Editorial: June 2009
The film Slumdog Millionaire has romped home with a sackful of Oscars. Much of India is now exulting in the global recognition of the film, which is mercilessly honest in chronicling the underbelly in the country. Though we love the Oscars, we do not like being confronted with the naked truth of our slums. We crib about how India cannot hope to have a mark in the world if the slums in the country and beggar children swarming our streets are portrayed to the Western world. We are proud about being home to the world's outsourcing capital, but not about Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, and Garib Nagar, a slum by the railway track in Mumbai.
Slums are ugly, dark scars on society and our effort should be to improve the predicament of those who dwell in them. We should not accept the existence of slums as an inevitable consequence of urbanisation and globalisation. We should not try to sanitise the slums with pretty words. Neither should we become comfortable with the poverty in the slums. What is the use of the knowledge on the slums and the life of the people in the slums, if it does not prick our conscience? How does that knowledge help us if we do not apply it to change our approach to the poor people living in the slums?
The Word of God is given to us by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness so that every man (and woman) of God may apply the words to become complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Unless the Word is applied to our everyday life, the Scripture is not serving the purpose for which it is given to us. Do we take this matter seriously?
Bible is profitable in the field of doctrine and ethics, and serves as the moral equipment of the man of God. It is profitable for teaching, giving instructions in the things of God. Reproof, or rebuke for sin that leads to conviction, and correction, which points out the remedy for sin, and the way to rectify the past, and instruction in righteousness are found in the Scriptures. "Holy Scripture teaches the ignorant, convicts the evil and prejudiced, corrects the fallen and erring, and trains in righteousness all men, especially those that need bringing to fuller measures of perfection." The man of God being devoted to the Scriptures will be made "adequate," complete in character and life, and equipped for every God-appointed task.
We read the Scripture daily and have gained some knowledge. This has helped us only to learn some stories in the Bible. The knowledge has got into our brains, but rarely has it gone down to our hearts and impacted our lives. Neither has it helped us to have a Biblical worldview of the things happening around us. We use the knowledge to make profound speeches, but without making any effort to apply that knowledge to our lives. The empty noise that we make does not make any effect on ourselves and the hearers. For the world to see the impact of God's Word, there should be transformed lives. If this is not happening in your life, the purpose for which God has given the Bible is not being served.
Whenever you study any Scripture portion, observe carefully what it says. Understand clearly the plain meaning of the text. Ask simple questions (who, what, when, where, why and how) to the text in order to make the meaning clear. Interpret the text to know what it means in the particular context. Then ask yourself how the meaning of the text applies to your life. Evaluate your life in the light of the Scripture portion. As you take these simple steps, the Holy Spirit will help you to get new insights from the Bible portion which, when applied, will profoundly impact your life.
The human tendency, however, is often not to apply the knowledge on ourselves, but on others. This is widely practised in the secular as well as the religious world these days.
Bernard L. Madoff, an influential spokesman of the US marketplace, has pleaded guilty to the largest fraud in Wall Street history, estimated to cost $65 billion-11 felony counts, including security fraud, money laundering and perjury, a list that could yield a prison sentence of 150 years. He was handcuffed and led off to jail on March 12, 2009.
Since the economic meltdown began in September 2008, the United States has been losing over 800 jobs every hour. Impact of this phenomenon is being experienced in our country also. Only when the problem came home to roost in Wall Street, it was recognised as a crisis. The poor and hungry in the poorer nations were devastated years before the well-off found crisis on their menu. 400 million human beings going to bed hungry every night in our country was never thought of as a crisis. Rural despair meant very little. Crisis is when the Sensex tanks. Stimulus packages are brought in only "to soothe the market's nerves." The predicament faced by poor people translated into the 'success stories' of the elites. The elites should learn to work among the rural poor, instead of looking for fat salaries in the corporate sector.
The information available to the elites is applied on others. The US banks and CEOs continue to educate the world on the culture of corporate management. Citigroup, which hogged $45 billion of public money at the bailout trough in the US, sought to spend $50 million on a corporate jet. The now disgraced CEO of Merril Lynch, John Thain, spent $1.22 million on redecorating his office in early 2008, even as he prepared to cut thousands of jobs. The amount included purchase of an antique "commode on legs." Less than a week after the US government committed some bailout money to AIG (American International Group), the insurance company's executives whizzed off to a luxury resort. Of the $173 billion received as bailout money, AIG paid $165 million in employee bonuses. President Obama remarked: "This is a Corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed. How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?" Wells Fargo ($25 billion in bailout money) planned for a trip to Las Vegas for its star executives. Top bosses of the New York financial firms paid themselves bonuses worth $18 billion in 2008. What has happened to the application of knowledge on the CEOs themselves?
The elites believe that the CEOs should lead a charmed life. They were outraged when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh protested about CEO salaries getting a bit too large. Narayana Murthy of Infosys was also not spared when he called for restraint in CEO feeding frenzy. "The Corporations paid gold and got gorillas." They clearly believe that the crisis is for others. They flourish by divine right. Meanwhile, tens of millions of human beings across the world stand to lose their jobs. Many will descend into distress and chaos. The already hungry will have it much worse. Who cares?
300 million people in our country live on hardly Rs. 545/- a month, barely enough to manage two meals a day. 350 million Indians are still illiterate. 318 million do not have access to safe drinking water. 250 million do not have access to basic medical care. 630 million do not have acceptable sanitation facilities. 51% of the children are under-nourished. 52% of the primary schools have only one teacher for every two classes.
54% of Mumbai's 16 million people now live in slums. In such a scenario, many enter public life to serve the poor. But they use their investment of time and effort for earning dividends from political entrepreneurship.
Contrast the wealth reported and the wealthy life-styles of those elected to Parliament, the State Assemblies, and the high offices. Power begets power and money attracts riches. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, said in 1985 that "politics has been reduced to brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert mass movement into feudal oligarchy." How true! The situation has only worsened since then. Politics is no longer about serving people, but all about self-service. Those who enter public life to serve the public cause are exceptions now, rather than the rule. The average asset of an MP in the last Lok Sabha was Rs. 1.6 crore. There were at least 193 crorepatis among the 1715 candidates in the fray in the first phase of the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Are people entering the political process to enrich themselves?
This unfortunately is true not only in secular society, but also in our churches and Christian organisations. We often demonstrate this through the eloquence from the pulpits and platforms. There are many Christian leaders today who lead an opulent life, feeding on the poverty of the poor in the churches. We preach, but do not practise. What we practise speaks so loud that what we speak cannot be heard by people around us. This is totally different from what Jesus demonstrated. In Acts 1:1 we read about what "Jesus began to do and teach." Note the order! Apostle Paul says, "For our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thess.1:5). It is only proper that we follow the examples set by Christ and the apostles.
Application of God's Word in your life helps you to live in this world with an eternal perspective. It changes your attitude to God and your neighbours. You will start evaluating your plans and programmes in the light of the fact that you will have to stand one day before Him, giving an account of what you have done during your earthly sojourn. We shall all stand one day before the Judgment Seat of Christ. "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). It will also change your attitude to other people. You will learn to love those around you. When you live with the city of God in mind, the possessions of this world will not be attractive any more. You will learn to be good stewards of what God has provided in your hands. You will be different. So, begin to study God's Word daily and learn to apply it in your life. Fill and feel the difference!