Are you like Susan frustrated by the slow progress towards a fair society? Do you want to see a world where the weak are helped in such a way that they come stronger rather than weaker?
What do you mean by unfair?
In one sense it does not matter what you think a fair society is, the thing is that you think that society is unfair. You only have to keep your eyes open to see that it is unfair to the less able.
Many years after British law said that shops and restaurants should be accessible to those in wheelchairs, those who are unable to walk still find getting into some places very difficult. Yes, they might have put a ramp in place so that the steps are no longer a problem. But they sort of forgot that anyone coming in have to go through a door and then make a sharp turn before they can go through a second door. Once up the ramp the problem then becomes making the turn to get through the second door. Oops, they have tried but it is still hard to get a wheelchair into the building. No wonder some people say the world is unfair.
Your experience of unfairness might be every different form the unfairness my friends experienced. You might want to deal with the unfairness of a food supply system that makes it hard for people to buy food that heals them rather than hurts them. Then there is unfairness created by pollution or bad working practices and many other things.
Unfairness comes in many forms. The one thing that unfairness brings out in good people is their desire to see the world change so that it is a fairer place.
How do you change an unfair world?
The problem is how do you change the world. You might not have gone as far as I did and try and become a minister so that you can teach people not to be unfair. Well, the reality of that situation is that 30 years later I have done the early stages of the training programme at least twice but for a variety of reasons not gone any further.
OK, that did make it possible for me to teach Ethics and Philosophy to teenagers preparing to go to university. There was very little fruit from all those years of carrying that dream.
Maybe you took the more common route and looked for a job where you could help people escape unfairness. The problem is that some employers are so desperate to look unfair that you cannot be yourself. You cannot go to church on a Sunday, at least within earshot of your boss, you have to go to a meeting. You hear comments from clients about the reaction of other support workers to what to them were innocent words. Imagine saying that you would meet your daughter outside a church and then having someone shout at you for using unacceptable language. The militant secularism that masquerades as professionalism has to be seen to be believed in some organisations.
So what do you do? You try setting up small projects but the first problem is that it is a struggle to persuade church leaders to support you. They then look at what you are trying to do and say you cannot do it this way because you are at risk of deceiving people. You really must make sure that you make it very plain to everyone whenever you use a biblical principle.
Oh boy, what a disaster. Every time you say you do this because it says you should do so in the Bible people cringe. It makes you look as though you are trying to be superior to them because God is telling you what to do. What is worse is that it becomes harder to find other people to help finance your project. They do not want to give their money to something that is so overtly religious. You are not doing anything different from anyone else apart from following the church’s advice and spouting Bible verses at every opportunity.
If your experience has been anything like mine it is tough changing the world. People like their own ways of doing things. The church often lives in its own little bubble and struggles to look outwards. Those from the church who want to look outwards rarely find any support. Hopeful the advice you have been given from folks inside the church has not been as bad as that I have been given. I suspect though that it will not have been really helpful.
Is it really possible?
It did seem an impossible situation. Or at least it did until I realised that if started a business I could do what I thought God wanted me to do without the church getting in the way. Yes, one of my biggest obstacles to doing things to help people has been the church.
Why a business? Well, I had two options, a business or a charity. I spent ages researching my options and it did not take long to realise that a charity would not work for me in many ways. One issue I had was that there were so few people around me who understood what I was trying to do and why. That actually helped because it made what I was doing more portable so when I made a big geographic shift I could just pack the business up and take it with me.
First time around it did not work out and that business structure was dissolved. I kept going in a different way. I was still free to do things the way that I wanted. I did not have to follow the dictates of a church who struggled to recognise that I was on their side.
Before setting up that first legal structure I found myself working for an employer who had a long long rule book. If you took the time to read the book it soon became apparent that it was impossible to do your job and keep all the rules. In fact, the first training course they sent you on was how to break the rules in the right way so that you could do what was best for your clients. With my own legal structure, I did not have to follow the rules that an employer or project leader laid down. I could make my own rules.
Part of that journey was the realisation that I needed to find ways of paying for the good works I wanted to do. The first activity I put on the speaker said that they would speak provided that there was no charge for the event. So I had to find the money to print and post letters then rent the room myself. I was given a donation but I used that to buy a book token for the speaker.
The problem is that you cannot do things without money but people don’t give you money unless you are doing something. You end up going round in circles. In the end, it was obvious I had to find ways to make money that I could use to do what I wanted to do. I discovered the importance of being self-sustaining the hard way. This is how you escape the control of those who have the funding or who pay your wages.
I can imagine that your next question is how on earth does that happen. As ever you will find the answer in the Bible. This time though you will find it in an unexpected place i.e. Proverbs 31. That passage is not just about how to be the ideal wife. It has a lot of say about how to handle money and how to build a business that applies to all adults.
More about Proverbs 31
Handling money is not just about using it for your own purposes. Included in it is that idea of giving help to those who need relief from their immediate distress. On top of that, there is the idea of offering help to those who need longer term support to those who need support to overcome persistent issues.
She plays her part keeping the local economy thriving. She helps money circulate around the community and this helps everyone. She also plays her part in society by having an orderly and well-run household.
Imagine if all households were run like that. It would solve a variety of economic issues including one we often forget i.e. where do philanthropists get their money from.
The thing is how many times have you read that passage and not seen that if offers that kind of advice. Worse how many women have read it and shrunk back in horror saying I cannot do all that!
I must admit that is what my response was until I said God”Where do i start with developing a course about money” After that question I ‘stumbled’ on Proverbs 31. The first time I looked at it I could not understand why it was important. The next day I looked at it again and saw all sorts of things that I had not seen before. The thing with ideas in the bible is that there are times when we first need to learn about them in the natural and only then do we spot them in the Bible.
The one that really amazed me was realising why she bought a vineyard. If I had not done any dressmaking or had an interest in crafts I would never have seen it. I definitely had not seen that idea written up in a commentary anywhere or heard anyone else mention it. Yet when it dawned on me what she would use those grapes for in her business it made perfect sense from a business perspective. It is there but we just don’t see it very easily. It is hidden waiting to be discovered.
After I did a thorough study of Proverbs 31 and realised how inspirational it is in terms of handling money I was so thankful that I had followed the nudge towards it. It has a huge amount to teach those who are willing to learn. Is this for you?
Are you one who is willing to mine from this deep vein of biblical wisdom? There is a good reason why this passage is in Proverbs and is recognised as part of wisdom literature. If you would like a dose of biblical wisdom on money then this is the course for you. BTW remember the reason I could see so much in it was that I had gained all sorts of experience such as teaching business ethics, developing learning materials for aspiring business owners. Your standard theologian or even preacher does not have that experience so this course is one of a ;kind. The starting point is the book where I share the ideas I learnt. The hope is in the future to set up a course or two for those interested in taking it further.