I am the 551,948,230 richest person in the world! Now that may not sound like much to you but here’s what it would look like on a shrunk-down scale (according to globalrichlist.com):It’s pretty impressive really. I live in the 7th most powerful country in the world and enjoy more political freedom than billions of people around the globe. I have access to an economy worth more than £7 trillion and I can shop for whatever I want, whenever I want. All this is to say that despite the fact I am a ‘poor indebted student’, I am actually a powerful decision-maker, money- spender and resource-holder; and I’ll bet you are too.
And yet… We seem to have messed up somewhere along the way. Outstanding personal debt in the UK stood at £1 trillion pounds at the end of February 2012. The average UK family spends more on chocolate in a year than a cocoa farmer earns in a year. In January 2012, McDonald’s published a worldwide turnover of $27 billion; selling more than 75 hamburgers per second. And it’s not just our spending habits; every year UK households throw away the equivalent of 3½ million double-decker buses worth of rubbish, a queue which would stretch from London to Sydney and back.
We’ve already established why it’s important to care about our connection with others, and the effect our consumption has on the world, so we should be confident in choosing to live in a way that upholds these values. But when we think of ‘responsible living’, how many of us are guilty of picturing the recycling-fanatic, peace-marching, vegetable-growing hippy?
We tend to box this ‘responsibility’ idea into several restricting spaces. In other words, that we should recycle and shop Fairtrade. These are great things to do, but they’re not the only things. Instead of thinking of extra stuff we can do to add the ‘justice-element’ into our lives, how can we bring justice in to the things we already do? Where we save our money, the clothes we wear, the food we consume, the waste we produce, the books we buy, the list is endless. How can we manage our resources in a question that can take our normal, everyday, ordinary decisions and turn them into extraordinary examples of action fuelled by a desire for justice?
The call to responsible living is a scary one because it asks for everything. It’s relatively easy to buy fairtrade coffee, but how easy is it to completely rethink the way we spend our money? It’ll take some sacrifice on our part, as well as some time and brain-power. But it’s worth it. When we get our lives under control, we give ourselves the ability to invest in other people, in other things. We develop rhythms of justice that seep into everything we do, even the things that feel small and insignificant. Everything we do becomes an action that champions the poor and marginalised. We stir our souls to tap into a divine justice that sets the world free.