All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.Acts 4: 32:35
These are the worst of times and the best of times, Dickens would perhaps have said. Our Christian desire to improve the economic, justice, social well-being, environment, education or political circumstances of people may seem an even greater challenge than it was say two months ago. And whilst this is certainly true in many ways, I’ve learned over the years of having some involvement in the aftermath of war and famine, that whilst hope is not always immediately visible to people, lift a few charred beams, move a few bricks, and humanity comes face to face with its creator in a deeply profound fashion.
The graphs and bells of Wall Street may seem very distant to those who have small business, let alone to those who make up the Gig economy, pensioners, the homeless, and yet at times like this such distant connections become very real. The Gospel has never allowed us to totally separate our business / employment from our faith; Christ engages our whole lives. Paul had a social enterprise of tent making, money is not sinful, just its misuse.
So whilst watching the Chancellor talk in terms of £350b payouts, I was struck that there is in fact a much larger body of funds to mobilise; the church. If we think strategically, we can choose to face the crisis in our communities, whether that be in a small village in Cornwall or in inner city Sheffield, with hope. If we mobilise the resources that we hold, ‘As One’, and make this the time to sow into our communities, God can do even more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Practically how may this look? These are just some thoughts that we got chatting as a family. Shop locally; the supermarkets will still be there after this, the small traders may not. For a very few, incomes will actually rise, so consider giving all of the surplus (not just £10%) away to those that you know have lost their jobs (a brown envelope at midnight stuffed with cash does the job). If you have a family and/or your income is not affected, think about all the things that you no longer will be able to do (gymnastics, art club, cinema trips etc) and consider giving what you save away. Keep paying the toddler group if you can, you’ll want it there when we come through this. Perhaps carry a bag of goodies in your car or buggy that you can spontaneously give to that homeless person whose place of isolation is the bus shelter. If your children (like mine I’m ashamed to say) have several packs of coloured pencils, post all but one through the doors of those you know may not have any (my six year old’s idea). Keep giving to the church, even when the doors are shut. Cook for people in isolation, even give away your stockpiles of loo roll to the elderly (we learned in Bangladesh that a jug of water and a bar of soap does nicely)!..ok maybe a bit far.
In the face of the economic crisis and the increased poverty that will result from this, the government can do only so much. If we can respond in faith and look upon our own resources as simply a means by which we can help others, the autumn will become a multicoloured spectacle of faith, hope and love, based upon the new relationships that we have built with those whose face we have seen often, but whose name we never knew before all this began.
And, if you are reading this and are yourself facing economic ruin, job loss and poverty as a result of this crisis, please ask for help. For as it the Father’s pleasure to give good gifts to his children, so it is our pleasure, as his church, to give gifts to you my friend. It really is.