Money makes the world go round, so the old Cabaret song goes. We know how much money matters to all of us. A recent Oxfam report has found that the wealth of the world’s 10 richest men has doubled since the Covid-19 pandemic began, whilst inequality contributes to the death of one person every four seconds. Closer to home, digital tech and online media giants from Apple to Amazon to Netflix have been some of the financial winners from the pandemic whilst Covid has exposed and exacerbated existing economic inequalities, such as those faced by as Black and Minority Ethnic communities, who can trace long histories of exploitation and discrimination.
And yet one thing I’ve noticed, especially since starting as ECCR’s Director last year, is that we don’t like to talk about money. As a society and as Christians, we don’t want to chat about money with our friends or neighbours, talk about it in the media, and we definitely don’t want to hear it preached on from the pulpit. But if we look at the Bible, and the life and words of Jesus, money is talked about a lot!
Jesus begins his ministry declaring that he had come to ‘bring good news to the poor’. He tells a rich man to sell his property and give to the poor, states that it’s ‘easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God’ and denounces the money changers in the temple and overturns the tables of those selling there. On becoming one of his followers, Zacchaeus the tax collector gives away half of his wealth. Many of the parables contain themes around money and wealth – including the ‘rich fool’ who stores his possessions in barns instead of being ‘rich towards God’ – which turns out to be foolish indeed when God turns up to claim his very life!
There are huge amounts to unpack in even one of these passages. Often, especially in the West, Christians have been taught a ‘spiritualised’ version of these teachings, or that they aren’t really as radical as they sound and are more about our attitudes. However we interpret these passages – let alone all the teaching in the Old Testament and the rest of the New – it’s clear that money, poverty and economics are absolutely central to Christian teaching – so shouldn’t we be talking about this topic more and thinking about how it affects how we live out our faith? Shouldn’t we be seeing how these perspectives could help shape wider society’s thinking and actions when it comes to money?
Our faith should shape every aspect of our lives, not just parts of it. For Christians to remain relevant in today’s complex and polarised world, we need to be able to confidently share what difference Christian thinking makes to issues of money, poverty and economics, so that we can see a more just and sustainable society for everyone.
But what is our theology of money? What’s yours? While many Christians might be able to have a go at explaining how their faith leads them to be part of a church, why they spend some of their time in prayer and reading the Bible, or how it affects the way they try to live in their personal lives, few of us can clearly set out a distinctively Christian view of money and how we use it, beyond the idea of giving some of it away to church and perhaps to charity.
Looking back at the list of passages I mentioned earlier, key themes we could explore include stopping economic exploitation, recognising the power that money can have over us, and acknowledging the truth that all money and riches come from God and our priority should be to seek His kingdom.
At ECCR we want to help Christians to get a better handle on all that our rich (no pun intended!) faith tradition can teach us about money and how we use it, in order to inform action whether in our own financial choices or in campaigning for fairer taxes and better corporate behaviour.
We already have a number of resources to help – like our Money Makes Change programme’s bible studies Money Makes Change Bible Study – ECCR and Church Action for Tax Justice’s Money & Faith Bible Studies – ECCR and our blogs too – like this one.
We’re working with churches and other groups this year to bring these resources to a wider audience, and we’d love to reach more Christians, as well as people of other faiths and none, with a conversation in the media, in parliament, and in communities across the land – about money, finance and taxes, and how they can be used for good. If you would like to get involved or could help us, do get in touch.
Sarah Edwards, Executive Director, ECCR
We want to see a world where money is used to shape a fairer, greener future. With your support we can continue to resource and equip Christians across the UK to better connect their faith and finance.