Financial poverty doesn’t mean I’m in deficit

Financial poverty doesn’t mean I’m in deficit

16 June 2017 by Alison Tsang in Debt and Financial Wellbeing.


A conversation with a priest recently brought into the spotlight something I’ve been pondering over for a while.

He told a tale of when he and his wife gave lodgings for a few weeks to a lady in his congregation who’d been abandoned by her husband with three small children and no recourse to public funds. During this time, a conversation took place about how much she had to live on. “£60 a month”, she said.

What was this priest’s response? Not the response I was expecting.

He asked her if, when she got back on her feet, she would consider being his church treasurer. Reasoning that if she was so adept with the money she had, then surely these are the skills you want in someone looking after the money of the church.

How we view those with little money is an interesting challenge and critique.

Those who live life taking care of every single penny, without access to additional buffers if they overspend on a Friday night or a Saturday shop, often have honed money and budgeting skills. Of course, this level of financial poverty isn’t a situation wished on anyone; but it’s been my experience that it’s invariably not something that could have been avoided if only they had “managed their money better”.

Are we missing a trick here? I want to suggest that we should be asking those who manage with less to pass on their talent. For they are often the ones who’ve learnt all the budgeting tricks in the book, have the insider knowledge of the cheapest places to buy various grocery items, are practiced in having to make money stretch further. Are they not the ones who we should give expert status to?

I remember running a community group talking about money, just after the financial crash of 2008. It was with a group of mums in a school in East London. I asked how the crash had affected them. I will never forget one mum’s response as her face lit up. “It’s great” she said. “I’m allowed to be poor now. All the other mums are doing what I’ve done for years, shopping round, going to Lidl and getting bargains in the market. I can join in their conversations now without the shame.”

The shame she felt stopped her from sharing this vital skill set to her community: that of how to bring up children on a low income. If only she’d been empowered rather than feeling she had to hide it away.

Perhaps the first step is to recognise the gifts and talent that we have in our midst. It’s, first of all, a rebadging of ‘expert’ from those who have a public platform and it’s about releasing them into our churches, our communities and the Kingdom.

So where’s the story at for the lovely lady and her three children? Well, by God’s grace - and a whole lot of church support- she managed to find stable housing, was given leave to remain, is in a decently paid job, and her children are thriving at school.

Oh - and she’s now the church treasurer.

Launch of Just Finance London

20th, 26th & 27th September 2017

Helping local churches to engage faithfully and effectively with issues of money, debt and credit in their communities.

Click Here for full details for this event.

Universal Credit Learning Day

Wednesday 11 October 2017, 9:30AM - 4:00PM

Understanding and supporting people through the biggest change to the benefit welfare system in a generation.

Click Here for full details for this event.

Alison Tsang

Alison Tsang

Alison heads up Compassionate Communities for the Diocese of London, particularly leading on issues around Financial Wellbeing, Modern Slavery & Refugees, and the Climate Crisis.

View all posts by Alison Tsang

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