Rich Man, Poor Man

(Part 2 of 2)

I wrote the following about the wealthiest one percent before they were popularly known as such in the October 23, 2008, Sentinel issue of this column:

“‘Into the streets they will throw their very silver, and an abhorrent thing their own gold will become,’ is the prophetic warning of God’s servant Ezekiel. ‘Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury.’ (Ezekiel 7:19) Skeptics and naysayers may dismiss these words as the ramblings of a sanctimonious calamity howler. But is this really the case? Well, what Ezekiel prophesied has happened.

“The Los Angeles Times (Sunday, June 4, 2000) gave this chilling report about one prosperous ancient city: ‘Coins and jewelry scattered in the streets and ruins testify to the opulence of the residents’ lifestyle and to the haste with which the city was abandoned.’ The connection between what Ezekiel said and the Times story can only be described as eerie.”

Take a lesson from the pompous people of the ancient city of Pompeii where a vicious volcano named Vesuvius visited wrath upon the inhabitants. In a preview of what is to come, ‘the earth suffered shocks’ (Isaiah 2:20-22) on August 5, 79 CE.

“Episode 1: ‘A middle-aged man carrying gold jewelry, a sack of coins and the keys to his house. Close behind is his wife, scrambling frantically through the rubble with her skirts hiked up. She clutches an amber statuette of a curly-haired boy, perhaps Cupid, and the family silver, including a medallion of Fortune, goddess of luck.’

“Episode 2: Another family of four, in the luxurious three-story beautifully decorated House of the Golden Bracelet, died in an instant. ‘Coins and jewelry lay on the floor of the house. Among the finery was a thick gold bracelet weighing 1.3 pounds (the source of the building’s name) in the popular shape of a two-headed snake curled so that each mouth gripped one side of a portrait medallion. Pompeii’s serpents were unsullied by biblical associations; in ancient Italy, snakes meant good luck.’

“Episode 3: ‘In a small room at an inn on the southern outskirts of Pompeii, a woman of about 30 died wearing two heavy gold armbands, a ring and a gold chain. In a handbag were more bracelets and rings, another gold chain, a necklace and a long catena of thick, braided gold. Roman jewelry was rarely inscribed, but inside one of her armbands, shaped like a coiled snake, are the words: DOM(I)NUS ANCILLAE SUAE, “From the master to his slave-girl.”‘

“Episode 4: ‘Pompeii’s victims often died carrying the objects they valued most. A woman fleeing through one of the city gates clutched a gold-and-silver statuette of fleet-footed Mercury, the god of safe passage…[G]old chains up to six feet long that wrapped tightly around a woman’s waist, then crossed her chest and shoulders bandoleer-style’ were also found among the dead, frozen in their tracks.

“Episode 5: ‘Also discovered there were the remains of a woman wearing lots of expensive jewelry, inspiring speculation that she was a wealthy matron secretly visiting her gladiator lover at the time of Vesuvius’ eruption. More likely, considering the 18 other skeletons found in the same small room, she was simply seeking refuge from the deadly ash.'”

Just as poverty does not necessarily equate with virtue, wealth does not spontaneously equal arrogance. A poor person can be supercilious, and a rich person can be self-effacing. The rich and poor acceptably serve God.–James 2:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Organized for Paradise: Safety and sanitation are serious concerns for tent encampments in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Safety was also a concern for a tent camp for Muslims in Mecca twenty years ago in the pre-Arab Spring era. The New York Times reported that on July 2, 1990, “1,426 Moslem pilgrims died in a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel linking this city with a tent camp for pilgrims.”

Interestingly, the July 26, 1958, issue of New York’s Daily News reported that “Eight special trains, 500 chartered buses and 18,000 auto pools are bringing the members, besides the two chartered ships and 65 chartered planes.” The occasion? The 1958 Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in New York. The attendance? A peak of 253,922 delegates from 123 lands, many of whom peacefully dwelled and ate in tents.

Happily, ‘all sorts of persons’ will occupy a paradise earth in the near future. (1 Timothy 2:4) Peace and blessings. Amen.