We are now into the season of Lent and one of the traditional disciplines of Lent is giving to those who have need. Ever since Jesus suggested that his followers should sell possessions in order to give to the poor, charitable giving has been at the heart of how Christians have demonstrated their faith.
One expression of this at Christ Church is our support of organisations like Tearfund (our mission of the month for March) and Christian Aid (on whom we will focus in May). These organisations seek to do more than provide financial support, but also, through a combination of education and campaigning, to bring poverty itself to an end.
That is a big target, but in our 21st century world it should be achievable. Campaigning is important, because, if it is to happen, it will need action from those who hold political power.
I was concerned last month to see the appointment of a Secretary of State for International Development who has, on numerous occasions expressed scepticism about the value of foreign aid. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the fourth holder of this post in the last twelve months, has in the past responded to discussion about international aid with the comment ‘Charity begins at home’.
Despite what some think, this is not a biblical proverb. Having said that, it probably does have its origins in the Bible. In 1 Timothy 5:8, the writer Paul reminds Timothy that “whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This was written in the context of widows falling into poverty, because their children or grandchildren were not providing for them.
Paul’s first instruction to Timothy is that those members of the church whose mothers and grandmothers were in poverty, should support their family members. His second instruction was that when there was no family member to offer such support, then the church should do so.
So while we do have to ensure that we fulfil our responsibilities at home, we must look beyond, to those who have no-one to care for them, wherever in the world they may be.
So in hard times, let’s not simply pull up the drawbridge and look after ourselves, either as individuals or as a nation. Whether we follow Christ or not, not just in Lent, but at all times, we should all be looking to the needs of others and encouraging our government to do so as well.
Revd Andy Wilson
Vicar, Christ Church Portsdown
Priest-in-Charge, St John the Baptist Purbrook
Curate, Church of the Good Shepherd Crookhorn
Chaplain, Havant & Waterlooville FC