Paul writes... last week I was faced with moral choices...
I'm not talking about the moral challenges of whether to watch porn on-line (i've given it up for lent), steal time from my boss, or covert then eat the Krispie Kreame donuts in the cupboard.
Those are of course all moral choices but I have a map for those, of sorts. Instinctively I've learnt they are all bad for me and bad = pain and pain is something I can chose to do without. In other words they are all sensible choices which help me look after me.
No I'm talking about moral choices where I chose to look after someone else. A moral choice not just cos its in my interest but because it is in their interest and costs me something of my own. My moral map seems a bit hazy and my moral compass is swinging round to S(elf).
I'm not sure what you would have decided to do in each of these situations, I'm not even sure what I would do, or even if I want to do anything at all. So let me highlight the scenarios for you and I'd welcome any wisdom and insights you may have...
It all started this week when I preparing a reflection on Philipians 2:1-11 for my small group. This is one of my fave passages in the bible (hence me chosing it) as verses that frame my own calling/mission/nature of who I am (v3-4).
The particular challenge was v3-4:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
At first I read this as a case of enlightened self interest, I look after me I can look after others. I love myself and then I can love other people. I earn money, my taxes help pay for the welfare system etc.
However in pushing deeper the text asks me to go beyond this. The greek word used for "better" conveys Paul's idea to not just treat others as more important than ourselves, but to really consider them to be so.
Moral confusion #1
As I'm preparing the talk I'm thinking about what is going on in my life. At work we are in the run up to our annual performance appraisal and sa ever there is a scarce payrise pot to compete for. We've been told that 3/10 staff will get a payrise this yr - and I've been determined that I will be one of them.
I have been posing and posturing now for at least a month. Weighing up each piece of work that I do for how it will either add to my case for a rise or detract from it. I've been touting myself, promoting myself as the great fiscal public servant At the same time making slight diggs at colleagues, looking for opportunities to show them up so I look good at their expense.
Of course I know that everyone else is doing exactly the same to me - if I don't look after myself, tell everyone how good I am, then no one else is!
Then it struck me, I am doing the opposite to Paul's advice. I'm competing for a scarce resource and playing to win. Have I stopped for a moment and asked myself do I really need this money? I mean really need it? It will be nice of course but what price am I paying to get it? What about my rivals, I mean colleagues. Have I stopped and thought does anyone else need this money more than me?
A scary thought has entered my mind. What if I just stop competing? What if I stop promoting me and start championing others? Stop tearing others down and start building them up instead? Let them have the pot and chose instead that I already have more than enough?
Where would you go on this moral map?
Moral confusion #2
Moving from the micro of my life to the macro of life as a society. On Friday I attended on a masterclass on housing policy.
As a society in the UK we have moved in 60yrs from something like 7% home ownership just after world war 2 to 86% now. This has created a social divide of owning and other.
We as a nation have bought into housing as wealth creation (buy now, watch the quity grow, cash in or leave something for the kids), self security (I own this), badge of status etc. We've spent billions on our homes and created a system where the banks stake in them became a whole system of financial securities and trading.
Housing is now a scarce resource - the government wants to see the building of millions more houses to ease the effects of supply and demand.
However in the face of bank collapses, long term timebombs like state pensions for a ageing society we are running out of money. The welfare state that worked in the 40s is creaking under the strain.
What do we do as a nation in the face of scarcity? What will we do when we see social housing of a superior standard being built? How do we feel when the poor 10% of the nation (which we need to keep our captalist model running) is in better housing then the rest of us? We're paying hundreds a month for our inefficieint old properties and they are paying £20 a week for the energy costs of theirs?
As a nation what is our moral map? In the face of scarcity do we start deciding we haven't got enough money to go around any longer. That it is not fair that the have's pay for the have not's? Do we indeed start doing what we in the UK did this week - sending (deporting) the homeless drunk Slovakian back home with a one way ticket on Easy Jet?
And after they have all gone home, who do we pick on next?
Where would you go on this moral map?