Posted: 09 April 2014

Lent: Poverty of resources

Have you used our BenevoLent app? It's a fun tool that allows you to calculate how giving up chocolate, clothes or anything, really, can help our work supporting vulnerable young people.

This Lent we’re offering challenging resources to help you pray, reflect and discuss what poverty means for children and young people. Here, Rt Revd David Walker reflects on the poverty of resources.

Poverty of resources

There is a repeated refrain through the Old Testament that God makes care for ‘the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger’ a primary duty for those who would be his people. The call is directed particularly strongly to all who hold authority in society. 

It's taken up by Jesus in the Great Judgement scene of Matthew 25 and in his elaboration in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) of who exactly is the neighbour whom we are called to love as we love ourselves. 

That duty is brought into focus by a Britain where, in 2014, people are queueing up at the doors of the 400 plus foodbanks, mostly formed and led by churches. The powerful poster by Church Action on Poverty, ‘Britain isn't Eating’, hit a nerve when it was released before Christmas. 

In Genesis 18 Abraham gets from God an agreement that Sodom and Gomorrah will be spared if they contain just ten righteous men. It sets a firm standard that even if it is only a small minority who are innocent they should not be punished for the sins of the guilty. By contrast, much political discourse around poverty today implies that it is preferable for many innocent to suffer in order to catch the feckless few. Three out of every four of those hit by the benefits cap are children. 

Recent research by The Children's Society shows that many children in poor families are suffering the effects of cold in homes where a blunt choice - eat or heat? – is a daily decision. The bedroom tax means that children from broken homes are likely to lose contact with one of their parents. When parents split and one leaves the family home, the bedroom tax means that they are unable to have a spare room for their children to stay over and consequently relationships can break down.

The majority of under-25s receiving housing benefit, which politicians are considering withdrawing from them, have dependent children of their own. How might it change both our own views and the wider debate if we recall that children are far more likely than adults to live in poverty?

How does this sit alongside the gospel message of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves?

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By Rt Revd David Walker - Guest bloggers

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