Monday, September 23, 2013

Noblesse Oblige Obligation

On the national holiday of Chuseok, the Church used the gospel taken from Luke (12:15-22) to remind us of the foolish rich farmer who, because he had such a great harvest, tore down his barn and built a larger one to accommodate his abundant harvest--only to be called to his reward shortly after.

In contrast to the foolish farmer of the gospel, we often hear of the Korean wise rich farmer, Choi, from Gyeonggiu. The booklet "Salt Pot" gives a little commentary about the Choi family and its family precepts. 

The Choi family seems to exemplify the concept noblesse oblige (from those that have much, much is expected). For over 300 years, they were blessed with many material blessings and in Korean, you often hear that the wealth of a family begins to dissipate after three generations, but in the Choi family their wealth continued for over 300 years. The family is often  used as a sign that material wealth when used well will bring material blessings.   
The family precepts are listed as:

1) Do not take a government post higher than what is received at the primary state exam because of the problems that come with power and pride.  They are asked to remember what happened in their own  family with the abuse of power.

2) Do not pile up a fortune that exceeds ten thousand bags of rice.

3) During a year of bad harvests do not add to your fortune.

4)Treat those who come to you with kindness.

5) When a daughter-in-law comes to the Choi family, she is to wear cotton clothes for the first three years.

6) Let no one within 50 kilometers of the Choi family starve to death.

When you see this as a traditional Korean approach to wealth by one of their old families, it tends to show how this area of life has not developed in the way you would expect. In the Jewish tradition they have their Jubilee approach that would give everybody a new start every fifty years, but this also has ceased to exist. In our society, as in most societies of the world, the rich get richer and the poorer get poorer.
The Choi family has done a great deal to show what was possible many hundreds of years ago: if  nothing else it helps to prick the consciences of the elite in our society.

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