How good is your money?
Bishop Michael Doe, reflects on Good Money Week:
Churches and people of faith have been at the forefront of the movement for more ethical investment, and through organisations like ECCR helped to establish National Ethical Investment Week. That’s now been rebranded as Good Money Week, and takes place this year from October 30th to November 5th.
Good Money Week is the campaign to raise awareness of sustainable, responsible and ethical finance to help people make good money choices. It aims to ensure that everyone knows they have sustainable and ethical options when it comes to their financial decisions. There’s more details at http://goodmoneyweek.com/
Most Christians accept that what we do with our money, personally, is part of our discipleship. How can I spend it responsibly? What’s the right proportion to give to the Church, and to other good causes? How much should I save?
But we are far less secure when we step into the more public sphere. If I have money to invest, how can I be sure that it’s not supporting activities which contradict what I say I believe? Where is my Church investing the money which I contribute week by week? If as a Christian I believe in tackling poverty, and safeguarding the planet, how could my money make a real contribution to that? But if most of my savings are caught up in my Pension Fund, however can I control what that money is doing?
And when it comes to the financial institutions and systems themselves, we can feel even more bewildered and powerless. Why is there such a large gap between what people are paid at the top and at the bottom? How can an economy based on debt fit with what the Bible says about Jubilee and Usury? How did Money change from being a means of exchange into a commodity in itself? Why should some international companies escape the taxation which the rest have to pay?
Good Money Week is an opportunity for all of us to look at these questions. At a personal level, through prayer and serious attention to our own situation, we need to look at our lifestyle, how we use what we have been given, and – if we have been blessed with money to spare – to ask whether we are investing in a way which is more likely to lead to the kind of just and sustainable world which God created us to be.
But the larger questions will not go away. The greatest sin for the Old Testament prophets was Idolatry, that which takes the place of God and directs the people away from the justice which God requires and into their own self-indulgence. Today that is not just about Western life-styles, and the inequality which this produces both here and globally, but also about Money itself: has it become our new god? Similarly, St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, warns us about the “principalities and powers” which govern this present age. As we review the causes, and the continued aftermath, of the 2007/8 economic crisis, there are many signs of forces at work – greed, unsustainable growth, unregulated licence – which both created the collapse and then dropped the consequences on those who were least responsible and are now least able to bear them, as in the “Austerity Agenda”.
ECCR and the Society of Friends have set up a website which deals with many of these issues: http://www.yourfaithyourfinance.org/ . ECCR is also pioneering a project – Ethical Money Churches – which helps local churches to begin addressing what this means for them, and what they might do about it.
A pilot programme in the South West is being added to this month in the West Midlands: http://www.eccr.org.uk/
Bishop Michael Doe, Trustee and former Chair of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR).
ECCR is a Body in Association with Churches Together in England.