Rich and poor

CONCERN about wealth, or the lack of it, not only fills magazines, newspapers, and television programs, but often divides people as nothing else can. People have needs that must be met. Wealth is seen to be the key. Children need nourishment and nurturing, adults need opportunity, self-respect. And each one of us, regardless of age or station in life, needs a definite sense of self-worth. The pages of this newspaper report on men's and women's efforts to secure for themselves and their families, in every part of the world, the essentials they need. It is obvious that the pursuit is not always a happy one or successful. Famine in many parts of the world, heart-rending personal and social adjustments in technologically advanced and advancing societies, and conflict between traditional values and change have left hardly anyone untouched. Is there a spiritual response to the question of wealth and well-being that is equally accessible to all and that will invoke the insight needed to resolve social and economic injustice fairly? While there is no way this brief article can resolve that vast question, we may be able to get an honest start. A simple occurrence illustrates somewhat the moral and spiritual attitude that would forward the well-being of all. Henry Ward Beecher, the well-known American pastor, tells of the praying that a man named Charles Smith did. Smith was a poor man who labored on the farm owned by Beecher's father. Each night Smith prayed, and then he would sing and laugh and pray again. Beecher wrote of that man: ``I learned to envy Charles Smith, although I was a hundred degrees higher than he in society. I learned to feel that I was the pauper and that he was the rich man. I would gladly have changed situations with him, if by so doing I could have obtained his grace and his hope of heaven.'' 1 Is it too much to suppose that the simplicity of awakening to deep, spiritual values can ultimately change the world and heal human want and misfortune? It is not too much if we have begun to feel such change and spiritual yearning in our own lives. The change and yearning speak for themselves to the individual who wants to be better and who cares for the welfare of himself and others; who isn't motivated by material position or possessions but by the desire to bring his life into accord with God's, divine Love's, direction and purpose. Christian Science teaches that there is in fact divine law that underlies such spirituality. To express God's nature is the law of man's being, because our true selfhood is His likeness, His manifestation. Riches and wealth, however they are conceived, are anchored in what we trust, where we place our reliance. The important question is, How can we be sure where we can place our confidence and trust? The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,2 points to an answer that undergirds human hopes with God's spiritual, redeeming action: ``Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.'' 3 The trust that learns to have desire uplifted through God's redeeming action in human hearts is at the center of what the world needs to enrich human affection. That living trust spans the chasm between material want and excess on the one hand, and profound spiritual and inner resources on the other. On the ground of this kind of moral and spiritual renewal, men and women of varying classes can meet and work to mutual benefit. Then the terms ``rich'' and ``poor'' will no longer divide men and women, but they will begin to be united on the basis of shared spiritual affection, such as when Jesus taught, ``Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.'' 4 1 T. J. Ellinwood, ed., Autobiographical Reminiscences of Henry Ward Beecher (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1898), p. 84. 2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3 Science and Health, p. 1. 4 Matthew 5:3, 6.

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