Few of us can feel happy about an economic system which treat folks as though they are cogs in a machine for making cash. Christianity, it is sometimes said, ought to be on the side of socialism because it believes in redistribution; well, it does, but what our socialist chums miss is the important bit – it us up to the heart of each of us to do that good thing. There’s no virtue in the State taking on what should be our duty, and anyone who has ever had to depend on the State knows the true meaning of the coldness of charity.
The Bible is not against rich men, as Mrs Thatcher was wont to point out, if the Good Samaritan hadn’t had any cash he couldn’t have helped the man set upon by bandits. But that was only half the story. I shouldn’t imagine that the priest and the Levite were on their uppers either, but they didn’t stop to help. Perhaps they thought it was none of their business? Perhaps they did not want to be defiled by blood? It was the outsider, the despised Samaritan whose heart was open to Grace and who did what he knew needed doing. It is that bit – the personal responsibility, and if necessary the personal sacrifice – which our society needs to recapture.
It is clear to most of us that the idea that if we just pay enough in tax to the state, the new Jerusalem is just an election or two away, is so much nonsense. It is the sinful and stubborn heart of man which helps create such misery, and it is only changing that which will work the oracle. This Christ taught us and this he knew. The poor are indeed always with us, but they are not separate from us, and we are charged with helping those who need our help.
It is precisely the fact that for a long time the Conservative Party has given the impression that the poor are an economic encumbrance that has helped make them unpopular in many quarters. No one possessed of any sense denies that our welfare state creates opportunities for some folk to ‘scrounge’, but most folk don’t, and it would help if our politicians rediscovered compassion. That’s not a call for the State to do more – it is precisely that which has led to this situation. It is when individuals get involved and give not only of their money but their time that things work best.
This, of course, is an uncomfortable option to many nowadays, but it is precisely for that reason that we should be getting involved. Like many churches, my own is, and what we encounter and do is far removed from what you read in the papers. If we, as Christians, can show our faith in action, then the rest will follow.
One of the things which marked out the early Church was the concern its members showed for the poor, and the way in which its members treated women and children; then, as now, Christians ran in a counter-cultural manner. In a culture like our own, where the only trinity is ‘me/myself/and I’, the work we can do for others marks us out as His. At that level we can forget doctrine and do His work.
Servus Fidelis said:
In total agreement.
The state’s responsibility is to get out of the way of those who are trying to create jobs and opportunities for people who want to work and are able and fit to work. As the scriptures say in 2 Thessalonians 3:10
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
Charity, and Christian duty or each of us is to take care of those who are not able to work or who cannot earn a living wage. For the others, we can offer opportunities for education and learning skills to enable them to earn a living wage on their own. That type of giving leaves those who are being helped with their human dignity. Anything less than that turns them into parasites who demand more and more of their neighbor’s blood.
A state operating on these principles would encourage the people with money to succeed and by that success create opportunities for others to earn a living.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
Yes, it would be much better if the State tried to be a partner rather than a controller.
joseph elon lillie said:
“This Christ taught us and this he knew. The poor are indeed always with us, but they are not separate from us, and we are charged with helping those who need our help.”
I think this may be the most important line of this piece. If we can somehow understand that being “poor” and “rich” is not a classification but a temporary experience for beings of like class, we can then take down the boundaries that make it so hard for some of us to reach out.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
I think that is spot on, Joseph.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of the oppression of the poor that occurs in the welfare state IS the welfare state. By giving people just enough to keep them comfortable and quiet and ignorant, we are entrapping them in vicious environment and evil and grasping and irresponsibility and nurturing all of their worst inclinations. The Church should be speaking against this, and working to help people by really KNOWing them — something the State can never do.
Geoffrey RS Sales said:
Yes, I agree. Too often we make ourselves complicit in what is, in fact, a trap for the poor.