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Good News to the Poor

November 25, 2018

I recently found two quotes that made me think:

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Gandhi

“In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucius

Neither of these are from Christians but they fit so well with the Christian message that Jesus is good news for the poor and weak. A point Jesus himself made crystal clear when home in Galilee he spoke about himself by quoting from the prophet Isaiah, “Jesus was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read,

“The Lord’s Spirit
has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news
to the poor.

The Lord has sent me
to announce freedom
for prisoners,
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone
who suffers,
and to say, ‘This is the year
the Lord has chosen.’”
(Luke 4.17-19 CEV)

This in a way was Jesus giving his manifesto. His kingdom is one that will be ‘good news’ for the poor, the disabled (blind) and the sick. So as a follower of Jesus I too need to do all that I can in this world to make this come true, here and now. That is why my local churches are very involved in making Harleston a dementia-friendly town. We support the local Foodbank and act as a distribution centre. We run a pastoral scheme and have weekly activities for those that are lonely or in need. Together we support national and international charities and as individual Christians we do so much more.

All of this is said not to boast, because I know of many people outside of the church who do so much good. No, I consider such people kingdom allies, these are just given as examples of how we are trying to live those words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come”. How could we possibly do that without sticking to Jesus’ manifesto promises about what that kingdom should look like.

My initial comment should therefore have said, I recently found three quotes that made me think:

  • “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Gandhi
  • “In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucius
  • “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor.” Jesus quoting Isaiah

Whichever quote strikes you the most, the message is the same, we have to care for the poor and the vulnerable, as well as about the rich and powerful. It is also important, to me at least, to try to bring as much of this key Christian message into the way my country works. It is by values like this that I judge political parties and candidates for public office. Because it is these values alone that are of real worth, not the colour of the rosette, or the skill of the publicity machine.

So with this in mind I looked into the health of my country and was reminded of some very uncomfortable truths. Truths that say that I am warm, comfortable and reasonably well off while many in my country suffer for no fault of their own. Looking around I have seen a rise in homelessness and the Foodbank that I support is facing record pressures on its resources. Recent academic studies have only increased my concern that austerity over the last 10 years has increased the vulnerability of families with children to evictions and repossessions, resulting in more and more people needing to turn to their local authority for emergency housing assistance.

These studies point to increasing food insecurity, increasing unemployment, poverty, homelessness and reductions in life expectancy and mental health. All of this linked to reductions in health coverage and restricting access to care. In 2017 the UK experienced the largest annual rise in its mortality rate for 50 years. The result of a trend starting in 2011, reversing a steady decline from the late-1970s onwards. This rise has been particularly large among the elderly.

(A European overview is avaliable here: https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/27/suppl_4/18/4430523 and Warwick University has collated many studies relating to the UK here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/research/centres/chrp/spendingcuts/resources/reports-uk/)

It is true that we can only live within our means, but I work and pray for austerity not to hit the most vulnerable hardest. The poor, the disabled, and the elderly are often the least able to cope with cuts to their income, but this same research has shown that they have taken the greatest burden. While the richest 1% are richer than ever.

  • “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Gandhi
  • “In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.” Confucius
  • “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor.” Jesus quoting Isaiah

Whichever quote strikes you the most, it is absolutely clear that these social ills are spiritual ills. They are symptoms of a deep sickness in our society, caused by a lack of love and compassion, a lack of Spirit, and a soiled soul. It is the duty of every Christian who prays, “Thy Kingdom Come” to get stuck into the the job of cleaning the soul of a nation.

“The Lord’s Spirit has come to you and me, because he has chosen us to tell the good news to the poor.” Care to join me?

2 Comments
  1. Verona permalink

    Amen!

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