Over the past couple of days I have heard the story of the Salvation Army matchbox factory. It is an inspiring story, where the Church stepped up to do what was not being done by society.

So often, we complain and campaign against injustice. This is all worth doing and it is essential it continues. However, sometimes it becomes necessary for us to do more.

The matchbox factory story is impressive, because despite the fact that running the factory in the way that the Salvation Army ran it was significantly more expensive, the value of looking after the poorest in society was upheld in action as well as words.

Captain Nick Coke with the Salvation Army, wrote a post for this blog just a couple of days ago. He spoke about how we need to act, how the matchstick factory story had inspired him and his church to DO something.

I was reminded of this story this morning, looking at the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has spoken about the church opening credit unions to compete with the likes of Wonga.

There has been a mixed reaction to this idea. Some declare it is a brilliant way to help their communities, others say that is contradicting the teachings of Jesus.

It is true that Jesus cast the moneylenders out of the temple, but is this something that should be applied here? The question that the bible raises is do we serve God or Mammon? Those that Jesus threw out of the temple were disregarding the fact that they were in God’s house and instead doing all they could to better themselves at the expense of others.

There is great need in our communities. We have food banks opening at an alarming rate, loneliness is on the up, debt is increasing alongside poverty. Pay day loan companies take advantage of this weakened society.

The church has a responsibility, surely, like the matchstick factory, to act as well as speak. The idea of credit unions is an issue if the reason the church went into them is to make a profit.

The thing that struck me the most about the matchstick factory was the fact that when the job was done, and the campaign had been won, the factory was sold. Conditions were better for those working in the factories, therefore there was no longer the need for the Salvation Army to have its own factory.

They were no longer required in the area of the matchstick factory, therefore they focused their energy and resources elsewhere. If the credit unions were no longer necessary for the good of society, and other lenders were behaving in a way that was ethical and helpful to the improvement of society, would we let it go?

written by Katharine Welby daughter of Justin Welby

About Livability Community Engagement

Part of Livability, a national Christian disability and community engagement charity. We are an enabling network, tackling barriers in society to make community livable.
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2 Responses to Moneylenders

  1. James says:

    It’s admirable what the church is planning to do – but as you say, profit must never be a motive. Too many Christian organisations begin something successful (book publishing, say) turn a profit and then act to maintain and grow that profit. Perhaps they are using that profit for “good” works, but this becomes irrelevant. The organisation has become twisted, its mission becomes clouded to keep the profits at all costs, and the wrong sort of people are attracted into its management. Love of money, not money itself, is certainly proven to be the root of all evil.

    At the same time, a deeper Christian approach to the problem must be reducing attachment to the material world through love and faith in God. Many payday loan companies market themselves not through provision of basic needs but by creating an aspiration for a better life (a “better life”, or course, only available through the filthy lucre they provide). One piece of good news taught by Jesus is simply that, if we have faith, we have no need for the things we think we need. Let’s hope the church can help spread this gospel! It’s not a popular one in a materialistic world, and it will need better leadership than presently seen. Give away all your possessions and follow me~ can you? I personally find it difficult (indeed, I am typing this on a MacBook Air in a nice apartment in central Hong Kong….I did give away my TV, practically all non-essential possessions and all my money recently, and that’s liberating enough for a start, but then I have the luxury of earning more than enough for my needs every month so I’d be hypocritical to say everybody should do this…)

    Best wishes 🙂

  2. Carol Wotherspoon says:

    Absolutely agree – now is the time for the church to become far more community minded and to make a difference to the disadvantaged in society. At our church in High Wycombe we are setting up as a distribution centre for the One Can Trust (local food bank) and also exploring debt counselling, partnering with CAP. I am thrilled to be part of this faith in action process!

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