The “right to spend” must not be a stumbling block

The newspapers’ scandal of the week here in the UK is that many of our MPs have been caught out claiming inappropriate expenses. These are mostly sums which they technically have the right to spend, and claim back, but which the people of this country, or at least the newspapers, consider excessive. On this matter Bishop Alan has had sensible words to say.

In this context Matthew Malcolm, an Aussie studying here in the UK, has posted an interesting but painful retelling of part of 1 Corinthians 8-10, with the principles outlined there reapplied to the acquisition of wealth. He calls this, in comparison to the commoner application to alcohol, “a far more attentive application of these chapters for Christians today”. Here is an extract from Malcolm’s piece:

But watch out that this “right to spend” of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone should see you with your knowledge, making a down payment on a Range Rover, won’t their conscience, being weak, be built up to indulge in a hunger for wealth?  So the weak is destroyed by your knowledge – this brother or sister, for whom Christ died.  And thus, sinning against brothers and sisters and damaging their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

As Matthew himself responds, “Youch”.

5 thoughts on “The “right to spend” must not be a stumbling block

  1. A provoking post

    I have watched the sorry saga of MP expenses for many days – difficult not to. The system and the way it has operated seem to encourage a free and easy approach to claiming which may be technically within rules but is hardly in the spirit. “Form rules over substance” to misquote my professional (accountant’s) standards. I also feel it has again shown up the awful standards of current journalism , which delights in putting overblown, and often questionable, spin on any alleged fact, however small.

    however the whole saga, and the imaginative application of 1 Corinthians, does provide a timely reminder that with power and “rights”, whether financial, social, political or military, come great responsibilities. For Christians this basic and creational truth should be natrual and self evident. Does my own life style reflect the Lord I profess, and might it cause a brother/sister to stumble?

  2. Good blog and I think you’ve picked up on something very important.

    I wonder if in the long term these revelations might actually be a good thing. Sometimes our personal integrity needs testing, which is just what has happened to the MPs. Many of them have shown that they do not claim for things just because they can and others have been shown to claim for just about anything. I don’t think it is the rules that are at fault it is the people.

    I also wonder if this is brought on – in part – by the high wages that many MPs now enjoy (I understand one of the options being considered is raising their income and not having expenses). Perhaps when you get paid a high wage the thought of claiming to have your moat cleared or a pipe under your tennis court repaired doesn’t seem so silly. For those of us with low paid jobs (or even no job at all) these kinds of claims seem obscene. Have MPs lost touch with real life? I fear most of them have (if they were ever in touch in the first place). A matter of perception.

    Just like to add also that I have known several MPs in the past and the ones I have known have always been hard working caring and honest people. Don’t judge others on what you read in the press.

  3. Thanks, Chris. I really don’t know what to think. But I suspect that they have been brought up, as I was, in a work culture that one should claim all the expenses that one is entitled to. Indeed I have been taught exactly that in my church, to claim all the expenses I spend on church business, and if I want to make an offering do that separately rather than by waiving my entitlement. If the MPs are working on that basis they will automatically read the rules as implying that they not only can but should claim all that is allowed within those rules. I expect many of them are then bemused that they are being condemned when all they have done is follow the rules as closely as they can. So I suppose I am saying that the problem is not so much with the MPs as with the rules.

  4. Pingback: Not just sticking to ’safe’ applications « Confessions of an Undercover Theologian

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