Inwardly we all long for peace and prosperity. With these two things in our land, after all, we would all that our hearts desire.
But would we truly have the desires of our heart?
North Americans live in one of the most powerful countries in the world, where prosperity is preached from the pulpit, where we can boast not only about our peace, but also about our freedom. But are we truly happy? Are we making a difference in the world?
Why is depression on the rise? Why is anxiety in the heart of many? Did we even know that according reliable online statistics, 9.5% of the U.S. population suffers from depressive disorders, and 18% are paralyzed with anxiety? Why is poverty still mushrooming like an abnormal cancer in our societies? If you take a moment to wander around any major city, even Washington D.C., we can’t help but notice the homeless!
Does prosperity truly give us what we long for? Or does it come with a cost?
Did we ever wonder why most of our clothes come from countries such as China, India, and Bangladesh? We all know that clothes are quite a bit cheaper from over there, and thus more affordable to us. The truth behind the much lower price tags, however, lies in the fact that these clothes are manufactured through cheap labor, often even child labor!
Let’s take a look at India, as an example, where workers in such industries begin their day at 8 in the morning and work until 10 at night, and they usually even work through their weekly day off! Some put in 152 hours of overtime, beside the hours mentioned above. They never know if they will be paid for their overtime, however, as supervisors always look for reasons to not pay a dime more than they have to.
Despite these horrendous hours, the monthly pay is around 43$. If they are lucky and have been paid for their overtime, they might receive as much as 78$ for the month. However in order to meet the minimum living standards, these workers need about 134$ a month. It’s impossible for them to ever reach that monthly amount!
The working conditions are far from ideal as well. In fact they are truly atrocious, and no one will say anything about it for fear of dire consequences.
Imagine coming home daily around 11 in the evening, and although overtired, food needs to be prepared for the family. Forget fish and meat, however. They are too costly for our meager budgets. Spinach and some vegetables is all that we can afford, and at times we have no choice but to not eat at all for at least two or three days in a row.
The rent takes a good portion of our salary (21$), and the room we rent consists only of a bed that is well below North American standards, as well as some cooking material. 3 toilets and 2 baths have to be shared between 17 families in the building. Neighbors are constantly bickering over these luxuries. And let’s not forget that we have no choice but to wake up at 6 in the morning!
The real cost of making these clothes is 46-48% of the total price of these goods, as it includes material, transport, advertisement and taxes. The owners end up making 49 to 51% profit. The worker’s salary is 1 to 5% of the price of these goods. Other goods from these countries have the same profit margins.
The prophet Isaiah had quite a different viewpoint about prosperity: “Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures . . . Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled . . .” (Isaiah 2:7-9, NIV2)
Is it possible that we too, have made wealth our idol? After all, if we live to fill our pockets, haven’t these “pockets” become our obsession? Even TV shows focus on such passions!
But what about all these poor people in our own cities, as well as those all over the world? There is a desperate need, a need much bigger than our prosperity. There is a need for love, for doing what is right instead of becoming blind to what is really happening around us. Are we willing to do what is good and right? Or are we repeating history?
“Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 6:18, NIV2)
Isaiah warned us of what would happen if we don’t. Society cannot survive when love is utterly ignored. If we live for dollar signs, the mighty dollar will eventually swallow us whole!
It’s time that we wake up from our stupor and realize what our purpose is on earth. We were not made to be transformed into slot machines, but to genuinely love others, just like Jesus loves us. Where is love when our only interest for others has completely disappeared and is completely forlorn? Real richness is not in our bank accounts. Real richness is about making a difference in this world.
Love, after all, is what saved us!
Written on December 22, 2012
(To access the entire “Becoming Rich Without a Dime” devotional series, please click here.)