I work for a charity that helps homeless people in the West End of London. A few weeks ago I walked out of my office and saw this car parked outside – a gold Bentley. I am used to seeing flash cars in the area – like people sleeping rough, it’s a hallmark of central London life.
But there was something about the brazen, ostentatiousness of this car that got under my skin. Of course, rich people buy nice cars. But this was not just a nice car: it is a car built to show off the wealth of its owner. It is an offensive status symbol parked in a street where many sleep rough. An increasing number of these homeless people are working but are sleeping rough because they cannot afford the sky-high rents and travel costs in London.
It is a just a symbol of the UK’s gross inequality which seems out of control.
‘Fat Cat Tuesday’
An independent think tank called the High Pay Centre has dubbed today ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’ because it marks a point in the year when, after only 2 days of work, top bosses in the UK will already have earned more than someone on the average wage. The following is taken from the High Pay Centre’s website:
- FTSE 100 chief executives are paid an average £4.96 million a year. We found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of more than £1,200 .
- The typical value of a FTSE 100 CEO’s incentive award has risen by nearly 50% of salary since the previous year, while the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £445, from £27,200 to £27,645.
Watch this brilliant 3 minute video which unpacks the issue really clearly:
A Christian perspective
The Bible, and especially Jesus, has a huge amount to say about the dangers of greed. So this is an issue which Christians should care about hugely. But, especially in contrast to issues of sexuality, it does not seem to feature high on the agenda for many churches.
‘Most Christians in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not believe Jesus’ teachings about the deadly danger of possessions. Jesus warned that possessions are highly dangerous – so dangerous, in fact, that it is highly difficult for a rich person to be a Christian at all…Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the terrible warning ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ (p.95)
He goes on:
‘We madly multiply sophisticated gadgets, bigger houses, fancier cars, and fashionable clothes – not because such things truly enrich our lives but because we are driven by an obsession for more and more. Covetousness, a striving for more and more material possessions, has become the cardinal vice of modern civilisation.’ (p.98)
This is why initiatives like ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’ are a good idea – because the expose this ‘cardinal vice’ in ways which people can grasp and understand. Right wing think tanks, such as the Adam Smith Institute, have dismissed it as ‘the hand waving of pub economics’. But, perhaps this is what is needed at a time when what seems to be dominating us is the economics of the champagne bar.