The expenses scandal

I do most of the shopping for the retreat house we live in and serve. This is because I spend less money than anyone else does! At the end of every month I give the treasurer receipts and he repays me the money. It has been like this for twenty years. In this way and others, money that does not belong to me passes through my hand.

It was with some horror the other day that the treasurer pointed out to me that I had made a claim for twenty pounds worth of dog food. He did suggest it could go under the heading of security. But this would not be allowable in the case of our dogs!

I for one do not sit in judgement over the MPs who have been ritually exposed in the press. I make mistakes and most of them are to my advantage. I can easily see how a paper clip becomes a pen, a pen a desk, a desk an office and the office a building. It is all a matter of degrees. It is the same in the Christian life: carefulness in small things leads to carefulness in great things. It is heaven and not just the devil that is found in the detail. Before any reader sits in judgement over those accused of corruption, they had better check their tax return.

We are to seek, find and serve God in all things. If we can exert close control over one area in life we will be able to exert it in another. If we can exercise financial responsibility on behalf of others with total honesty and integrity even in a small way – like buying a few items of shopping for someone else -then we will be able to exert self-control on a bigger scale.

The attention to motive and action in our lives is a matter of spiritual life and death; the more aware we are, the more alive we are. This is the wisdom of Jesus. The same holds true for the use of bad language. It is the same with the

control of appetites of all kinds – get a grip on one and self-discipline is easier in another.

This is why there is no separation between public and private morality (as is now supposed). The real concern for me in the question of parliament is this: if someone can’t control their entertainment budget, how can they control the national budget? I did not deliberately claim for dog food; it was a careless mistake, ‘care’ being the very important operative word. If I were to reflect on my false expenses claim, I could say I was very busy, that the accounts were done in a hurry. I could say that Tim the treasurer trusts me and knows I wouldn’t fiddle the expenses, and therefore it was not so important to prove I was right. It was an ‘it will do’ situation. The highest standards were not demanded nor required.

That will not do in the Christian life. We are called to be holy because the God we love and serve is holy. Furthermore, there are no secrets from God. God knows the desires of our hearts and the hidden actions of our lives. Total honesty in absolutely everything is the best policy – even dog food.