the bloggage where I get a bit political…

Warning. This bloggage may start off a bit warm and fluffy but it has teeth!

Tomorrow I will be performing some of my tricks for a party for people who are being blessed by the local Christians Against Poverty team. They are great people, and so are the CAP team! CAP works “to lift people out of debt and poverty. We offer free debt counselling through a network of 239 debt centres based in local churches.” (from their website)

Earlier this week there was a debate in Parliament on a motion…

“That this House notes that the number of people using foodbanks provided by the Trussell Trust alone has increased from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000 since April this year… and further calls on the Government to bring forward measures to reduce dependency on foodbanks, including a freeze on energy prices, a water affordability scheme, measures to end abuses of zero hours contracts, incentives to companies to pay a living wage and abolition of the under-occupancy penalty.”

There was also call for an inquiry into the circumstances that had led us to this situation in our society.

20131219-221301.jpgRegrettably, or (in my opinion shamefully) the Government voted against this motion. There were some scenes during the debate that made me ashamed. Government MPs shouted, ‘hooted’ and ‘brayed’ as the motion was being put (it was proposed by Labour). Responses from the Government were not delivered by the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith (who left before the debate had ended) and were at best evasive and at worst wrong (Esther McVey the Government Minister in her response said that there were only 60,000 Foodbank users, for example). Worst of all was when MP’s on the Government benches were actually laughing out loud when a Labour MP was saying that some people were so poor that they were fighting over the discounted items in supermarkets. The Mirror newspaper got rather upset.

The motion was defeated. If you want to know who voted against it, there’s a list here. I am sad to see that my local MP, Sir Bob Russell, was among them. (For clarity and by way of balance I would like to make it clear that he was not involved in the behaviour above, and is a supporter and Trustee of our local Foodbank. His reasons for voting against the motion were to do with the party political nature of the motion.)

The official line from the Government was to ‘welcome’ the rise in Foodbanks. And that rather missed the whole point of the debate. Yes, it is good that people are rising to meet the challenges of poverty and debt in our society (and many are Christians). But rather than welcoming the rise in charitable support why isn’t our Government addressing the causes of this increased poverty? And if there were some aspects of the motion that the Government felt they could not support, why not put in an amended motion that at least addressed some of the issues or promise to do some things to address the issues raised?

If an MP’s house had a gas leak would they open the window to get rid of the smell of gas or would they sort out the problem at source? Well, in my personal opinion, something stinks in our society and those who can do something about it seem content that charities just open the windows and decided not to address the leak.

This is not a party political issue. To amend something I have said before on this bloggage –  when Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you” the correct response is not to jeer, bray, shrug your shoulders and blame someone else it’s to join forces with those who say, “Challenge accepted!” and do something about the causes of poverty as well as treating the symptoms.

Be blessed, be a blessing

of camels and needles

You’d almost think I have some sort of plan for this blog (only ‘almost’). Yesterday I wrote bloggerel about grace, based on Jesus saying to a rich young man, “You lack one thing…”

I wrote that I would come back to the passage itself and today that’s my intention. You can find the passage in Luke 18:18-30.

In the context of Luke’s gospel this passage comes as part of a series of encounters Jesus had with different people where he confronted contemporary concepts of ‘greatness’ and how God views us differently to the way that humans look at each other. It seems to me that the rich young man who approached Jesus wanted him to validate his ticket into heaven. He reckoned he was good enough to get into God’s good books and, to the outside observer, he would have been a prime candidate. He was a good man (notice that he called Jesus ‘good’ and perhaps wanted him to reciprocate). He was rich, which was (and is?) seen as a sign of God’s blessing on him.

But what he lacked was the ability to put God first in his life. He was religiously righteous, but it was a skin deep religiosity that was not bearing fruit in his life. He knew about God but he did not know God. He was living for himself – keeping the law – but failed to sense God’s heart. Why did Jesus tell him to give all his money to the poor? It was not just to see if he would let go of his money and the hold it had on him – if that was the case Jesus could have told him to give the money to anyone. It was to see if he shared God’s love and compassion for the poor and needy and if he was willing to do something about it.

DESCRIPTION: Man lying trampled on the ground, camel walking off CAPTION: AND THEN HE HAD A MUCH BETTER IDEA OF EXACTLY HOW HARD IT WAS FOR RICH FOLK TO GET INTO HEAVENThe narrative moves on from this point to a consideration of how to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Creative ideas have been offered in response to this including that it referred to a small gate into Jerusalem through which camels would only fit if they had been unloaded first (no archaeological or historical evidence of this) or perhaps a contemporary suggestion of using a liquidiser (apologies to the squeamish) but they did not exist in Jesus’ day. It is quite likely that he was using a contemporary idiom or joke about things that were difficult to make the point that it is incredibly difficult for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God.

Why? Because we are tempted to rely on our own resources much more readily than we are to rely on God. Because we can easily get distracted from God by ‘stuff’. Because we can become self-absorbed and fail to see things how God sees them (ignoring the poor, for example).

You will have noticed that I said ‘we’ in the last paragraph. Judging wealth purely on average income I am including in the ‘we’ anyone whose monthly wage is greater than £1000. That is the average wage of the world based on averaging all of the average wages. However only a quarter of the world’s population earn this amount. The average monthly wage of the poorest in the world is about £21. So you are part of the ‘we’ if you earn more than that a month.

How’s it looking for your camel? How’s your relationship with God? How’s your relationship with your wealth? 

Be blessed, be a blessing.