Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A ‘poor’ excuse

Guest blog by Tim Childs

We have seen in the last few months that the present coalition government has initiated cuts of all kinds, often to the detriment of the poorest and even the most vulnerable in society, and astonishingly at the same time introduced a tax break for millionaires who, if we’re honest, really don’t need any more.  

If you’re a Christian, what is the position you are supposed to take on these matters?  What if you are someone who is suffering as a result of these ideological cuts?  Should we accept what the ‘powers-that-be’ do and say, or should we challenge what we perceive to be injustice?  

These are tough questions, and who really has the answers anyway?  Have we gone too far in providing welfare, and has it become a lifestyle choice rather than a safety net? Is it only a problem when it’s poor, disabled and working class people who receive it, and not a problem when royals and peers in the House of Lords receive all kinds of benefits, subsidies and perks? Where do you stand on this?

As a Christian, and as someone who myself comes from a poor background, my view is that we should all be very careful how we judge other people, especially when those people are seen to be a problem in the way the poor and unemployed have recently been portrayed.  

If we’re honest, Jesus had more time for the ordinary people than He did for the great and the good; or for that matter, the particularly religious. 

Some Christian denominations have recently criticised the government for its attacks on the poor and also for the rhetoric and cruelty that often goes along with such attacks; certainly for its old trick of setting one group against another: in this case the working against those not working.  

Are these alarm bells to warn Christians that something isn’t right, or what exactly?  Is British society basically fair but occasionally unjust, or is it badly out of kilter?  

I believe that we live in a fallen world, and often even the supposedly ‘best’ societies reflect that fallen status; people are fallen and make mistakes and can even be downright evil. Systems are fallen and can be abused; democracy itself, although a very good idea in principle and sometimes even in practice, can be ignored and abused.  

No human or human system is ever going to be perfect. But what happens when people wilfully and even cruelly attack others, making them scapegoats for problems that the scapegoated didn’t create?

I have believed for a while that some of what passes for Christianity in Britain is more of a social religion than real Christianity; more about being a glorified social club for those who think they are better than everybody else, rather than a life-affirming, life-transforming and ultimately personal relationship with our Creator.  

I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t say it is the case with all Christians, but I think many use their faith as a mask of respectability or hide behind it to control and ruthlessly exploit other people, sometimes even in the name of religion.  

This is not the reason Jesus came to earth, nor is it Christianity as it should be practised. There is religion and the world ‘out there’ and there is an ‘inner reality’, the truth we hold in our hearts and the relationship we have – or should at least be working on – with Jesus.  

If a person is truly a Christian, and not using religion for their own ends or selfish agenda, sooner or later we will know them simply by what they do, as opposed to what they might say. It is up to us, then, as simple Christians who merely want to serve the Lord each day with a whole heart, to understand that sometimes our faith can be used by the ‘great and the good’ for their own purposes. Often these purposes have nothing to do with Christianity and nothing at all to do with God.

Click here to read more blog entries by Tim Childs.


  1. Some thoughts: we have absorbed the idea that it is the government's responsibility to solve these problems and as Christians we should therefore write our letters to our MPs so they should tackle these injustices. The government should provide for the poor, the government should provide education for our children, the government should look after our elderly family. I don't see Jesus saying the Romans/Sanhedrin should look after these groups - I see him saying love your neighbour, John the Baptist saying if you have 2 cloaks share with the person who has none, James saying pure religion is looking after orphans and widows. WE are called to make the change in our society, to reach out to those around us, to give of ourselves, our time, our money and most certainly our convenience to build a Kingdom of love not a perfect governmental system. Let us take up OUR responsibilities rather than shifting them onto the government or segment of society that isn't us (lazy poor or greedy rich).

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    2. You made some very good and salient points.

      Yes I agree with you, the government can't nor should do everything for us, but should they be attacking the most vulnerable whilst giving tax breaks to the already very wealthy? As a Christian, and an unemployed and relatively poor Christian at that, I still give to a number of charities and I donate coats and shoes and books from time to time to charity shops.

      We are indeed called to make a change in society, but how many people calling themselves Christians are really only Christians in name only, using religion as a mask to do unpleasant things or prosper at other people's expense? This has been a feature of British society for centuries.

      I personally would like to do more, but as much of my time is taken up just looking for work, and being genuinely diligent about this, and trying to kickstart a writing career that hopefully will see me earn a crust and take me off the dole, I just don't have the time or money. In the end, we can't blame the government for everything, whatever politics they are, but governments are ultimately made up of individuals and many of those individuals are supposed to have a conscience, some of them even claim to be Christians; at this present time I see no Christian compassion coming from the government at all. Isn't it our job as Christians at least to be concerned when those who rule us are causing rifts within society? Thanks for the insightful and thoughtful comment.

  2. Hi,

    The Christian Compassion should come from the church, we will be judged by the Father for what we do and give. It is not the sole responsibility of the govt to take care of the widows and orphans, it is the churches. Our churches should should set aside money and help the poor. The church that I used to go to before we moved, had a very large foodbank and we would allow people to get free food, but then if they wanted to continue to receive free food, we asked them to come along and become involved in learning how to budget their money, some said yes and some said no, to those who said no, we said bless you but no more food, because we want a relationship with you not just a service. Then we had people who said yes to the budgeting class and then we encouraged them to cancel their full sky TV package and spend that on food they said no. Poverty is no only about money but just as much about relationships and this is a real challenge and we need to be honest how hard is to really build meaningful relationships with people across the economic divide. We need the church need to do more before we ask the govt to do more.


    1. I grew up in poverty myself, and you have to understand that many poor people do not like the idea of being 'charity cases' whoever the money comes from, be it church or state or government or whatever you want to call it. But, push come to shove, most people would rather have help done impersonally and with no strings attached; help without the morals if you like. I understand what you say, but often many people in poverty, not all by any means, but some of those are living chaotic lives for one reason and another, and the last thing some people want to hear is a sermon when they are seeking help or food for themselves and their families.

      You wrote: 'Poverty is no only about money but just as much about relationships and this is a real challenge and we need to be honest how hard is to really build meaningful relationships with people across the economic divide.' No, poverty is also about a mindset too, and it's about people living in some cases badly and not budgeting what they have; some people do spend all their money on ciggies and booze and then complain they have no money for essentials and food, but this is only a small minority, believe me, I know.

      To bridge the economic divide, we also need to understand that the very credo of some people, indeed some governments, IS to create division and allow injustice and poverty to fester, to create the ground for the rich to prosper and everyone else to go to the wall, especially if they are poor. Some churches also are not interested in helping the poor, they are about the 'great and the good' and for the rich and privileged. I admire you and your church for helping people; we all need to hear that.

      Finally, often help comes from people who have no experience whatsoever of financial hardship, or what it is like to struggle in low wage jobs in sink estates; it is all academic. If churches and governments really want to tackle poverty head on, they need to talk to those who are poor or who have grown up in poverty, not Middle class academics who have only read about it or studied it at Oxford.

  3. Hi T-Childs,

    I have no idea what it is like to be poor, so I am the student in a big part of this dialogue. As Christians, we are called to relationship and community, easy words to type but fleshing this out must be very hard. As much as people want impersonal generosity or provision with no strings attached, I don't see that as the biblical way. I would love to see a church start a dialogue with the financial as well as relationally needy within their church and grow to understand and commit and see these people as gifts from the Father on being Him among us.

    Your right poverty is a mindset. I also have mindsets that limit the potential in my life. I have spent the last two years with a man who has so much emotional trauma in his life that he has needed extensive healing prayer for the wounds to heal in his soul. But for most people in our church really have no way to connect with this guys, he comes such a different culture and the only thing I have is the love of The Father for him, love changes people, not govt policy. Govt policy can in so many ways facilitate people transitioning from a life of subsistence to generosity. I probably, like you wish that the church would admit that they are really confused, selfish and unable to really love those different than ourselves, and this goes both ways, from the poor to the rich and from the rich to the poor. I would encourage you to look at:

    They have excellent resources, especially info about the relational economy. Peace to you and thanks for the chat. Tim

  4. I don't have much to add to that Tim, I expect we have slight differences of opinion because we come from different backgrounds. But the fact that you believe in helping those who are impoverished in some way is a good thing.

    It's certain that in many societies, Britain is no different, there are misunderstandings all around, and certainly as you say 'from the poor to the rich and from the rich to the poor.' and many other groups too. I look at the furore over Mrs Thatcher's death and the opinions about her and see that she is just one of many people and ideas that we all often disagree over.

    I will take a look at the link you gave me. Thank you for the dialogue; it is in talking to each other that we see we aren't so different after all. :~)