If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 

2 Corinthians 8:12-15 

It is true that Paul was talking here about charity among believers and not compulsory taxation by the state, but there is no reason to discount this principle in the context of tax and the distribution of resources. The communities Paul took the ‘collection’ from and the receiving Christians in Jerusalem will not have known each other: all they had in common was their faith in Jesus. This was enough to tie them together in solidarity (with this encouragement from Paul), acknowledging that the poorer Christians in Jerusalem – most likely suffering from local crop failure and famine – needed their help.  

Paul’s plea was necessary because for whatever reason, the wealthy Corinthians were reluctant to contribute. He reminds them of a thread running throughout the entirety of Scripture that worship and justice go hand in hand; if we know God, we will share our resources and take care of the poor. 

The UK faces this challenge today. What are the ties that bind us together as a nation? Are citizenship or patriotism strong enough concepts to engender this kind of solidarity? Perhaps the answer is in applying the Christian concept of the common good, where we understand our flourishing is bound up in the flourishing of others, and recognise that we are dependent on one another, our communities, the state and the services it provides, and the economy that enables it. 

In late 2023, 4.2 million households reported having foregone essentials such as food and energy. Food banks should not be necessary in the world’s 6th wealthiest economy. But this reality is made possible by growing inequality: in 2022, incomes for the poorest 14 million people fell by 7.5%, whilst incomes for the richest fifth saw a 7.8% increase. By 2023, the richest 50 families in the UK held more wealth than half of the UK population.   

There are several factors contributing to this, including the role of inheritance, the nature of the property market, and lower rates of taxation on wealth through property and investments (capital gains tax) than income through work. A good first step would be to boost the incomes of the poorest through uprating benefits, but we need to also challenge these long-term trends that encourage inequality.   

This means looking at taxation, and who is expected to contribute to the common good. We do have a progressive tax system in the UK, but the Government could raise up to £60 billion by reforming the way it taxes wealth – including introducing a wealth tax of 1-2% on assets over £10 million. Such measures are overwhelmingly popular: 65% of those asked in a recent poll supported equalising tax rates on income from wealth with income from work, while 53% supported a high earner’s minimum tax rate of 35% for anyone earning over £100,000 per year.  

This would not only be in keeping with Paul’s argument for those with plenty (whose wealth has increased dramatically amidst COVID and the cost-of-living crisis) to supply for those in need, but it would also help to meet the crisis of funding in public services that those with less wealth rely on most. We don’t just need more money in our pockets – we need good education for our children, a functioning NHS, and local services that leave us less reliant on emergency charity. Polling has shown that people support even small raises on their own taxation if it pays for better public services – including millionaires

So, let us not accept that poorly distributed growth or austerity with tax cuts are the only options for policy on tax and spend. Following Paul, let us aim for a more equal economy, where those with plenty can supply for those in need. 

Questions you could ask your candidates: 

  • The majority (64%) of people in the UK would be more likely to vote for a political party if it was committed to higher taxes on the wealthiest, in order to raise revenue for the NHS and public services. Will your party take this step? If not, what is your strategy for fixing our public services? 
  • How will you listen to and include the voices of marginalised communities if you are elected as our MP? 

You could also use Christians Against Poverty’s constituency tool to email your candidates about their plans to address poverty: https://capuk.org/get-involved/campaign-with-us/write-to-your-local-prospective-parliamentary-candidate-ppc  

This is the second in a three-part series on money, fairness and climate debates in this election. For more on the theme of inequality and taxation in this election, download our 2024 General Election Briefing.

You can watch our event to launch the briefing below.

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