The myth of the undeserving poor

The most challenging book I read in the last year is also the title of this article. It’s a book written as a Christian response to poverty in Britain today.

The media rhetoric in austerity Britain has been to categorise the poor into deserving and undeserving, strivers and skivers, hard working and scrounging. Statistics are pumped out and marginal cases sensationalised to make it look like the benefit system is funding lavish lifestyles for many.

Poverty in the UK is complex and actually has four distinct elements – the obvious economic poverty; relational poverty where some lack a family or community support network to help; aspirational poverty where there is a lack of hope or capacity to extricate themselves from their current situation and then spiritual poverty – not knowing the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the glorious Father.

The Church has always been at the forefront of dealing with all those four types of poverty. Facing up to poverty individually and corporately is a complex business – it challenges our culture, lifestyles, busyness, assumptions and comfort zones. Some get angry and defensive, some give money and hope that is all that is required. Some are overcome with compassion and identification. Some get taken for a ride and some give until it hurts.

I do encourage you to buy and read “The myth of the undeserving poor” and think and pray how you individually and your Church community can help alleviate all poverty. It’s available online at The Myth of the Undeserving Poor – A Christian Response to Poverty in Britain Today

Andy Moyle, The Gateway Church

Defending the poor

Imagine this. You’re walking through the market one day and in the distance you can hear a growing commotion. The sound of animals charging, birds flapping, coins flying, tables crashing, traders shouting… and one voice above them all. Jesus, armed with a whip of cords, brimming with righteous anger at the injustice around him. We see this picture in the Bible

You see, these traders preyed on the poor, selling overpriced doves to people who couldn’t afford bigger sacrifices, forcing punters to use temple currency, exchanged at extortionate rates.

Two thousand years later and you have to ask two questions. Firstly: do the poor get a just deal? Is it just that the Foodbank is the town’s fast-growing charity? Is it just that they distributed 26 tonnes of food in the last year – almost as much as in the previous two years combined? Is it just that people rely on the generosity of friends because nobody can give them a straight answer about their benefit claim? Is it just that someone who can’t afford £175 for a washing machine has little option but to pay £7 a week for three years (that’s £1,092 in total)? Is it just that human trafficking – that’s slavery – exists? And may well exist in a town (or even a street) near you?

Secondly, what’s our response? The Bible tells us “open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor”. If you have any kind of a voice – a vote, a group of friends, a position of influence, a place on a voluntary committee, a Facebook or Twitter account – think: how can you use your voice? To speak up for the 2,000 people illegally trafficked into the UK each year? To speak up for those trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty?

Now, I’m not suggesting you go into a well-known rent-to-own retailer and start pulling plasma-screen TVs off the walls. But consider the world immediately around you and consider how you can be the voice for people who don’t get to be heard.

Andy King, The Gateway Church