At the beginning of last year I wrote about the onset of the Credit Crunch and how that was impacting on the lives of those who had either lost their jobs or who were reliant upon the vagaries of the stock market for their income. But it has taken the best part of a year for us to really start to feel the effects of recession. Prices have crept slowly upwards until, in the last couple of months, we have had quite large bills for electricity, insurance, telephone and fuel costs landing on our doormats. As I write, we have the news that inflation is high and the new government's emergency budget will be full of major cuts to public spending, which will have a knock-on effect in all areas of our lives.
We knew that whichever political party won the election would face the same tasks; to pay off the massive national debt as quickly as possible; to regain international confidence in our banking institutions, which are now the backbone of our economy, and to move the country forward into economic recovery. This is an un-enviable challenge and the new government will no doubt be roundly condemned for the painful process we will all have to endure. However, these financial cutbacks, and the tax rises that will probably accompany them, are an essential part of getting our collective house in order. There will no doubt be recriminations - especially after the revelation that last Treasury Minister allegedly left a note for his successor saying "Sorry, there's no money left!" But at the end of the day, regardless of who was responsible for the recession, we all have to bear the burden of recovery together. There is nothing new in this. Those who remember the problems faced by the post war government will know that we have been here before and that it is the population as a whole that has to pay for recovery.
Taxation is never a popular subject and even Jesus was challenged by it two thousand years ago. When asked if the people should be paying taxes to Rome - the government of the day - Jesus asked whose image was on a Roman coin. "Caesar's" said the people. To which Jesus responded "Give to Caesar that which is Creaser's, and to God, that which is God's" (Luke 20:25). Today, it is the Queen as titular head of the Government whose image is on our coins and notes and I believe that Jesus' words still ring true today. We would all like to hang onto our hard earned money and I suspect we quietly resent having to give it to Whitehall mandarins. But, by and large, we do live good lives in this country when compared with so many in the developing world and as such, should be prepared to contribute to the nation's welfare, both in the bad times as well as the good.
It's all a matter of perspective. Jesus encourages us to look to God first because when we find spiritual fulfilment, money, as essential as it is to our daily living, becomes less important. He also said; "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). In other words, we need to get our lives in balance. If we put God first we will find our lives are fulfilled, whether we have money or not.
I do hope that the coming months will not be too taxing (pardon the pun!) and that we are able to find greater fulfilment through the presence of God in our lives, than in the material things that we all have to leave behind eventually.
With all good wishes.