- Consideration of the concept of moral or immoral occupations.
- Consideration of who should take responsibility for the poor.
- 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.
Supporting Values Education:
The value of the rule of law is built not only on responsibilities of individuals, but also the expectation that those with power and privilege will use their position for the wider good, not just for self-interest. This lesson encourages students to consider the Christian basis for the wealthy to take such a wider perspective.
Ask the students to brainstorm suggestions of the things that they spend their money on. Be careful not to get into how much money is spent on each of the things mentioned, particularly if you are aware of a wide range of different income levels in the families of your students. Write the suggestions on the board as the students make them.
Now look at the suggestions with the class and ask them to assess them in order of importance – i.e. which of the things they would spend the money on if they could only afford one thing, which would come next if they could afford one more and so on. Make the students prioritise in terms of need, rather than simply which things they want the most. This part of the lesson could be carried out in small groups, with a time to feed back their findings.
After you have given the students the opportunity to talk about their priorities for spending their money, explain that this lesson is going to look at money, and in particular about attitudes towards it. Explain that they are going to discover what Christianity teaches about money, and about the responsibilities that go with having it.
Introduce the first clip from the film Spider-Man Homecoming (Marvel, 2017, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.
Explain to the students that this clip occurs at the start of the film, and is a flashback to the aftermath of the events in Avengers: Assemble. The Avengers have succeeded in fighting off an alien attack on New York, and now the city is involved in clearing up the mess. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the discussion between the head of the construction crew, Toomes (Michael Keaton) and the government officials.
- Start time: 0.00.00 (beginning of chapter 1 of the DVD)
- End time: 0.04.46
- Clip length: 4 minutes and 46 seconds
The clip starts with the line, ‘Things are never going to be the same now.’ It ends (eight years later) with the line, ‘Business is good.’
Ask the students why they think Toomes decided to hide the alien technology that he had found and use it for his own, illegal, business opportunities. What drove him to make that decision? Ask them about how concerned the government officials seemed to be with the consequences of him losing his contract with the city to clean up the aftermath of the battle. Do the students think that Toomes was right or wrong in what he did? Were the officials right or wrong?
Now introduce a second clip. This comes from near the end of the film, where Spider-Man (Tom Holland) confronts Toomes in an attempt to stop his latest criminal endeavour. Ask the students to pay particular attention to Toomes’ justification of his actions.
- Start time: 1.35.48 (in chapter 13 of the DVD)
- End time: 1.37.45
- Clip length: 1 minute and 57 seconds
The clip starts with Spider-Man arriving at Toomes’ warehouse. The first line is Spider-Man shouting out, ‘Hey! Surprised?’ The clip ends after Toomes says, ‘…then again, it wasn’t really trying to,’ and the roof falls in on Spider-Man.
If Toomes is correct in his assessment that the rich don’t care about ‘the little people’, does that mean that it’s okay for them to resort to criminal activities in order to provide for their families (put another way, is Peter wrong to chastise Toomes and to assert, ‘I understand that selling weapons to criminals is wrong’? Should rich people worry about inequalities of wealth? Why shouldn’t they just look after their own wealth without a thought for those with less?
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).
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 2016, it was estimated that the wealthiest 1% of people in the UK owned approximately 29 times the wealth of the poorest 20%. Since the early years of the 21st Century, 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:
- A copy of Spider-Man: Homecoming DVD.