A church minister once commented that he always made sure he went to meetings of the church Finance Committee, “as that is where the most important spiritual decisions get made.”
What we choose to do with our money – and other precious resources such as our time and energy – is a good indicator of our real priorities. As Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Veterans of Finance Committees will know that when it comes to financial matters, there is often a tension between doing the right thing, and the thing that will cost least. This is true whether you are a government, a business, a church or an individual with money to spend.
Quick fixes are usually more affordable than major repairs, but are rarely the best solution for the long term. Choices that reflect kingdom values, that are good for people and for the planet, are usually more expensive choices.
We expect it to cost more to buy Fairtrade products or provide high-quality public services, or to source ethically or to a high environmental standard. Some people are in the fortunate position of being able to afford to make these choices, while others can’t or don’t give this priority.
It therefore comes as a welcome surprise when you discover an issue where making the right choice is not necessarily the more expensive option.
New research has concluded that the costs of cutting carbon emissions to stay within the UN’s climate targets are likely to be far less than the economic damage caused by allowing temperatures to rise. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, has calculated that 90 per cent of the world’s population, and especially those living in poorer countries, are likely to be better off by the end of the century if temperature rises can be limited to 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels.
As well as challenging conventional wisdom about the costs of doing the right thing, the analysis contradicts President Donald Trump’s claim that implementing the Paris climate agreement would undermine the American economy.
This is a phenomenon that has parallels at a local level, too. When a church signs up to be part of the Eco Church or Eco-congregation Scotland programme, and begins a journey of exploring its environmental responsibilities, one of the first areas you look at are your energy suppliers. Many expect that switching to renewable suppliers will be a costly option.
However, according to environmental consultants Green Journey, churches are often surprised to discover that this is not always the case – especially if they have not reviewed their supplier for some time, so have ended up on an expensive standard tariff. In their pilot scheme, they enabled churches to save an average of 19% on fuel bills while switching to fully renewable sources of energy.
Of course, when it comes to climate change, many would argue that there is no option but to make the most sustainable choices. Marks & Spencer famously call their environmental approach Plan A – “because there is no Plan B”.
One fantastic opportunity to take this message to politicians is during the Climate Coalition’s Speak Up Week of Action (30 June-8th July). People are being encouraged to talk to their MPs about climate change, and to ask them to show support for the UK to increase the ambition of its climate targets in line with the Paris climate agreement. For further details and resources, visit www.speakupweek.org.uk
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus concludes his teaching about money and possessions with words of wisdom for Finance Committees and decision-makers everywhere: “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)