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Love, time and money (what about what God wants?)

August 17, 2014


We all love the chance to take a break in August don’t we – to rest, to spend more time with family and friends, exploring new places or our interests. And for those of us working full time it also seems that we start this break mentally and physically exhausted.

Ten years ago I was living in Oxford and working full time in south west London. The carshare left the park and ride at 6.30am and four of us took it in turns to brave the M40 and M25 in the morning rush. We returned to Oxford around 12 hours later. By the weekend I was exhausted and at the same time I was also involved in the leadership of a small Baptist church in the city which made for a busy weekend as well as several busy weeknights. Two friends at the church about my age, Clare and Daniel, often questioned this pattern of work and why on earth I was doing it.

I found this challenging at the time but also found them a great example. They both worked part-time locally – Daniel as a music teacher and Clare in one of the city’s museums. Although they were living on much less money than others I knew in work, they always seemed to have so much more time – for growing vegetables in the garden, visiting older people in the church, and providing music lessons to others. So now ten years on, for the first time since leaving university I am working part-time. I got agreement from work to go down to 3 days a week, and for 2 days I volunteer my time community organising in Wales.

There are so many good reasons for us all to be working less hours for well-being, justice and sustainability reasons, as outlined brilliantly in nef’s influential report 21 hours. But here I want to focus on one of the barriers that people often give for the impossibility of reducing their paid hours – money; when reducing hours would mean not having enough to live on.

One of the biggest successes of community organising through Citizens UK so far has been on the living wage, and getting agreement and support for it across the main political parties. With around 5 million people working in the UK not earning enough to live on, what you earn per hour is really important. In-work poverty comes up a lot in conversations I have while doing community organising in Wales. The vast majority of cleaners, shop workers and catering staff earn the minimum wage or only just above this, which is not enough to live on. I have talked with lots of people doing 2 or 3 different jobs a day working from early morning until nearly midnight just to earn enough to pay the bills. A lack of meaningful work also comes up a lot in talking with individuals – something which could be addressed by the creation of many more well-paid part time jobs through people currently working full time in these jobs reducing their hours.

So for many people to increase the time each week they spend outside of paid work, an increase in what people earn per hour would be needed. The principles of the living wage are key to this. It is great to see that there are now more than 800 living wage employers including Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide, Nestle and many charities, with ongoing campaigns to encourage Tesco, Amazon, football clubs and others to pay the living wage to all their staff, and strong support from John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.

As Christians following a God of justice who calls us to love our neighbours I believe we should be supporting living wage campaigns. Even with a living wage not yet being paid to all, when we say we couldn’t possibly reduce our hours and live on less (when we would still have more than enough to live on) what is it we think we will lose? Two passages in the Bible seem to be key here: ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money’ (Matthew 6:24); and for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’ (1 Timothy 6:10). We are called to love God and our neighbours. From my experience of working part-time and from what I saw in the lives of Clare and Daniel and so many others, there is so much more to gain – personally and for society and the earth. I recognise that I have been able to make these choices to reduce my hours, which not everybody can. And I feel that I am only just at the start of learning what it means to live on less. What have you learned that you would recommend to me and others?

By Richard Weaver. Richard is married to Jennie and lives in South West London. He works for Tearfund as a Senior Policy advisor. He also working in community organising in Wales and as a Welshman is a passionate supporter of Cardiff City.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 17, 2014 3:57 pm

    Reblogged this on matt's musings .

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