Thursday 11th May Hope for a world that actively works for peace (part 2).
Reading St Matthew 25:35-40
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”
And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Jesus’ disciples are unlikely to have had great riches to give away. This mindset of giving must be for everyone, regardless of our status or relative wealth. If we are to apply this on a broader societal level, we might want to recognise the comparative wealth of the UK compared with many countries in the world.
Even so, too many people in the UK are oppressed by the current increase in the cost of living. Relieving this oppression is a duty both for us personally and as a society.
But on an international scale, the UK is blessed. We can celebrate that the UK has overcome the economic trauma inflicted by Covid-19 in 2020. In common with all rich economies, our economic output is now above pre-Covid levels. This is not the case for many nations. For those with fragile and conflict-affected economies, output this year will be 7.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic trend. For small island states, it will be 8.5 per cent below.
Even so, when Covid hit, the UK government decided to reduce our contribution to international aid. This vital support would have been reduced in absolute terms anyway, if we had kept to our pre-Covid pledge of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. The UK Government proceeded to reduce aid to highly stressed countries further by setting the UK aid budget at 0.5 per cent of gross national income. And although the UK is on the road to economic recovery, aid spending still has not been restored.
Jesus’ words were about principles rather than proportions. As individuals, our faithfulness to God should be born out in our character, which is, at least in part, indicated by our response to those in need. To what extent might this teaching be extended to the character of a nation?
Lord, Jesus saw in each person that he met, not their position, status or relative wealth, but rather a child of God. Give me the same attitude to those I encounter today. Help me to work for a world that shares wealth and strives to meet the basic physical needs of every child of God, wherever they may live. In your precious name, Amen.
Steve Hucklesby is a Policy Adviser with the Methodist Church and helps to coordinate work around international affairs for the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).