Rich or Poor?
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Revelation 3:17 (NIVUK)
A leader in the New Scientist  has the sub-heading “In the contest between religion and atheism, apathy is winning.” The leader goes on to say, “Most of the unaffiliated neither accept nor reject religion: they simply don’t care about it.”
In a main article in this issue entitled “Losing Our Religion” it is claimed that the world’s fastest growing religious identity are the ‘nones.’ These include non-believers of all stripes from convinced atheists to people who simply don’t care about religion. The article goes on to say, “Religion thrives on existential angst: where people feel insecure and uncertain, religion provides succour. But as societies become more prosperous and stable, this security blanket becomes less important. By this reckoning it is no coincidence that the least religious countries also tend to be the most secure. Denmark, Sweden and Norway, for example, are consistently rated as among the most irreligious. They are also among the most prosperous, stable and safe, with universal healthcare and generous social security.”
But is materialism all there is to life and happiness and fulfilment? George Monbiot commenting in the Guardian newspaper  about some of the pitfalls of materialism wrote that an impressive body of psychological research “suggests that materialism, a trait that can afflict both rich and poor, and which researchers define as ‘a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project’, is both socially destructive and self-destructive. It smashes the happiness and peace of mind of those who succumb to it. It’s associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships. There has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness. But research conducted over the past few years seems to show causation.”
This body of research shows that prosperity and self-indulgence are not sufficient to satisfy some deeper needs of humanity. The Bible recognises that there is a spiritual dimension as well as a physical side to life. The above scripture seems to sum up the general condition of the population at large in much of Northern and Western Europe. They are physically relatively rich yet do not realise that they are spiritually poor. It also recognises that people can be physically poor yet spiritually rich, “I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!” (Revelation 2:9)
The Bible does not condemn wealth but emphasises the need for a correct perspective between physical and spiritual, between transitory and eternal riches. The apostle Paul acknowledged this when he wrote, “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.” (1Timothy 6:17-19)
“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15): life that is truly life involves embracing the spiritual and putting hope in God who richly provides for us in this life and the next.
Father, we thank you for the spiritual riches that give life real significance and a sense of purpose and worth, and that are ours through Jesus Christ.
Study by Eddie Marsh
 New Scientist 3 May 2014
 The Guardian 10 December 2013, Materialism: a system that eats us from the inside out, George Monbiot
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