The Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore was once asked how much he was worth. His answer surprised the questioner who thought he must be worth much more than the answer given. Sir Moses replied that he hadn’t been asked how much he owned, but how much he was worth, and that he had given the sum he gave to charity each year. The message being, your worth should not be measured by what you own, but by how much you give away.
Christ would agree, deeming an impoverished widow putting a mite in the collection box as more worthy of merit than the rich man who gave a hundred times more. She had given all she had.
In the same vein, Jesus tells the story of the man who discovered hidden treasure in a field and who sold everything he had to buy the field and its treasure ie Heaven. He advised another to give all he had to the poor and follow him. Observing his reluctance, he observed how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Sir William of Anhalt took the lesson to heart, giving everything he had to the poor and himself becoming a beggar.
On a more trivial note, I experience just how hard it is to divest yourself of property every Christmas. Each year I give a sum of money to the Salvation Army, and every time I look at the amount given and compare it with what I spend on myself or on others. It usually resolves itself in the question: do I really need that extra bottle of malt? And each year the kingdom of Heaven holds its breath for the answer.
The message so far is about something greater than yourself, in this case Heaven, which for those who don’t believe can be reduced to what is right. The question is whether the EU can be equated with Heaven.
The Bible certainly didn’t approve of Esau who sold his birthright for a mess of potage, and I’m reminded of it when I hear the CBI obsessing over profit margins in arguing the case for remaining in the E U.
When I was young, we knew who ‘The Man’ was. You saw no demonstrations supported by big business, Goldman Sachs, George Soros, J P Morgan, the CBI and high finance in general. You saw no demonstrations in support of the establishment. And yet that’s precisely what we’re seeing now - which is strange, because the big corporations and lobbyists operate in the interests of profit, not people carrying blue banners covered in stars.
This was something the Labour Party once recognised and Corbyn remembers.
Brussels creates an illusion. With unlimited money, marketing expertise and a bought media, it exploits and harnesses idealism. In reality it is an undemocratic, bureaucratic and protectionist cartel working in the interests of global capitalism, and in Britain – but not Italy or Greece – we seem to be witnessing Turkeys voting for Christmas.
Europe is dressed up as something bright and shiny, much as in earlier times, we bedazzled those more primitive with baubles as a prelude to robbing them of their lands – or their birthright. It’s why history is important. When its rewritten or diluted or becomes something to be ashamed of, a birthright becomes disposable, perhaps sold for a shiny mess of potage, certainly not Heaven.