One issue we will all be judged on – by others, by the media, by God – is what we do with our money. Recently on BBC Radio 4, two separate programs one after each other, highlighted for me some of the issues involved with wealth.
The first was regarding ‘Gated Communities’. In other words, those who can afford to live behind bars, guaranteeing a greater level of saftey and more pleasant surroundings. As one listener put it “It gives me the ability to live amongst nice people, like me!”.
Of course, the more serious examples come mainly from overseas, where it isn’t just homes behind gates but shops and services too – meaning communities can live pretty much separate lives. And most shockingly, literally next door, slum communities struggle to survive – luxury/extravagance sits next door to extreme poverty.
The second program was an interview with the CEO of Channel 4. He seemed like a nice man (I’m sure he was). However, towards the end the interviewer asked him about his wage. I can’t remember the figures, but his wage was somewhere between £300-£400k (enough to live in a gated community?) – higher than his equivelent at the BBC. On top of this, even though they narrowly missed their yearly targets, he still received an £100k bonus.
I’m not here to judge people who earn lots of money, but there are issues involved here we need to grapple with.
1. Where we live. Why we live where we do. Is there a strong case that Christians should mainly be living in poorer areas? Why? Simply, to help bring those areas up. If all the nice people live over there, and all the poor people over there…I’m sure you see where this heads… Shouldn’t Christians be leading the way against this subtle, yet powerful, form of separation and exclusion?
2. When is a wage too high? You can’t enforce a limit (I wouldn’t want to). But when was the last time you heard someone say – “No, please pay me less”. If a Christian was offered £300k a year, surely the right thing to do is say “No, I only need £35k”. Of course, some will say: “Earn more, give more away”. If only it was that simple – the answer to that question is another blog post!
But what do we make of Jesus parable in Luke 16 of the ‘Rich Man and Lazarus’ – the rich man was probably very nice – but he incurred the fire of God against him for the way he lived – where he lived – and how he used his wealth.