- Understanding of Christian perspectives on the uses and responsibilities of wealth.
- Consideration of who should take responsibility for the poor.
- Reflect on how it feels when others have more than their fair share, and you have less.
- Recognise the unequal division of wealth within western society, and also between the developed and developing world.
- Understand biblical teaching about the relationship between rich and poor people.
- Understand biblical teaching about the responsibilities of wealth.
- Evaluate how a modern Christian might seek to meet these responsibilities.
Bring a packet of chocolate biscuits in to the lesson, and put them on a plate on your desk. Make sure that the students see them, but are unable to take any. Explain that you thought you would give the class a treat today, and say that the biscuits are for them. Before the lesson, prepare a set of envelopes, one for each student in the class. Some of them should have one biscuit voucher (from the printable handout sheet), some should have more than one, and some should have a no biscuit voucher. Make sure the total number of biscuit vouchers equals both the number of students in the room and the number of biscuits on the plate.
Give out the envelopes at random and ask all the students to open their envelope. Those with biscuit vouchers can exchange their vouchers for biscuits; those without a valid biscuit voucher have to go without. If anyone with more than one voucher wants to share their vouchers with less fortunate friends, allow them to, but don’t suggest the idea yourself or put any pressure on them to do so. If you are asked, simply say that everyone can use their vouchers however they choose.
Ask the students who didn’t get any biscuits how it felt to watch others eating their share of the biscuits (remember, there were exactly the right number for everyone to have one biscuit). Alternatively, if the class were good at sharing, ask those who benefitted how that felt. Explain that food and wealth in the world is distributed in a very uneven manner, and that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about Christian responses to issues of wealth inequality.
Introduce the clip from the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate, 2013, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.
Explain that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are being celebrated as heroes and celebrities after their victory in the previous Hunger Games tournament (in the previous film). In this clip they are attending the lavish President’s Ball. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the contrast between working conditions for ordinary people and the party lifestyle of the rich and famous.
- Start time: 0.24.35 (beginning of chapter 5 of the DVD)
- End time: 0.28.28
- Clip length: 3 minutes and 53 seconds
The clip starts with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) saying, ‘Just when you thought things couldn’t get more exciting…’. It ends when Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) says, ‘Maybe it was you that inspired me to come back.’
Ask the students how they think they would have reacted if put in Peeta and Katniss’ situation. Would they have been happy to enjoy the party, or would they have felt guilty about the contrasting poverty most people they knew were having to endure?
If it hasn’t already come up, focus the students on Heavensbee’s comment:
‘It’s appalling. Still, if you abandon your moral judgement, it can be fun’.
How easy is it for someone to ‘abandon your moral judgement’ when it comes to inequality? To what extent do the students think that people in our society do something similar? Should the rich be expected to take an interest in ensuring that nobody else is short of money and food, or is it okay for them just to enjoy their wealth and look only to their own interests?
If you want a real-life example of someone who doesn’t simply use their wealth for their own benefit, you could tell the students about the singer will.i.am, who has set up a foundation (the i.am.angel foundation) which supports young people from the neighbourhood where will.i.am grew up, providing college scholarships and projects to help lift them out of poverty. Will.i.am also paid the £500,000 series fee he received for being a judge on The Voice UK to the Princes Trust.
Now split the class into small groups and ask each group to look at the following Bible passages. Amos 4:1-3; Amos 5:11-16; Amos 8:4-7. If you don’t think there will be enough time for each group to look at all three passages, you could ask different groups to start with different passages, which will mean that even if each group only tackles one passage, all three will have been looked at by someone, allowing feedback to be presented to the rest of the class. For each passage the students should answer the following questions:
- What attitudes and actions are the wealthy described as having/carrying out?
- Why do you think the writer considers this to be wrong?
- What consequences does the Bible say will result (this question may need to be answered for the three passages taken together, rather than for each individually).
Take feedback from the different groups, and draw out the overall picture painted by Amos – that the rich were enjoying their wealth, even to the extent of oppressing the poor and needy (you may need to explain that oppressing means keeping the poor in a bad situation and actively preventing them from improving their position. You might like to point out some of the comparisons between the passages and the film clip, such as the description of wealth leading to injustice, and the mansions of the rich, both of which are mentioned in chapter 5.
Bring the students’ focus back to the present day, and ask them how they think rich people should use their wealth – is there anything wrong with them just enjoying their money, or should they feel some kind of responsibility to those who are in a less privileged situation? It might be helpful to point out to the students that since the early 1980s the gap between the richest 10% in Britain and the rest has consistently increased. In 2012, the poorest 10% of the population had only 1.3% of the total wealth, whereas the top 10% had 31% of the wealth – more than the bottom 50% put together. In the last ten years, 80% of the extra wealth created has gone to the top 50%, with 40% going to the top 10% alone. If some of the students feel that there is a level of responsibility that goes with wealth, ask them how wealthy somebody has to be before they should be expected to use their wealth for the sake of others.
You might want to allow this discussion to go on for a little while. Some students may feel that only the very rich should be expected to use their wealth to help others. Whether or not this is the case, point out to the class that when we think beyond national boundaries, everybody in the classroom could be considered as rich – in 1980 the Brandt report found that the developed nations (such as Britain and America) contained 25% of the world’s population while consuming 75% of its resources whereas the developing nations (sometimes referred to as the ‘Third World’) was trying to feed 75% of the global population with only 25% of the resources. Merely by virtue of living in a country like Britain, the students are likely to be in the world’s wealthiest 10%. Ask the students to consider the implications of these figures in the light of their thoughts on the responsibilities of wealth, and invite any comment that they may wish to make.
Explain to the class that Christians have always held that the privileges of money should not just be selfishly enjoyed by the wealthy. Christians do not believe money itself to be evil (point out that in one of the most misquoted verses of the Bible, Paul does not warn Timothy that money is the root of evil, but that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Explain that there are many passages in the New Testament that reflect the belief and practice of the early church regarding the responsibilities of wealth. Split the class back into their small groups, and give each group one of the following passages: Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 12:13-21; Acts 4:32-37. Ask each group to look at their passage and to answer the following questions for it:
- What does the passage say about the attitude a Christian should have towards money?
- What does the passage say about how Christians should use money?
- Who is likely to benefit from this?
Allow time for the groups to feed their answers back so that everyone can hear the content of each passage. If more than one group has tackled some of the passages, give an opportunity for the students to discuss any differences of opinion as to the meaning of the verses.
SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:
As a final exercise, ask the students to write a speech to give to a gathering of the wealthiest members of society. The speech should call upon them to rethink how they use their wealth, and provide a Christian basis for the use of their wealth.
YOU WILL NEED: