserves of discretionary money to spend in order to be ‘happy’. The perfect dream for many is to win Lotto and have millions of dollars to spend as they like. That sort of ‘happiness’ is of little value according to Jesus:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
(Mark 8:36 ESV)