Rich Man, Poor Man


…The children’s fortune-telling rhyme: ‘Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich-man, poor-man, beggar-man, thief.’

…King Solomon ‘made silver and gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone…’

In ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Tevye sings ‘If I were a rich man’, imagining… ‘Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realise, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor. But it’s no great honour either! So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?’

Is rich-man good and poor-man bad?

‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, published in ‘Hymns for Little Children’ (1848)… one (usually omitted) verse:

The rich man in his castle,
the poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
and ordered their estate. 

The Irish Mrs Alexander wrote this when the Irish potato famine was killing thousands…, The rich man was the English Protestant, the poor man the Irish peasant…

The continuing rich-man, poor-man contrast… Billionaire Russian oligarchs, Valamir Putin’s well-cut suit… homeless Ukrainian women and children with nothing…

Rich Boris Johnson yesterday apologising for ‘Partygate’… ordinary people, bereaved through coronavirus deaths, calling Johnson ‘a man without shame, without morals and without honour’.

Jesus said that he’s present in the hungry, thirsty, sick, poor, imprisoned: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.’

God is present in the starving Irish peasant, the Ukrainian refugee, the Covid-bereaved relative. Jesus turns the ‘rich man – good, poor man – bad’ upside-down.

Alan Roxburgh, in ‘Joining God in the Great Unravelling’, describes being ‘continually invited to ‘see the face of Christ’ in the people I meet every day.’

Asking questions like: ‘Where is the face of God in this person’s face?’ he says: ‘I look forward to seeing people, greeting them, and wondering, what is God’s face in this person?’

Musing… the ‘rich-man poor-man’ divide… seeing God’s face in the poor… Valjean’s words in Les Misérables: ‘To love another person is to see the face of God.’

2 thoughts on “Rich Man, Poor Man

  1. Hello

    James O’Brien on LBC often quotes that verse from All Things Bright & Beautiful, especially in relation to the current policies / position of the Tory Party leadership.

    See you on Thursday.




  2. Thanks Patrick. I couldn’t possible be that political publicly… I’ve quoted it before in terms of her implication that God sanctions class differences… perhaps even initiates poverty…. I didn’t realise the Irish implications before reading for this morning’s blog…


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