Saturday, June 9, 2018

Middle Class Lifestyle

What do we mean by the middle class? The dictionary says the middle class is the group generally considered  between the upper 20 percent and the lower 20 percent. Some define the middle class by income, others by lifestyle and others say it is a  state of mind. In Korea the present thinking would be a family with an apartment of about 30 square meters, without debt, a person making about 5 thousand dollars a month, a bank balance of about  100,000 dollars and a medium-sized automobile so begins an article in the Catholic Times on social issues by a priest.

There is in fact no absolute standard for the middle class. Hearing the above most of us  will feel very much not part of the middle class; is it not only a material  understanding of  middle class? It's the attitude of the person that's important—socially and culturally comfortable with the situation in which they find themselves.

Other countries have a different understanding of middle class. By American standards one should feel comfortable in society, able to help the weak, resisting illegal and unjust practices, able to receive criticism on a regular basis. England in addition to the above, fair play and not acting selfishly. In France it is another language besides your own, possessing a musical instrument, participating in sports and eating a variety of food. The meaning of middle class is different from the Korean understanding. Why is that? It emphasizes more than money, social participation and a way of life.

Young Koreans are more and more resembling the middle class of other countries. Money is not  everything. How much money is enough?  How much money is necessary to be rich? At one time it was a million now it may be a billion. Rich is good, right? Everybody wants to be rich. In the old days a rich man was one who had a thousand bags of rice or the greater rich person with 10,000 bags of rice.

In the Scriptures we hear that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. It would be unfair if one could not go to heaven because of wealth. We are not talking about money made with crime but those who use their heads and work hard to make what they possess. We know it is not the material goods that are the problem but the way we possess them. If they possess us we are closing the door to what God wants to give and that is a tragedy. All is possible with God.

The disciples who heard these words of Jesus were confused and embarrassed. They were after all following Jesus hoping to do well for themselves in a material way. It was only later that their eyes were opened. Their motivation for following Jesus was not in the beginning altruistic which was the reason for the confusion from the words heard. Who can be saved? They questioned.

Salvation is not something that is bought with money nor power. It is only possible with God's love. The writer expands the meaning of the passage to include all those who interfere with God's plans for humanity. 

Not long ago a Research Institute published a report on the rich in Korea. According to the report a rich person was one who possessed over a million dollars in cash that he could use at will and his net worth was over 11 million dollars. Most of us are not rich but that doesn't prevent us from living the good life which is not dependent on the number of material goods but on the quality of our life.

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