Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Remember the Poor

I've just been listening to David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference giving promises about reduced tax for those 'who work hard'. Great! All of us who work hard would like to keep more of our hard-earned cash...but wait a minute: I also remember that in the bible we are told to remember the poor. Mr Cameron did remember them the other day when he spelled out how benefits would be reduced even further in order to reduce the national deficit. Three cheers for the poor who will pay the price so we - the comparatively rich - will have tax cuts!

In Leviticus 19 God gives explicit laws about how to provide for the poor. He tells landowners - note that the bible doesn't condemn land ownership - not to harvest every last stalk of grain from their fields, but to leave some round the edge for the poor to glean. Why? Because this reflects the Lord's holiness, and his desire that no-one should be in want. There is no distinction made in the bible about types of poor people - the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor that our contemporary politicians talk about.

When Cornelius, the God-fearing Roman centurion, was granted a vision of angels he was told that "Your prayers and your gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." He was commended for remembering the poor.Later on, when St Paul was sent out by the church on mission, the only stipulation laid on him was that 'he should remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do' (Galatians 2:10).

Now, you could argue that this has nothing to do with national budgets. Yes, you could argue that as there was no such thing as a national welfare budget until very recently - certainly not in biblical times. It was up to individuals to remember the poor and help them out of their own money. You could argue that if tax payers keep more of their own money they are then free to give to charities that help the poor. I'm not sure if unredeemed human nature would do that as a priority. The problem I have is this: the fact that we DO have a welfare budget means that the poor are a necessary concern of the national budget, of government spending and political decisions. The way the poor are singled out for worse treatment by some politicians (who obviously have an eye on next year's election) makes me feel uncomfortable and makes me question whether I could vote for a party that espouses the sort of  policy that will take even more away from those who have hardly anything already.

In the meantime, support your local food bank - those who are 'food poor' need them more and more.