I have written on this topic before, but I feel I need to write about it again; whilst the majority of people in the Western world are not particularly wealthy, we find again and again that prices of this, that and the other are going up, whilst wages are being frozen, people are losing their jobs and there is real uncertainty in many people’s lives in just how they are going to make ends meet and what plans they are to take in life.
The people who helped cause the financial meltdown and the subsequent economic chaos we find ourselves in are living privileged lives, sheltered from the very mess they helped to create. When the banks messed up, we bailed them out. So, in effect, they failed but didn’t fail! Nice for some. Many millions of people in the United Kingdom are feeling the serious consequences of this economic mess, and are having to make all sorts of budget cuts to all sorts of things they were used to, and we are seeing that things like gas and electricity, the price of petrol, the price of food, transport and many other things are going up month after month, whilst wages and benefits remain the same, or in some cases are being cut.
Shouldn’t a Christian stay out of politics and economics, you might say? Well, I believe we must speak out where there is injustice, and I believe we have the right to challenge, in a lawful way, the way our country is run. It is not being run well at this time, but no matter how hard the ordinary person is squeezed, the wealthy and powerful and those who rule and make laws seem to live well beyond the means of the ordinary person. And whilst many of us are dreading the next round of price rises, the people at the top seem not to care, primarily because those at the top have wealth and high-paying careers to shelter them from the worst of it.
All over the world people are campaigning against sharp practises by the wealthy, corporations and governments that don’t care or who seem impotent to do anything really radical, like tackle the high prices of goods and services, the price of utilities, and the rising tide of unemployment. The ordinary person has no real say in how their countries are run, if they ever did, but at this time the gulf between the wealthy and powerful and the person at or near the bottom is very wide indeed.
There is a moral dimension to all of this, and if we are to be honest we need to look at and explore the moral dimension. From one angle, price rises are wonderful; if you are benefitting from them, that is! From another angle, the price rises are something that many millions of people around the world are dreading. I refer specifically to the UK: it wouldn’t be so bad if it was just food and household goods that were increasing, but it is so many other things as well, like the cost of petrol, the cost of public travel especially train travel, the ever-rising cost of utilities like gas and electricity prices; there seems no end in sight, and yet our politicians, of whatever political persuasion, and the people who run and own these companies seem unable to do anything about it, and seem less to care, perhaps because they are all wealthy and well-provided for. It’s the same old story, it seems. So let’s come back to the moral issue at stake. The moral issue is that these price rises are, when it boils down to it, an issue of greed. And I believe implicitly that God does not countenance injustice and does not turn a blind eye to injustice for ever. Some people may get away with their sin this side of Heaven, but will certainly not on the other. There is immorality, greed and injustice woven into these price rises and they are at worst making some people’s lives worse than they really need to be. There will be an answer to this injustice; mark my words.
It seems that, as ever, we in Britain have the highest prices for food, general goods and services, train travel, petrol and gas and electricity prices; why is this? Will we ever get a real answer from any politician about why we are always paying more for almost everything than any other Western European country, without the usual bluster and waffle and patronising tone all around? We can but hope. But deep down, if we are honest, we know that we are being ripped off and taken for a ride, often by the very people who are supposed to be fighting our corner. If we can’t get rid of capitalism and I personally don’t want to, then it needs changing. Firstly, if you have and make lots of money, you can pay more tax; if you are poor or make little, you pay less tax. It’s that simple really. We need to redistribute wealth fairly this way, unless we want anarchy on the streets; not in a ‘hippy-dippy’ or Communist way or anything that has links to any political ideology, just a fair and simple redistribution that makes sense and is easy to administer. Secondly, we need to truly work together, governments, bosses, corporations, businesses and the regular person on the street in making our finances work, and perhaps we all need to stop living beyond our means and stop living on borrowed credit. Thirdly, we all need to find a purpose in life; I believe that goes beyond normal concerns but is very much the most important consideration in being human.
There is another problem I feel with Britain too; it seems that too much power and wealth and influence is concentrated in the hands of a relatively few people and also especially in the South East of England. This reflects history and tradition, but isn’t it time we began to live in a modern nation, one that is based on genuine equality and fairness, as opposed to privileged status and unfairness?
When people give to charity, people from the Western nations to countries like India, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America, no one questions the fact that richer people are giving to poorer people; why should they? But why, when people are talking about redistributing wealth from the richest to the poorest within wealthy Western nations, is there a complete reluctance? Why are many wealthy people in the West so greedy and selfish? The only aim of charity, in any circumstance, is to redistribute wealth and resources from those who have to those who don’t have.
What is the Christian answer? Well, as I wrote, I believe Christians need a purpose in life, even if at first that is just being obedient to God and walking in His ways. We also need to ask why there needs to be, in some circles, absolute unlimited wealth, and for others near-wretched poverty. Just what is the purpose of such wealth creation if it only benefits a handful of people? If a person is living in poverty, or struggling financially in any way, then maybe, and for the first time, they need to pray and ask God for help; He really can help! I’m not being religious here or anything like that, I’m just telling you the truth; God can, and does, work in the real world. For Christians, we need to lean hard on Jesus and to ask in prayer that we can satisfy our need before our greed and we need to be honest about ambitions and understand quite simply that if we make a lot, we need to put a lot back, and if we don’t make a lot or if we are struggling and poor we can as I said ask God to make our lives better without the need necessarily to have millions and millions of pounds, even though I believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being wealthy provided you use some of that wealth wisely and to help others and you are prepared to pay a fair rate of tax.
Finally, I don’t believe it’s necessary to be wealthy to be happy, and it’s not necessarily a prime requisite for being a Christian either. True happiness, and contentment, go beyond wealth creation and is a spiritual kind of wealth, one which lasts and no one can steal from you. I’m not suggesting either that being poor or wretchedly poor makes you super-spiritual in some way either; who wants to live in poverty after all? It’s beyond that too. God will provide, and is able to provide all your needs, regardless of whether you are rich or poor. It’s having faith in God that enables us to see the bigger picture, and will teach us that money is not the most important thing in the world.