This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 368 – July 17, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Is it all money?

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Isn’t it annoying?  You’re sitting watching a good film – and just at the crucial moment the guy in front of you gets up to use the bathroom blocking half the screen.  

And what makes it most annoying is you’re not even in the cinema – you’re watching it on a pirated DVD in your own living room.  I’ve seen one or two of them.  If they weren’t so bad they’d be hilarious.  

But there’s an even sadder side to it then the slightly fuzzy picture and the poor sound.  According to Interpol, the high profits and low risks of DVD piracy means that 1kg of pirated disks is now worth more than the same amount of cannabis resin.  And that means that terrorist groups and organised criminals are turning to video piracy as the new money maker.  There is even some indication that illegal immigrants in some western countries are being forced to sell pirate DVD’s to pay human traffickers for the journey.  

The story of human traffickers is a sad one – and the African asylum seekers trapped on a German cargo ship of Italy these last few weeks seem to be a part of that picture.  The asylum-seekers had claimed to be fleeing the conflict in Sudan 's Darfur region but, according to BBC on-line, the Italian authorities now say they appear to be from Ghana and Nigeria . They’ve no doubt paid large sums of money for the privilege of almost drowning in a dingy mid-Mediterranean.  

It makes you wonder what a human life is worth – and what cost to improve it.  That kind of argument even comes within the church.  The synod – or governing body – of the Church of England has been meeting this last week and have rejected a call for all clergy to be paid the same.  Currently, the head of the Church of England, and figurehead of the World-Wide Anglican communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, earns 62 and a half thousand pounds a year (roughly $US120,000) while a parish priest lives on 18 and a half thousand (34,000US$). Amidst much talk of labourers being worthy of their hire and Bible parables such as the workers in the vineyards the Rev Chris Lilley asked, “Can we say that the burden is greater on the Bishop, dean or archdeacon than on the country parson looking after a dozen tiny rural parishes?”  

Of course, that begs the whole question as to what a minister is worth, and that is a debate that has gone on in many denominations.  My church likes to talk about a sacrificial wage – enough to live on – but, valuing limited resources, trying to use the money wisely to have sufficient clergy to serve the local churches appropriately.  There’s been a lot of debate on the issue in the last couple of years, and it seems that 21st century clergy find it more difficult to live on a sacrificial wage then they did back 50 years ago.   

It’s also hard to define what is meant by sacrificial as most of us live in a situation where we think we could always use just a little bit more.  

But sacrifice we do see in many areas – parents, struggling to help their children survive, students, working long hours to finance their education.  

There’s often no easy answer – although there are those who offer the promise of quick riches for some internet scam or pyramid scheme.  My motto is, if it looks like a scam, it probably is.  

Mind you, I was delighted this week to come across a group, calling them selves who spend their spare time fighting back at those wonderful email spammers who daily offer me millions of dollars if I will share my bank account details to them.  Sadly those who have done have been conned out of lots of money and some have ended bankrupt or even in jail. – named after a section of the Nigerian legal code – works to get back at the scammers and has even succeeded in getting some money out of them.  I wish them luck.  

But let’s put it in a context.  The apostle Paul writes that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) -- pointing out that our priorities should be on more important things.  Money is a useful tool – but that is all – and is best used, like with the Good Samaritan, to help others.  Malachi even puts it a better way, challenging us to trust God with our money and that he will then open the storehouses of heaven for us.  (Malachi 3:7-12)

My daughter gave me a key ring yesterday.  The quote on it:  “Money isn’t everything but it keeps the kids in touch”.  And even though she gave it as a joke – it’s not a bad thing – using the resources God gave us to help others, and to make the world a better place.

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