Tony Benn – much like George Orwell before him – always had a knack of making the complexities of Socialism simple and understandable. He had an ability to distill its core beliefs and doctrines into easy to understand, and eminently quotable comment. One such example is this:
If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.Tony Benn
Here he simplifies, and exemplifies, a core thought behind Socialism. Ultimately, it is about how we choose to spend our money. It is about seeking to organise production and spending based on need. Here, he simply lays out how we often spend our money and insists, if we can find the money for (what he considers to be) the lesser thing, we can surely find the money for the more important thing. Socialism, according to Benn, is about what we care to prioritise.
I think some of this sort of thinking – that of priorities rather than Socialism per se – would serve us well in the church. We ought to ask ourselves more seriously the question, if we can find the money for this then we really ought to be able to find the money for that. Sometimes the question of priorities really needs to be answered.
We would do well to ask ourselves the question about what we prioritise for funding and what we are happy to focus our own church money on. Why is it that we are willing to spend literally millions on parachurch ministries whilst struggling to find money for church planting? Why is it that we rarely seem to struggle to fund church extensions and building projects to the tune of hundreds of thousands – often that lead to the addition of a mere handful of seats – and yet umm and ahh about whether to support a smaller church down in an otherwise unchurched area with a few hundred quid a month? Why do we insist on seeing tangible results for our few hundred quid when we don’t ask for those same results in other areas and we have a theology that insists we ought not to be so results driven in our decision-making?
Perhaps we need to start thinking, if we can find the money for a building project that will add a few more seats for an already large congregation, we can find the money for church planting. If we can find the money to support a parachurch soup kitchen or clothes bank, we can find the money to support a pastor in a church who could not otherwise afford to have one. If we can find the money for all sorts of things that – perhaps if we had an endless pot of resources might all have some merit to them – we can find the money for the kind of things that will see new churches established, older churches revitalised and the lost in unchurched areas given true and proper access to the gospel.
Tony Benn is quite right, if we can find the money to kill people, we should be able to find the money to help people. By the same token, if we can find the money to do things that won’t reach people with the gospel, we can find the money to do those things that will see people reached with the gospel. That isn’t to say those “lesser things” have no gospel value at all, but not all things are equal. I would rather our church looked less well decoarted and we established a new church plant than we had beautiful church decor but left an area entirely unchurched. That strikes me as a proper prioritising of resources. Perhaps we ought to give more thought to that.