My wife and I have never had the opportunity to become wealthy; but, despite struggles from time to time due basically to our unwillingness to consider wealth as the most important thing in life, we have managed to remain more or less afloat financially.
If, like some persons, we had wished to make a fortune regardless of all else, it is possible that we could have made a lot of money, but at what cost! We got married before I qualified, and when I did so, with Honours, we already had two lovely daughters, who, together with my wife, constituted a powerful spur to make me work hard to do well in my examinations. Love of my family kept me hard at work right up to when I retired, at the age of 69, in December 2000. I also had the good fortune to enter a profession which I still love, since, apart from exercising my brain, has also enabled me to work for justice for all, my guiding principle.
We have had a wonderful life, with many joys, even though I am now stricken by cancer as well as other serious ailments, including severe spondylitis, and our marriage and family still, after more than fifty-three years, constitute a power-house of love. Through ill-fortune, I have been swindled out of substantial sums at two stages in my professional career by fellow lawyers, who have taken advantage of my trusting nature, with the result that we are far from well-off now that we are elderly. To use an old saying, "there is no point in crying over spilt milk", but it must be admitted that I would like us to be better-off than we are. Whether or not increased material possessions would make us any happier, I just cannot tell.
This introduction is intended to lead into a reflection on why some people work towards no higher aim than the accumulation of wealth. Most of them seem to me to live rather empty and miserable lives, and they must realise, to bring out an old cliché, that "they cannot take it with them". This struck me most forcibly just recently, when, due to my age and health, I was in the course of arranging (hopefully reasonably well in advance!) my own funeral, etc., to save my family from having to do this when the inevitable happens to my poor old body and soul. I have not done this with any sense of morbidity, but simply as a sensible practical step for the good of the family, and our children are thus aware of what I have done jointly with my dear wife.
Returning to the subject of these musings, I feel sorry for those whose only, or principal, aim in life has been, or is, to amass as much wealth as they can without thinking of love. Some may well mock my attitude, as being softly sentimental, but I find love to be a massive tower of strength whenever I need support to face the less agreeable aspects of life.
We read in our newspapers and hear on our radios and television all about the latest financial scandals, and it is an interesting fact that so many of those who go down that road are already extremely well-off. This makes me wonder why a man who is already rich beyond my own wildest dreams should wish to swindle the state or other persons to make himself even richer. I find it hard to conceive what drives a man to do such a thing. There is a world of difference between him and the father of a starving family who steals to feed his dependents. The motivation of the latter is totally understandable, and I would always like to see him being treated mercifully.
When we learn of the vast sums being paid to corporate bosses, I find it sickening, and I have little faith in the supposed "trickle-down" process, whereby the poorest are supposed to benefit from the rich getting even richer. This makes me incapable of supporting moves, such as those proposed by President Obama, to "bail-out" the wealthiest bankers and other corporate "fat cats" rather than attending first to the desperate needs of the poorest and weakest in society.
We Christians here in Europe find it difficult to understand why (and how) ordinary folk in the USA can accept the existence of preachers, who link the name of Jesus Christ with hyper-wealthy "mega-churches". These seem to us to be a blatant negation of our belief that God is love and that we should, when we look at those who are less well-off than ourselves, follow the loving attitudes set out in the Ten Commandments and in the Beatitudes, and certainly never look down on the less fortunate.
Money is neither good nor bad in itself, but our attitude towards it, and use of it, can be either. From this, I draw the conclusion that the purpose of wealth should be (and far too often is not) to improve life for the weakest and poorest.
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