Last September I posted a blog titled “The World is Getting Better.” In this blog, I made the following statement, “In Jesus’ time most people were poor but over the centuries this has changed dramatically. Since the economic growth of industrialisation the number of people living in poverty has decreased – and has kept on falling ever since. The number of people living in poverty has decreased massively in the last twenty years. While there is still much to do we are winning the war on poverty; the world is getting better!”
While we are winning the war on poverty, recent research has indicated that the gap between rich and poor is actually increasing. According to Oxfam, “The richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined.” Oxfam also calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. That’s 62 people having the same amount as 3.7 billion people!
What it takes to be in the top 1% is fascinating. If you have cash and assets (including your house) worth just over $AUD1 million you’re in the top 1% – the same percentile as Rupert Murdoch, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
The news is not all bad though. Other research shows that those in the middle and bottom of the world income distribution have all got pay rises of around 40% between 1988-2008. Global inequality of life expectancy and height are narrowing too – showing better nutrition and better healthcare where it matters most.
Oxfam said that the 62 richest people having as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the population is a remarkable concentration of wealth, given that it would have taken 388 individuals to have the same wealth as the bottom 50% in 2010.
This is not to be critical of wealthy people; especially when those who have more than enough spend so much time and money helping others. Bill Gates, for example, says he has no use for money beyond a certain point. And he means it. Gates has already donated $US28 billion since 2007 to eradicate deadly diseases around the world and he hopes to double that investment in renewable technology in the next five years.
In June 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett formally announced the Giving Pledge campaign. The organisation’s goal is to inspire the wealthy people of the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy, either during their lifetime or upon their death. By December last year, 141 individuals and/or couples were listed as pledgers on the official website.
However, bridging the gap between rich and poor is not just the responsibility of the super-rich. Governments around the world need to take action to reverse this trend and make sure workers are paid a living wage, the gender pay gap is ended and equal land and inheritance rights are promoted for women.
This is also the responsibility of all people in the top 1% or even the top 10% – anyone who has more than enough, has a responsibility to help those who don’t have enough. The Bible speaks into this need to bring about equality between the haves and the have-nots, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14). The apostle Paul wrote this to the believers in the Greek City of Corinth about coming good on their promise to help those affected by the famine in Judea. Many of Corinth’s Christians had more than they needed and Paul is encouraging them to take some of their surplus in order to help those struggling with poverty. The same principle applies today. The purpose of giving and generosity is about bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.
One of the things I’ve done in recent years is to decrease the number of latte’s I buy. I used to buy one on most days until I realised it was costing me just over $1,000 a year. These days, I donate that money to help the 8 boys we look after in our Bayside Church Forever Home in South Africa. I encourage you to look for ways you can do the same. Maybe go without something so others don’t have to go without the things they need for sustaining life. Let’s all do our bit to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
If you want to do something practical to help right now, please consider making a donation to Bayside Church’s Home and Away fund. 100% of the money donated goes towards projects aimed at relieving poverty such as Matt’s Place (our twice-weekly lunch program giving a hot meal to the homeless and marginalised people in Bayside Melbourne) and the Forever Home in Johannesburg that I mention in the blog. You can give on line by clicking on this link.
All donations are Tax deductible if required.