THE era before the enlightenment sees faith and tradition as the primary motivators of existence. The intellectuals who dragged the enlightenment to the world’s stage saw great danger in relying on these ideals alone because they make the ordinary people nothing but receivers of changes and not its agents. Adopting the lessons introduced by the enlightenment period, countries have moved on to emphasize the role of reason in day to day activities but we Filipinos, still, seem to hold on to the old ways of life-faith without reason.
Filipinos in emphasizing faith, believe that there is no problem in suffering and poverty because we feel that God is closer to us or perhaps God favors us more over the others. Hence, someday, in the future, we will reap some sorts of rewards. If not in this life, it is in the afterlife. So, there is a collective notion that suffering no matter the cause is the will of God. Many of us who have this kind of thinking, do not exert all effort we can master to fight off poverty or suffering, or get away with it because, in the end, there is this idea playing in our heads that life will soon get better, all because of God’s help.
Faith, or the wrong sense of it, makes us trust that our lives will improve through the great mercy and compassion of God. This inkling clouds our minds because instead of working hard to uplift our lowly conditions, all we do is lift them to the Lord without necessary actions and wait for the eventful change we call a miracle. This faith makes us optimistic and cheerful despite our suffering even if it is caused by injustice, corruption, and indolence. We have two ideas of suffering-either God is punishing us or God loves us more.
The world takes note of our cheerful expressions during calamities and disasters. They are amazed at it and we think it is a manifestation of our indomitable spirit so we take credit for this bewilderment. But little did we know that this is because of our wrong sense of faith. It is wrong because all we do is keep our faith without doing enough to change our situations. It is as if God will knock on our door and find work for us.
So, we are not worried if we do not have work. We do not see trouble when our children do not work. We think that we always have our parents’ house to live into. There are heavy reliance and dependence on our families. We are contended in our homes watching television or telling stories to one another all day. We call this mentality and practice “faith,” most countries call it laziness.
Our youngsters, without a certain source of income, marry at their young age believing that their faith will save them from the impending danger of marriage life. They have faith that their parents will be there for them. They buy phones they can hardly afford. They shop and dine out once they take hold of some amount thinking that God will bless them the same cash even if they do not know where to get the next week’s resources. They have faith that everything will be alright even if reason shouts of great trouble in their face.
Couples are not bothered to the growing number of their family members thinking that God will provide their needs despite reason telling them that it will be hard to find sufficient food for all. We always think that something good happens for those who have faith. Yet faith is faith when one does their part. On one hand, it is a distorted faith when one lets God does all the work. Faith is not even enough to attain salvation because it needs action. St James said that Faith without action is dead.
Poverty-caused suffering is oftentimes a choice because of inaction or the lack of it. I cannot blame others because poverty is also the product of injustices and evil acts of others. Being born to a poor family is also an exception but as business people claim ‘to die poor’ is a sort of negligence thus it can be considered a failure. When Jesus, in His Beatitudes, spoke of those “poor” having to inherit the Kingdom of God, He talks of those poor in spirit. It does not necessarily mean that they are economically poor.
Filipinos, most of us, believe that suffering even if it’s our own doing, has an equivalent reward in or from heaven. So, we look at suffering, unfortunately, in some sense, as a blessing, and not as a curse. We say that God has mercy and that He will deliver our needs, if not today, perhaps tomorrow. But it is God who gifted us with reason through the gift of the intellect for us to see things reasonably and being poor is one manifestation that we failed to use this faculty.
Suffering is evil and if poverty causes suffering, poverty should be seen as the act of the devil. When people suffer due to poverty, they commit robbery and illegal money-making schemes. Many poor families exploit their children—prostitution in all its kinds. The devil laughs as more people get poor so it is not like poverty brings us closer to God. Most of the time, poverty keeps us away from Him.
If we can keep watching television for half a day and still believe that something good will happen because of faith, this is out of reason and is not really a realistic faith but a kind of slothfulness. We think that we are hardworking because of the kind of work our overseas Filipino workers show to host countries but realistically we are not. We like to sit in our sofas and watch television for a long period because we want to be updated about trending shows. We can afford to watch a complete K-pop television series taking the volume of daytime hours so we can tell our friends in social media about them. We like to go to the street and find someone to talk to. We spend precious hours flipping our cellular phones and checking the posts of our social media friends then get mad when other people criticize us for our lack of action and blame the rich for being unfair to the poor. This is not being hardworking.
We are a race who enjoys pleasure—videoke, fiestas, parties, and crowd-gathering celebrations like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. They are part of our culture of course, and there is nothing bad about them if we only know how to moderate our practices towards them. The problem is we like to throw the grandest party we can and like to accommodate the whole town even our budget cries for a simpler celebration. We like to drink even we do not have enough. We like to pour out our hard-earned money in these celebrations even if we do not have savings because we have our faith to rely to.
Faith is both a belief (trust in God) and action. Faith and reason go together. Faith without a little touch of the reason is dangerous. Work hard and God will surely be there for us.