Some things never change.
Whatever page of the past you turn to — from ancient history to this week’s newspaper — you’ll find the problem of poverty. This Anti-Poverty Week, we’re looking at the situation in Australia, and how today, nearly 3 million people live below the poverty line.
In first century Palestine, most of the population lived a subsistent life, meaning that they farmed to survive, earning just enough to feed, clothe and house their family. Throw in Roman occupation and oppression, and it’s easy to see how many people spent their lives just fighting to survive. Life was pretty tough. But into the situation stepped the biggest advocate for the poor the world has ever known.
It’s easy to see the stats and be disheartened — why haven’t we fixed it?
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.’ [Luke 6: 20-21]
Jesus made a point of loving people in poverty. There are over 300 passages related to the poor and needy in the Bible. It’s a big deal to God: both what He thinks of the poor, and how we should respond.
We do need to be careful about drawing direct comparisons between the first and twenty-first century. We’ve come a long way in creating laws to stamp out oppression, helping those unable to work, and providing healthcare to those who can’t afford it.
But the fact remains: In Australia, there are people living in similar conditions to the poorest during the time of Jesus.
So in twenty-first century Australia, what’s the answer?
Walk the walk
Having a heart for the poor is one thing. But how to put that into action? We can read the stories, hear the news, and see people living in poverty all around us. But what should we do?
The book of James doesn’t beat around the bush - it challenges readers to put their money where their mouths are:
‘If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ [James 2: 5-7]
As we spend time looking at poverty, we need to hear that challenge. If our heart breaks for the plight of the poor, and we’re moved, but don’t do anything about it, what good is it? All the well-wishing in the world won’t calm the storms for Aussie families struggling to make ends meet.
But just tackling the physical stuff isn’t the answer either. Helping people out of debt might break the chains of financial stress. But as Christians, we know true freedom comes from a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, what’s the answer? As Christians, how does one truly serve the poor?
It turns out, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He established the very institution we need to plant ourselves in the heart of a community, and like a city on a hill, go out to our community as one body, to reach the people that need practical help – motivated by the love of Jesus.
The answer: The Church.
CAP believes Jesus created the Church to continue what He started: to serve the poor, to save the lost and to point people to His good news. That’s why CAP exists: to equip a movement of churches to carry out that mission: to serve and include the poor, while confidently proclaiming Jesus.
Everything CAP does is in partnership with local churches, right at the heart of their communities. CAP resources, equips, and trains them to do what Jesus called us to do. Through CAP Debt Centres, the church is stepping into the homes of some of the poorest and most desperate people in society, offering them a practical solution, and sharing the love of Jesus.
Through the CAP Money Course, churches are trained to deliver courses on money management; and provide world-class tools to individuals wanting to get a grip on their savings.
Some things never change. Jesus said ‘the poor will always be among you’ – but CAP is here to help your church shine a light, offer hope and a solution. And sharing the gospel remains central to it all.
Is your heart moved by the plight of the poor in Australia? Find out how you can bring transformation as a Life Changer.