05 January 2005


"Gracious God, remind us today that "ours" is really Yours, that giving is a joy, that you invite us to trust you and care for each other over and over again. Bless us that we may build your realm wherever we may be. Amen.

In the Sesotho language of Lesotho, a person who is wealthy is called a ‘morui.' However, not all forms of wealth are equally respected. One who is rich in cattle is more highly respected than one who keeps his wealth in a bank account or household property. The reason for this is that cattle can benefit not only the owner but the whole community. The true morui will place some of his cattle in the care of others in the village so they, too, can benefit from them, loan them to others for use during the plowing season and sell them to those in need, with the price depending on the circumstances of the one in need. Money in the bank or household property is considered a selfish form of wealth, whereas cattle can help transform the whole community. A man with money ‘only helps himself'; a true morui ‘knows the poor.' A morui is a vital part of village life and productivity, not someone detached and separated from it.

How at odds this understanding of wealth is with the way it is usually perceived and practiced in Western cultures. Instead of wealth being something which frequently divides people, here we have an understanding where wealth provides for people. How much better off the world would be if more people invested their wealth in directly productive assets which could benefit the poor. Without meaning to oversimplify the solution to world poverty, surely there is something to be learned from this example in Lesotho, and a challenge to us in our own uses of wealth. Perhaps the Basotho can help us to develop our own understanding of wealth!

As far as we know, Jesus did not own any cattle and would not qualify as a morui in the usual sense of the word. But he surely was one who knew the poor and taught extensively about wealth. Let us seek wisdom from God's Word and Jesus' teaching to use our wealth wisely.

Mark Behle, UCC/Disciple missionary in Lesotho

Adapted from In Mission 1999/2000: A Calendar of Prayer for the United Church of Christ, United Church Board for World Ministries & United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, November 14."
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