Every so often, Christian leaders in churches all over the world, gather together in leadership meetings to discuss how the church might become more relevant.
It has concerned me that many Christians don't realise that the bible has much to say about issues that are top of the mind in society today.
Let's take concerns over housing and the property market.
All over the world, low interest rates, lax lending policies and globalization have resulted in rising land and real estate prices as cashed up investors look for bargains, bolt holes from potential conflicts or just to launder ill-gotten gains.
This has created enormous pressures for those who are entering adulthood, want to find cost effective housing for their families and increasingly the lower and middle classes are feeling like hard work is not going to allow them to own their own homes.
For example, in New Zealand, for most of the 20th Century, the average home was worth between 3-5 times the average salary. Now it is sitting between 9-10. The OECD reports that NZ housing ranks amongst the highest nations with overvalued housing when compared to long term averages price to income ratios.
The social result is alarming:
- Young families crammed into garages, living out of cars, 3-bedroom homes with a dozen or more people living together; no surprise that respiratory diseases such as colds, flus and pneumonia are common amongst these households.
- Young couples putting off having families until they are well into their thirties, when their bodies are best suited to bear children in their early twenties.
- An increasing gap between the haves and the have nots.
- An increasing number of absentee landlords living in foreign countries.
- Rising numbers of land bankers evidenced by an increasing number of unoccupied households and undeveloped land.
This is not God's view of how life should be. Consider these scriptures (hover over them with your mouse to read them:
- Isaiah 5:8: Land monopolies are a wrong.
- Leviticus 25:8-13: In God's society, people were allocated land, and every 50 years, land transactions were unwound, so that each family had their allocation returned to them.
- Micah 2:2: Permanently disengaging a person from their land (their heritage) is an act of oppression.
When discussing this problem with Christians the responses are less than encouraging:
- I saved for my house, no one helped me, why should I help anyone else?
- Everyone can own a house, said one Christian, it just needs good budgetting.
- It's a free market, the incentives are there for all to work hard and progress in the world.
- They should have saved, spent less, worked two jobs, used birth control...
The genuine Christian should be inspired by the bible to act vigorously to counter-act this great wrong.
Sometimes Christians throw their hands in the air, frustrated that though they might like to see social justice done, they are perplexed and clueless on what can be done about it. In fact, the actions required are well developed and have been for many years. They are not difficult to implement where there is a will:
- Vote for land value taxes and reduce income and company tax.
- Introducing standards of abandonment.
- Adopting principles of usufruct eg Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22.
- Other ideas that include the application of easements, and real covenants.