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Monday, 9 January 2012

Too much; too little; just right!

The main news item, this morning, concerned the reported moves by the Prime Minister to "do something" about the enormous salaries paid out to top executives in the major British companies - £5million appears to be quite commonplace!  At the same time, we are assured that other moves are afoot to deal with the burgeoning Benefits' bill.

Both of these moves will seem to be perfectly fair and acceptable to that large group within contemporary British society that has, recently, become known as "the squeezed middle"!

I am certainly in favour of a situation in which those who have overseen vast losses in the companies by which they were employed (Fred Goodwin is not the only, but possibly the biggest, example) and are allowed to leave with a massive 'golden handshake', and a commensurate 'gold-plated pension', have their financial wings well and truly clipped.

At the other end of the scale, I am aware that the U.K. Welfare State was originally intended to be a 'safety net' for those in genuine need.  However, it's a case, almost, of stating the obvious to say that it has become a preferred lifestyle for far too many feckless folk who are more than content to take out of a system, even although they have never contributed to it!

So, what does the Christian Gospel have to say in such circumstances?  Well, there is no mention of 'fat-cat bonuses', or of 'state benefits', as such.  But there are clear principles taught.

The parable - if it is merely a parable! - of Dives and Lazarus (Lk.16:19-31) gives us the sad picture of a selfish rich man who had abused his trust, who had failed to make friends with his money and who, in the next world, would have given anything for such a friend.  The parable of the rich fool (Lk.12:16-21) is also salutory in its lesson that, as the old adage had it, "there are no pockets in a shroud"!

Those possessing wealth are also liable to certain kinds of sins against which they are frequently warned, e.g., highmindedness (I Tim 6:17); oppression of the poor (James 2:6); selfishness (Luke 12 and 16); dishonesty (Luke 19:1-10); and, in the Old Testament, self-conceit (Prov 28:11); and self-trust (Prov 18:11).

Of course, by the grace of God, even the wealthy may enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathaea (John 19:38-39; Matt 27:57-60), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) were all men of some substance.

At the other end of the scale, while there is compassion in the Gospel - not least, the compassion of Father God for His sinful creatures! - there is clear teaching that work is a necessary part of life.  So Paul exhorts the Thessalonian believers: "If any one will not work , let him not eat.  For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing." (II Thess 3:10-13; RSV).  Again, writing to the Ephesians, he states: "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need." (4:28; RSV).

If the Prime Minister, and his government, can actaully achieve some measure of success in both of these endeavours, then it might even be that we will, in truth, be "all in this together"!

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