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How Poverty and Wealth Are Viewed in Abrahamic Faiths

Christianity, Islam and Judaism all spring from a similar belief system that originated in the latter belief system of the three. As a result of varying cultural, geographic and historical factors however, time has made many of the views of these brethren religions completely divergent. One of the best examples of this is the conception of wealth and poverty in these religions. These religions have similar views towards wealth, but among these groups, many dissident voices uote scripture to support their beliefs regard

Judaism!s beliefs on poverty go all the way bac" nearly to pre#civili$ation. Today, the Jewish faith has a middle road view of wealth. %ealth is by no means something that is considered immoral. &ather, it is a gift from 'od for both worldly virtues li"e intelligence, and spiritual virtues. This viewpoint is supported by passages of scripture such as (roverbs ))*+ where it is stated that ,-umility is the fear of the .O&/0 its wages are riches and honor and life.1. 2ot only was wealth discouraged, but intentional abstinence was discouraged according to many teachers. 3or instance, citing 2umbers 4* 55, the &abbi 6la$ar -a"appar stated that !7If one who afflicted himself only with respect to wine is called a sinner, how much more so is one who ascetically refrains from everything considered a sinner. Therefore one who fasts 8excessively9 is called a sinner7 :;abylonian Talmud, 2edarim 5<a= ! :3riedman=. The basic reasoning of this is that by the pursuit of abstinence one is depriving himself or herself of the gifts of 'od, and thereby insulting it. Asceticism in Judaism is generally frowned upon. /epriving one!s self of the pleasures that 'od has given the human race, especially to the point of bodily harm is considered a sin by many rabbies based on what prophets have said in the Torah. One often cited biblical verse is from Isaiah >?*4 that ,Is not this the "ind of fasting I have chosen* to loose the chains of in@ustice and untie the

cords of the yo"e, to set the oppressed free and brea" every yo"eA1. (ut simply, outside of small aberrations there is no room for asceticism in Judaism. %hile Jewish laws finds no fault with the attainment of wealth, it is considered obligatory that one give t$ede"ah, a word not easily translated into 6nglish but with the approximate translation being that of spiritually mandatory charity. Jews are told in /euteronomy )4*5) that ,%hen you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, you shall give it to the .evite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow...1. This along with passages li"e 'enesis )B*)) have been reinterpreted today to mean donating one!s time andCor earnings to a worthy charity. 6ven in this aspect though, Jews are expected to be good custodians of 'od!s wealth and search out the most worthy and efficient means to improve the community. A Jew is to become a "ind of philanthropic investor. The Islamic view of wealth follow the same trac" of reasoning as Judaism. 'od is good, and wants human beings to do well for themselves. %ith that, 'od wants people to see" out the good in the world and profit by it. 'od gives people wealth to test them as well. If you are rich, 'od wants to see if you will remember where the wealth came from, will worship the wealth that it gave them, and whether they will be a good custodian of the wealth and help the poor. /espite this desire for man"ind to attain wealth, 'od specifies that there are clean and unclean ways of earning money* halal which involves intelligence, hard wor", and charitable donations to worthy pro@ects, and haram, which involves luc" or immoral practices such as gambling or prostitution. Also included under the title of haram is the practice of charging an interest rate. Duslims cite the passage of the Eur!an which states ,Oh you who believeF /evour not usury doubled and multiplied0 but fear Allah that you may prosper.1. Islam also has a side that commends asceticism, though it is not the mainstream. This belief in the benefits of asceticism is rooted in the fact that man must ma"e sure that nothing gets between his spirit and 'od. The area of Islam that is most li"ely to advocate deprivation is Gufism. Gufism claims to ta"e it!s tenets from the Eur!an in that the early mystics that accompanied Duhammad received special interpretations of the word of 'od from him. :-ussain= Today, the spiritual descendents of

these initial clerics follow these teachings which often include vows of poverty and abstinence. Islamic treatment of the poor is very similar to the afformentioned Jewish law. In fact, the name ,$a"ah1 is even somewhat similar to the -ebrew , t$ede"ah1. The Eur!an states at 5H*)4 that ,Iou shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant. , Ja"ah is the obligatory giving of at least ).> percent of one!s assets after one has ade uate income :K5> dollars today=. It is reasoned that if one does not share wealth in this way, all of their wealth is corrupted and this stinginess is the e uivalent of stealing. Ja"ah is also said to purify one!s heart, to encourage those who already earn a good deal to earn more to provide for the community and to encourage those in poverty not to languish in it but to become earners themselves.

The Christian view of wealth is more complicated than either Judaism or Islam. There are varying interpretations of the ;ibler that lead to views that run the gamut from condemnation of poverty, to condemnation of wealth. The main line view that most Christians ta"e however is that somw wealth is good, but extravagant wealth is bad because it causes one to become attached to it, and causes other character flaws li"e arrogance and power lust. The most direct verse cited is .u"e 5)*5> * ,Then he said to them, L%atch outF ;e on your guard against all "inds of greed0 a manMs life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.!1. In short, the mainstream Christian view towards wealth is that it is not wealth that is evil0 it is the immoral attainment or use of wealth that is evil. That is not to say there are not other, more severe views towards wealth in Christianity. There are few actual religious movements that rail against wealth, however, many people who are Chrstians believe in the evil of wealth. The can cite scripture to support their arguments as well. Gome commonly used passages are Datthew 5<*N? where Jesus tells his apostles that 7-e that ta"eth not up his cross, and followeth De, is not worthy of De7, .u"e 5+*)4 and many parts of the Old Testament such as O. It is important to note that this view of poverty in Christianity tends to be held by individuals,

especially the devout who wish to give themselves to 'od in a manner which will ensure that their ob@ects do not get in the way of their worship. Dost religious ideas which root themselves in the evil of the material world such as 'nosticism, were rooted out centuries ago and so, don!t exist. Though there are several orders that dedicate themselves to poverty

There are a surprising number of similarities between these three religions in regards to their common place beliefs in regards to wealth in poverty. All encourage someone to see" out the prosperity that 'od has put for them to find in the world each other as they are brothers. /espite this encouragement to find prosperity, they all emphasi$e that wealth earned in this life is momentary, and should not come between oneself and 'od. These similarities occur because Christianity and Islam are both based directly off of Judaism and therefore draw greatly upon -ebrew scripture and laws. %hether you call it t$ede"ah, $a"ah, or charity, if you earn an ade uate amount, you are not @ust expected, but obligated to give it to the needy. In addition to this, there are ascetics in each religion, who avoid materialism, but this is less of a result of thin"ing that the world is evil, than avoiding the problem of worshipping possessions at all costs. There are some differences between the three religions in reference to the treatments of wealth and poverty. The most obvious is that the three religions differ in emphasis and the structure that one is to give wealth away. In Judaism and Islam there are stated amounts and obvious reasons for giving away one!s wealth. Judaism re uires parts of a person!s income to the amount of 5<P whereas Islam re uires part of a person!s assets, generally around ).>P after the people themselves are out of poverty. Christianity on the other hand doesn!t specify any actual laws for charity, simply that within reasonable limits, more is better. Also distinguishing Christianity from the other two Abrahamic faiths is that wealth is not treated as a good thing that 'od wants people to see" out. It simply something that is completely nuetral for people to have. ;y examining the ways that the Abrahamic faiths view wealth, charity and poverty we receive

reinforcement in context to something that has already been stated in this course* that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all very similar in many ways because their modern versions all stem from one ancient religion. There are however differences, not so much in general ideology, but in what is expected of people. Gee"ing wealth in moderation, and giving charity are encouraged in all three religions but their guidelines differ slightly. The overwhelming similarities reiterate the fact that has been stated already, that these religions are more similar than different.

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"Muslim Teaching on Religion, Wealth and Poverty." 123HelpMe.com. 30 Nov 2010 <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=121592>.