ORPC: “Originally Rich People’s Church”?

By Not Known

I was still an impressionable schoolboy when John Lennon uttered these words at a Royal Variety Show performance in London in 1963: “For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands… and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.” 

I had come from a school where it was politically correct to champion the cause of the so-called “proletariat” against the rich “bourgeois”.  It was fashionable to snub the rich among us and one of my classmates had to make a few holes in his brand-new white school pants in order to identify with the rest of us and be accepted as one of us.  Of course that made him rather “cool” as well. 

Lennon’s words had brought me hours of delight then.  Indeed Lennon became my personal hero of sorts because he had the guts to say these in the presence of the Queen Mother and some royalty at that performance.  It was until much later that I realized how wealthy Lennon and the rest of the Beatles were. 

It is far too easy for us to look at the text today and read it as if God was having a vendetta against the rich without considering the particular context James was in.  We can jump at the conclusion that God is against wealthy people despite riches being seen in Old Testament culture as a sign of God’s blessing.

Job whom James reminds us of in v11 was an extremely wealthy man (cf. Job 1:3 and 42:12).  So was Abraham.  Scripture does not knock the rich.  And it is the way in which these men of God lived their lives, honouring and obeying God and putting to good and faithful use their wealth that made us learn from their examples.

Our wealth can be a stumbling block and makes us forgetful of God and the stewardship He has entrusted to us.  We need not be a Bill Gates or a Lee Ka-shing before we heed God’s warnings regarding the worship of Mammon and the ensnaring nature of wealth.  We do not need to be millionaires or billionaires before we can do our bit to help the poor and needy.  Compared to many in the vicinity of our church and in our country we are much better off in many ways and there is so much we can do with what God has given us.    

In case we fail to recognise the acronym some people had teasingly or even menacingly called our church, we need not live with such a baggage.  It is easy for us either to be overly apologetic or defensive about riches in general or about rich people in our midst. 

However, wealth dedicated for God to use at His disposal not only keeps us humble before Him but it also helps us to do many things for God’s glory and be God’s blessing to many.  Go and do likewise.     

Joseph Teng