Example #51 History and Riches (Primary)

What if history were about different types of riches and poverty?

Emily had difficulty getting her class to see beyond the material poverty of early periods of history. The Tudors was the next topic and she wanted the pupils to see the riches the Tudors had in terms of values, faith and culture.

"I decided to make recognising different types of riches a fundamental part of the unit so I included it in my planning as one of the objectives and I shared the objectives with the students as usual.

"We started by using two paper characters and a series of words and phrases on sticky notes scattered on the floor relating to material riches and poverty. (I decided to create these myself to avoid student suggestions that might result in another child being labelled as poor.) On character A we drew a speech bubble that said “I am rich if I have …”. On character B we drew a speech bubble that said “I am poor if I don’t have …”. I asked students to select from the post-it notes to place on each character.

"I then asked the question: 'Are there different types of riches and poverty?' and I gave them some examples to get them started such as 'riches of community life', 'riches of skill'. We put the results up on the wall as a reminder to use this when looking at Tudor times. We added to the list as the unit developed. New aspects of riches and poverty were suggested as we discovered more about the period, for example poverty of choice but riches of faith.

"This way of approaching the subject enabled the students to learn from the past as we had consciously expanded our ideas of riches and poverty before we started. At the end of the unit we quietly drew together what we thought were the riches and poverty of the period and it made us think about what riches and poverty we had today that we had not noticed."

What’s going on here?

Emily’s students saw history as something we could learn from if approached with humility.

She engaged students in rethinking riches and poverty, reflecting on larger questions framing their study, and applying the learning to their own life context.

She reshaped her practice by changing her introduction to raise awareness, creating resources that guided student discussion, planning space in the lesson for students to reflectively explore the key concept, and create a 'learning from' situation by raising questions that related to students' own experience.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

There is often within western culture an assumption of superiority: now is superior to the past, material poverty counts more than other types of poverty, and technological and material riches are what matter. The Bible, in contrast, recognises a variety of riches: riches in terms of relationships, wisdom, faith, love, good deeds and relationship with God. Stopping to consider other types of riches and poverty involves humility, which is an aspect of love. This opens us up to consider other possibilities to the ones we assume without thinking.

What difference does it make?

Emily raised her pupils’ awareness of different types of poverty and riches, and this enabled them to more realistically critique and appreciate a range of cultures, including their own. This resisted a materialistic emphasis and opened space for learning from others.

Where could we go from here?

Different types of wealth and poverty could be highlighted in other parts of the curriculum, for example, design and technology and geography.

Digging deeper

Superior attitudes to the past can make it difficult for us to learn from historical cultures and leaves us unable to critique our own. Humility is essential if we are to learn from others. It is not grovelling self-abasement, or being untruthful about our abilities. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance. True humility is a generous attitude of mind that values others and their culture and sees oneself and one’s own time and culture realistically. Jesus modelled humility throughout his life (Philippians 2:5-6).

Humility makes us teachable (James 1:21). For this reason, St Augustine when asked what he thought were the three greatest virtues replied: ‘Humility, humility, humility’.

The Bible does not decry material wealth as bad in itself. It can be a blessing to enjoy, but it carries responsibility with it and it must be justly gained. Wealth that is not justly gained or shared is creating another form of poverty – spiritual poverty (Luke 12:16-21).

In the West you have another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. This is far worse. People do not believe in God, do not pray. People do not care for each other. You have the poverty of people who are dissatisfied with what they have, who do not know how to suffer, who give in to despair. This poverty of heart is often more difficulty to relieve and to defeat.
Mother Teresa from Messenger of God’s Love by E.Le Joly

The Bible goes beyond concern for the materially poor to a concern for those who are spiritually poor, for all are in need of God. Too often wealth can create the illusion of power and security but it is only an illusion (Revelation 3:17). Sometimes wealth and power can blind people to their need of God, which makes it extremely hard for them to enter a relationship with him.

Explore similar examples:

What if children were helped to think about the quality of different times in history?
What if history could inspire students to love their city?
What if you planned a history unit around justice, mercy and humility?

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1Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. 9Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. 10So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 11And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, Jesus Christ is Lord! Lights in the world 12My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Then on the day when Christ returns, I can take pride in you. I can also know that my work and efforts were not useless. 17Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you. 18In the same way, you should be glad and rejoice with me. Timothy and Epaphroditus 19I want to be encouraged by news about you. So I hope the Lord Jesus will soon let me send Timothy to you. 20I don't have anyone else who cares about you as much as he does. 21The others think only about what interests them and not about what concerns Christ Jesus. 22But you know what kind of person Timothy is. He has worked with me like a son in spreading the good news. 23I hope to send him to you, as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me. 24And I feel sure that the Lord will also let me come soon. 25I think I ought to send my dear friend Epaphroditus back to you. He is a follower and a worker and a soldier of the Lord, just as I am. You sent him to look after me, 26but now he is eager to see you. He is worried, because you heard he was sick. 27In fact, he was very sick and almost died. But God was kind to him, and also to me, and he kept me from being burdened down with sorrow. 28Now I am more eager than ever to send Epaphroditus back again. You will be glad to see him, and I won't have to worry any longer. 29Be sure to give him a cheerful welcome, just as people who serve the Lord deserve. 30He almost died working for Christ, and he risked his own life to do for me what you could not.
1From James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes scattered all over the world. 2My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything. 5If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won't correct you for asking. 6But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. 7If you are that kind of person, you can't make up your mind, and you can't be trusted. So don't expect the Lord to give you anything at all. Poor people and rich people 9Any of God's people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. 10But any who are rich should be glad when God makes them humble. Rich people will disappear like wild flowers 11scorched by the burning heat of the sun. The flowers lose their blossoms, and their beauty is destroyed. That is how the rich will disappear, as they go about their business. Trials and temptations 12God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him. 13Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. 14We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. 15Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. 16Don't be fooled, my dear friends. 17Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing. 18He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth. 19My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. 20If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done. 21You must stop doing anything immoral or evil. Instead be humble and accept the message that is planted in you to save you. 22Obey God's message! Don't fool yourselves by just listening to it. 23If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror 24and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. 25But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don't just hear and forget. 26If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and everything you do is useless. 27Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil. Warning against having favourites
1As thousands of people crowded around Jesus and were stepping on each other, he told his disciples: Be sure to guard against the dishonest teaching of the Pharisees! It is their way of fooling people. 2Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. 3Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops. The one to fear (Matthew 10.28-31) Jesus continued: 4My friends, don't be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do. 5God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear! 6Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn't forget a single one of them. 7Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don't be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows. Telling others about Christ (Matthew 10.32,33; 12.32; 10.19,20) Jesus continued: 8If you tell others that you belong to me, the Son of Man will tell God's angels that you are my followers. 9But if you reject me, you will be rejected in front of them. 10If you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven, but if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you cannot be forgiven. 11When you are brought to trial in the Jewish meeting places or before rulers or officials, don't worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. 12At that time the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say. A rich fool 13A man in a crowd said to Jesus, Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died. 14Jesus answered, Who gave me the right to settle arguments between you and your brother? 15Then he said to the crowd, Don't be greedy! Owning a lot of things won't make your life safe. 16So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's farm produced a big crop, 17and he said to himself, What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything. 18Later, he said, Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. 19Then I'll say to myself, You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. 20But God said to him, You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up? 21This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God. Worry (Matthew 6.25-34) 22Jesus said to his disciples: I tell you not to worry about your life! Don't worry about having something to eat or wear. 23Life is more than food or clothing. 24Look at the crows! They don't plant or harvest, and they don't have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds. 25Can worry make you live longer? 26If you don't have power over small things, why worry about everything else? 27Look how the wild flowers grow! They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of these flowers. 28God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. Won't he do even more for you? You have such little faith! 29Don't keep worrying about having something to eat or drink. 30Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father knows what you need. 31But put God's work first, and these things will be yours as well. Treasures in heaven (Matthew 6.19-21) Jesus continued: 32My little group of disciples, don't be afraid! Your Father wants to give you the kingdom. 33Sell what you have and give the money to the poor. Make yourselves money bags that never wear out. Make sure your treasure is safe in heaven, where thieves cannot steal it and moths cannot destroy it. 34Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Faithful and unfaithful servants (Matthew 24.45-51) Jesus continued: 35Be ready and keep your lamps burning 36just like those servants who wait up for their master to return from a wedding feast. As soon as he comes and knocks, they open the door for him. 37Servants are fortunate if their master finds them awake and ready when he comes! I promise you that he will get ready and make his servants sit down so that he can serve them. 38Those servants are really fortunate if their master finds them ready, even though he comes late at night or early in the morning. 39You would not let a thief break into your home, if you knew when the thief was coming. 40So always be ready! You don't know when the Son of Man will come. 41Peter asked Jesus, Did you say this just for us or for everyone? 42The Lord answered: Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time? 43Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job. 44A servant who is always faithful will be put in charge of everything the master owns. 45But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won't return until late. Suppose that servant starts beating all the other servants and eats and drinks and gets drunk. 46If that happens, the master will come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him. That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the servants who cannot be trusted. 47If servants are not ready or willing to do what their master wants them to do, they will be beaten hard. 48But servants who don't know what their master wants them to do will not be beaten so hard for doing wrong. If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better. Not peace, but trouble (Matthew 10.34-36) Jesus continued: 49I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire! 50I am going to be put to a hard test. And I will have to suffer a lot of pain until it is over. 51Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed! I came to make people choose sides. 52A family of five will be divided, with two of them against the other three. 53Fathers and sons will turn against one another, and mothers and daughters will do the same. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law will also turn against each other. Knowing what to do (Matthew 16.2,3; 5.25,26) 54Jesus said to all the people: As soon as you see a cloud coming up in the west, you say, It's going to rain, and it does. 55When the south wind blows, you say, It's going to get hot, and it does. 56Are you trying to fool someone? You can predict the weather by looking at the earth and sky, but you don't really know what's going on right now. 57Why don't you understand the right thing to do? 58When someone accuses you of something, try to settle things before you are taken to court. If you don't, you will be dragged before the judge. Then the judge will hand you over to the jailer, and you will be locked up. 59You won't get out until you have paid the last penny you owe. Turn back to God
1This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Sardis: I have the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Listen to what I say. I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. 3Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don't wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. 4A few of you in Sardis have not dirtied your clothes with sin. You will walk with me in white clothes, because you are worthy. 5Everyone who wins the victory will wear white clothes. Their names will not be erased from the book of life, and I will tell my Father and his angels that they are my followers. 6If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The letter to Philadelphia The risen Lord continued: 7This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: I am the one who is holy and true, and I have the keys that belonged to David. When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say. 8I know everything you have done. And I have placed before you an open door that no one can close. You were not very strong, but you obeyed my message and did not deny that you are my followers. 9Now you will see what I will do with those people who belong to Satan's group. They claim to be Jews, but they are liars. I will make them come and kneel down at your feet. Then they will know that I love you. 10You obeyed my message and endured. So I will protect you from the time of testing that everyone in all the world must go through. 11I am coming soon. So hold firmly to what you have, and no one will take away the crown that you will be given as your reward. 12Everyone who wins the victory will be made into a pillar in the temple of my God, and they will stay there for ever. I will write on each of them the name of my God and the name of his city. It is the new Jerusalem that my God will send down from heaven. I will also write on them my own new name. 13If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The letter to Laodicea The risen Lord continued: 14This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: I am the one called Amen! I am the faithful and true witness and the source of God's creation. Listen to what I say. 15I know everything you have done, and you are not cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other. 16But since you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17You claim to be rich and successful and to have everything you need. But you don't know how badly off you are. You are pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18Buy your gold from me. It has been refined in a fire, and it will make you rich. Buy white clothes from me. Wear them and you can cover-up your shameful nakedness. Buy medicine for your eyes, so that you will be able to see. 19I correct and punish everyone I love. So make up your minds to turn away from your sins. 20Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together. 21Everyone who wins the victory will sit with me on my throne, just as I won the victory and sat with my Father on his throne. 22If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.