In the run-up to Christmas we have heard a great deal about Pay-day loans and complaints about the amount of charges on such loans. Two things I will say here, and you will probably agree with one and be upset by the other. The first is that the people taking out Pay-day loans are generally high risk and high cost for the loan company, because the amounts are relatively small and for a relatively short time and are advanced to people who are generally in economic difficulties. The second is that the rates are exorbitant.
So what is the church doing about all of this?
It seems a reasonable question to ask on Boxing Day, given that the biggest splurge of spending, whether people can afford it or not has just happened. Christmas is a Christian celebration. Poor parents feel the need to spoil their children one day in the year, and the choose Christmas. I do not believe that there is any non-heretical Christian in the world who would disagree. But the world has turned it into a time to let covetousness run riot and many people will be wondering how they are going to get through to the end of January. Some might even be wondering how they are going to get through to the New Year.
Should the church be doing anything about this? I suppose it depends on what you think church is for. If you see the church as a body of people who are going about this earth imitating what Jesus Himself did, then we need to remember that He physically healed people, he fed multitudes with very little resources, and he found money miraculously to meet His and Peter’s Temple Tax.
Do not get me wrong. Our first priority is to tell people who do not already know Him about Jesus. But we are reminded in James, chapter 2
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
James makes it clear we are not to walk by on the other side. Jesus had already told us who our brother or sister is in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Some have called Pay-day Loan companies legal loan sharks. I will not go so far as that, but if we go small small enough, can the churches do something by setting up small scale credit unions? Do we need a change in the law so that such small scale credit unions can be administered without having to jump though all of the same financial Services and Markets Act hoops that the big banks need to jump through? Are the churches willing to even ask? Will getting involved with poor people help the church? Will the church do this in a way that brings Glory to god?
The church of England have 26 bishops in the House of Lords, and at least one of them has sound business experience. Will they speak truth to power? Do they have the will? Time alone will tell.