Wycliffe Hall was very fortunate to be able to welcome Lord Brian Griffiths, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, to deliver a lecture on a Christian response to the current financial crisis to our students this week.
His perspective on the causes of this crisis are a combination three things: excessive public borrowing with the ratio of debt to household income now standing at about 150%; Banks turning into lending shops, the lack of relationship between lender and borrower, and failures to check people’s ability to pay; and, thirdly, the failures of world governments to regulate what is going on in investment banks.
The most interesting bits of his lecture were his three implications arising out of his Christian convictions. Regrettably time was short, so these were little more than snapshots:
a. Throughout Scripture debt is viewed as something that is problematic; e.g. laws about the land, debts and usury in the Pentateuch as well as the perspective of Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”
b. The cycles of economic life (upturn, downturn, boom, recession) need to be interpreted in the light the cyclical flow of the Sabbath, the jubilee provisions etc. A good example is the Millennium commitments to the forgiveness of debts. It is even more important that as we go into recession we hold to these commitments.
c. Jesus says: You cannot serve God and Mammon (Mammon being the personification and deification of money). Greed is not good – in fact, greed is the cause of excessive worry (according to Jesus in Matthew 6:24ff.).
As the financial crisis continues to deepen, it is good to be reminded of our commitment to care for the poor (and not renege on this as we feel the pinch) and the challenge to ensure that we love the Lord as our highest and best love, not the things of this world.
Wouldn’t it be good if Christian leaders faithfully teach the Kingdom standards set out in the Bible and help God’s people live wisely in testing times?