As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy…Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:1-2, 8
These two Bible passages tell us how one person living in poverty, and another person with excessive wealth, behave with their money. In both cases we see generosity, but from the widow, who we would now call ‘financially excluded’ we see a dutiful, faithful, and quiet giving. If she really “put in all she had to live on,” then her next thoughts might have turned to how she could now afford to eat or pay for other essentials! Zacchaeus, on the other hand, would probably count as a member of the ‘super-rich’ elite and, until his encounter with Jesus, had been complicit in a system of corruption and exploitation in the service of the occupying empire, and for his own benefit.
We are all called to think about how we act with our money, but for those who are financially excluded for a variety of reasons, making choices with our money can be hard, if not impossible.
Like the widow with her small but precious offering and Zacchaeus the wealthy tax collector, people’s status and background often shape the choices they can make with their money – either today or in the future. Over a million people in the UK don’t have access to a bank account. Millions more don’t have access to financial services like overdrafts, insurance and credit, having to pay eye-watering interest on small loans to cover things like energy bills or a broken washing machine. And many of these people find themselves with no choice but to go to illegal money lenders like loan sharks.
People are financially excluded for all kinds of reasons – they might not be able to access a physical bank branch (34% of which have closed between 2012 and 2021) and may not be confident in, or have other barriers to accessing digital banking. People living in deprived areas, disabled people and those from particular ethnic groups all face higher levels of financial exclusion, which can contribute to further financial vulnerability and poverty, as well as having an impact on mental health and wellbeing.
The JustMoney Movement has joined a coalition of charities, campaigning groups and responsible finance organisations to call for change – a new Fair Banking Act to tackle financial exclusion. And the public support us.
In research out this week, 68% of people think it’s unfair that some people get different levels of service from banks because of their status or background. Nearly 7 in 10 would support a new law that forces banks to report on how equally they provide services to people from different backgrounds or status. Fair and equal access to vital services like affordable lending, cash and local bank branches has become an increasingly high profile issue over the last year: the public is looking to Government to take action to address financial exclusion.
We want a Fair Banking Act to solve the problem, so that banks have to measure and publicly disclose the impact of their provision, and work with specialist organisations – like Community Development Finance Institutions, credit unions and mutuals – to improve it. Check out the demands of the Fair Banking for All campaign in more detail here Fair banking for all – Finance Innovation Lab.
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