There’s a political debate about the treatment of the least in our society and the need for austerity. 

About how many and how much migrants deserve to be helped. 

I think Jesus is clear on these things, but others read the same texts and come to different political viewpoints, I respect that and this is not the place for party politics. 

I’ve been at public school, at comprehensive, I’ve lived in a economically deprived nation, in a wealthy one, in the inner city, in commuter-ville, in the ‘burbs and a rural idyll. I don’t claim to understand or know everything about these different places and spaces, but it has given me some insight that others may not have experienced. In every circumstance and every environment one is surrounded by those who have more and those who have less. Economics are often obvious, but inner needs, social, healthy, spiritual needs can be less obvious. 

I learned to give and tithe early on in my Christian life and often gave to charities and groups around the world. There are so many causes and needs and calls on us as privileged westerners. “We should give, we feel better for giving and it’s good for our mental health and good for the world and it’s a gospel imperative.”

One Christmas I asked for no gifts, figuring that I had more than enough. If people really wanted to give I pointed them to the buying of animals for impoverished families, I’ve known many others do the same.

But, and this is a big but, charity started to be bad for me. 

I had to give an interview to some media students and a channel 4 documentary team about benefits and charity as an ‘inner city vicar,’ I got a steady stream of desperate people and con artists to my door, (learning to discern the correct responses), the needs in front of me started to shout at me. 

Giving to the faceless, nameless, photogenic suffers via big organisations had become bad for me. I was insulated against involvement. It made me feel ok, but I wasn’t involved. 

This lead to a moment to rethink and repent. 
This week two friends have suggested direct action rather than protest in the face of cuts to welfare etc.  

If we are really incensed by the cuts to benefits, why don’t we find a disabled person or a NEET and use our time, money, status, influence or support to change their life. Not as benefactors, but friends. 

If we believe that the state should step back, then who are supporting in their journey to “pull the self up by their bootstraps?” 

Giving to someone face to face is moving experience. It builds character on both sides, it changes the giver more than the receiver. It holds a mirror up to any ulterior or control motives within our generosity. It builds community. It opens our eyes and hearts. 

Eventually, after real relationship is born, Christian communities should know about each other’s needs and assets. We can’t share resource between each other well without knowing what we each have or need. We can’t serve the least last and lost well, without knowing what our shared capacity is. True Family knows each other. Knowing is intimacy, into-me-see. 

This isn’t the first step, it’s a gradual process as we learn to love befriend and know each other. 

I’m not advocating anyone stopping giving to ‘Charity.’ I sent my kids in with money for Sport Relief this morning. But we should be giving to someone we know. Everyone has a need, we are all the answer to somebodies prayer. Who can you befriend, who is struggling? 

Do we walk around eyes closed, headphones on,not seeing the faceless, countless multitudes? 

Or will we stop for the one in front of us, the one made in the image of God, the one who Jesus died for and make them our priority until they are in a place where we are mutual supportive friends, members of the same family of God. 

Charity starts at home, it starts in the open home, it starts with the person who you can put an arm round and from that place we are all transformed,  the kingdom comes and from there we can extend our charity around the world as our hearts beat with the rhythm of heaven and we direct the King’s resources to the places of desperation in response to His leading.