There has been a lot of talk recently about Benefits and the ‘reforms’ that are coming into place. Thousands of people are being adversely affected and most of them are vulnerable. The current challenge to Iain Duncan-Smith to live on £53 per week (the new low) is at least amusing, and in reality sobering. If nothing else it serves to show the inequality in our country. Not many of us could manage on that. But it’s £52 more than many people get in the world.
Have you ever considered that ‘Benefit’ is an interesting word to use? In this context it is about social welfare – support for those who need it; a redistribution of wealth. But ‘benefit’ shares its roots with ‘benediction’ or ‘blessing’. There is no doubt that this money can be a blessing to those who receive it. ‘Benefit’ also seems to be about ‘enhancing’ and ‘positive outcomes’.
It is a gross generalisation but it seems to me that many of those who support these ‘reforms’ (aka ‘cuts’?) seem to start from a position that sees them less in those terms and more in terms of ‘propping up’, ‘dependency’ and ‘disincentive’. I imagine that there are some people who conform to those stereotypes. But there are many others who would consider the Benefits to be a blessing, an enhancement of their life, a stepping stone to a positive outcome.
If these ‘reforms’ are to remain for the foreseeable future, it is up to God’s people to ensure that we are benefits to others. The Acts 2 church used the resources God gave them to see that there was nobody in need. We generally assume that this refers to the church community, but Luke is not that explicit. There is ambiguity here. I suspect that they were equally generous to anyone who was in need. They saw every person as someone created by God, loved by God: significant and important. In many ways they were trying to put into practice the principles behind God’s Jubilee that was never implemented by his people.
We have all benefited from God’s love expressed in Jesus. This Easter we have remembered the cross and resurrection once again and reflected that it was ‘for you and me’. So what benefits can we share with others? Benefits need not be monetary. They can be in the form of encouragement, time, listening, friendship, DIY skills, advice, presence… God’s love incarnate in us.
Benefit from God, benefit others.