Rich versus poor


Last week Christies in New York sold a painting of Leonardo Da Vinci to an unknown buyer for the obscene amount of four hundred million US dollar (exclusive of the fee for the auction house).

As I write this blog the US Senate is working on its version of the tax reform bill that is one of President Trump’s main agenda items. The bill will greatly benefit the rich and will make the gap between rich and poor even bigger than it already is.

In the Netherlands the gap between rich and poor is much narrower than in the USA. But this does not take away from the fact that the richest one percent in the Netherlands owns 26  percent of the national wealth. It is most regrettable that the new Dutch government, that has only been in place for a few weeks, feels it is necessary to reduce the tax that foreign shareholders have to pay over their dividends to zero. This supposedly will make this country even more attractive for large multinational companies to invest in. This measure will cost the state 1.4 billion euro. And this happens while there are serious problems in financing health care and education.

Oxfam reported last week that our world now has 12.000 billionaires and 16.5 million millionaires (in US dollars). The richest one percent of the world now owns just over 50 percent of global wealth.

These statistics sound quite alarming–a least in my ears. It is one of the reasons why, since a substantial number of years, I have given my vote to one of the parties on the left of the Dutch political spectrum. Justice demands that the difference between rich and poor somehow become smaller!

This past week I saw a link to a website that made me aware of an aspect that I found even more alarming. When I look at my own annual income I must conclude that–in the Dutch context–I am in the lower middle-class. However, when I compare it with global statistics, it appears that I actually belong to the richest one percent of this world (See:

Of course, I am aware that statistics do not always tell the full story. And the amount one needs in order to have a ‘decent’ lifestyle differs greatly from country to country. Nonetheless, these figures do tell me a few important things:

  1. When thinking of the things I would like to have, the travel I would like to do, etc., I must never forget that my desires are of a very different kind than those of a big part of the world’s population who are struggling to merely survive.
  2. As someone who belongs to the richest one percent of the world’s population, I must critically look at my giving practices. Can I not be more generous when funds are raised to assist people who are is real need?
  3. Should I, as a christian, not be much more critical with regard to policies and plans that will mostly benefit the rich, and do nothing for those who are less fortunate? And should this not be a major factor in making my political choices?
  4. Should I, as a christian, not pay far more attention to the biblical values that condemn the extreme differences between rich and poor, and all forms of exploitation of the poor by the rich?

Seventh-day Adventists attach a greater value to various Old Testament laws than most other christians. This is based on their conviction that those things that were ‘good’ for the people and for society in biblical times, are still ‘good’ for us today. However, could it be that Adventists are too selective? Would it not be good to reconsider these criteria of selection? Should we not consider the principles we find in these Old Testament laws about social justice as at least as important as the rules in Leviticus 11 that deal with the scales of fish and the hoofs of various categories if animals?