Many Australians are grappling with some big financial challenges right now, and the situation appears to be getting tougher. No one can predict with any certainty which direction interest rates will go, and this is causing a lot of stress for families.
A new report from Roy Morgan indicates that increasing wealth in Australia is nearly all in house prices, which have grown as much as 43% in the past few years. More than 95% of that wealth is held by the top 50% of the country, which is mostly baby boomers. The bottom 50% hold as little as 4.6%.
Where should we as Christians stand on financial inequality? Alex Cook from Wealth With Purpose recently joined us on 20Twenty to share his thoughts on how we can honour God with our finances by learning some sound financial skills.
Alex believes that one important question we need to ask is, how do increasing house values help us as a nation? ‘At the end of the day a house is a place to live,’ he says. ‘It’s only really a benefit to you if you’re trying to sell or if you’re an investor. For the most part, house price appreciation doesn’t have a huge value add to society.’
According to Alex, the other thing to be mindful of is that debt is increasing at a far greater rate, which is not good for the long term. But what also came out of the Roy Morgan report is that the country is almost split in two, with the bottom half only holding 4% of the wealth.
‘What was interesting also in this report,’ says Alex, ‘is that even though the overall wealth of the country grew, the bottom 10% actually found that wealth was in decline at quite a rapid pace, and they were going into more debt. Obviously, there are Christian issues around that, but the challenge is the potential to lead to social problems in our society.’
There are some important generational issues dividing the nation financially at the moment. Baby boomers who own their own homes are doing exceptionally well, but those with mortgages or paying rent are really starting to feel the pinch.
The growing inequality, both generationally and with the way wealth is distributed, is something that Christians should be concerned about. ‘It’s a very important topic for Christians to grapple with,’ says Alex. ‘There is a concerning trend in Australia towards becoming a more socialist society, which often comes out of this problem of inequality.’
Love Your Neighbour
Alex believes that as long as we have the same opportunities to be able to get ahead and make something of our lives and fulfil our potential, there’s not really an issue. ‘It’s the fact that people have different amounts,’ he says. ‘To me, where inequality becomes a big problem is it can create barriers that hinder someone from reaching their full potential. If people feel trapped in a particular class, they’re unable to rise out of it.’
As Christians, we’re obviously called to be Christlike and we want to care and show concern for people in society who feel marginalised or disadvantaged. We want to help to break down those barriers, because Jesus himself said, love your neighbour as yourself.
‘We want to treat others the way we want to be treated,’ says Alex. ‘So when we’re thinking about the bigger picture of inequality, we want to make sure that our society is showing value and the worth of every individual.’
‘It’s not that we all have equal amounts. But that we all feel we can get ahead and prosper as a society.’
Listen to Alex’s full interview on 20Twenty below: