Let’s talk about money

the Friend, 9 February 2024, p8.

The purpose of this article is to explore the challenges posed by the Internet Age for our use of money in a global economy.   This raises many ethical dilemmas that previous generations did not face.   As Quakers, we are rightly proud of our historical writings and actions in business and commerce resulting in lasting monuments such as Bournville and Woodbrooke built by the Cadbury family.   The recent, brave decision to close the physical infrastructure of Woodbrooke has prompted me to explore other avenues of change.

Here are my thoughts in the hope of engaging Friends in conversations leading to an examination of how we use our money at an Area Meeting level, but the principles apply also at yearly and local levels, from a spiritual point of view.   To start the conversation, I have chosen to focus on sustainability as a way of illustrating the ideas as they unfold.   The overall thrust of the arguments could and should be applied to all uses of our money.

Let your life speak” is a phrase commonly quoted by Quakers, but the original quote is “let your lives preach”.[1]   The purpose of starting this way is to find a new focus in the words of Fox who was speaking to merchants and tradesmen.   Fox initially admonishes Friends for neglecting their Meetings in favour of business.   He goes on to remind us that conduct in everyday life is an outward sign of our inner spiritual state.   Is there a difference between speaking and preaching beyond semantics?

Layton[2] comments that “preaching” can only ever be a public declaration of a confidently held truth.   Preaching is a very action orientated word.   In that sense letting our life preach is much more challenging than letting our life speak.   Now, let’s step back and consider the wider context of the oft quoted phrase from Fox: “So let your lives preach, let your light shine, that your works may be seen”.

What “works” undertaken corporately by an Area Meeting might meet the Fox test?

We each know through our own life journey that money “speaks”.   The fast expensive car on the drive, and space exploration as tourism are just two examples.   The issue before us is to transition from letting money speak to letting money preach.

To write, act, or speak of “money talking” is, in our contemporary world, to acknowledge that money can easily be used as power.   As Friends our testimonies would naturally lead us to question concentrations of power and aim to use our corporate resources to build sustainable communities. The concept of an ethical bank is changing, no longer content to be defined as what a bank does not invest in the credo is now about supporting economic, social, and environmental sustainability.[3]   There is much more that can be done.   The purpose of this article is to start the discernment process.   I hope that each Friend who reads this article will participate in the process of building a low carbon sustainable community where our money preaches to

[1] Fox, G. (1661) The Epistles of George Fox – Volume 1, Epistle 199, Friends Library, accessed 2 August 2023 [https://www.friendslibrary.com/george-fox/epistles-v1]

[2] Layton, M. (2018) Let Your Life Preach, Woodbrooke Blog, 18 December 2018, accessed 2 August 2, 2023, [https://www.woodbrooke.org.uk/let-your-life-preach/].

[3] GABV (2021) Climate Action and the Role of Finance, Global Alliance for Banking on Values: Amsterdam.

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