How would you feel if we asked you to give one of your favourite items of clothing to someone who was struggling financially?
Perhaps that dress that you bought from that great new boutique or that perfect-fit jacket that you got at a good price in the sales? Would there be an internal tug-of-war, knowing that itâ€™s the right thing to do â€“ even wanting to do it â€“ but reluctant to part with something you value or like so much? Perhaps youâ€™d decide in the end to give an older item of clothing that youâ€™d grown tired of?
In Luke chapter 3: 8, John the Baptist challenges the crowds surrounding him to â€˜Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.â€™ â€˜What should we do?â€™ ask the hapless crowd, possibly imagining that they would be required to pray or go to the synagogue more often. â€˜If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry,â€™ is Johnâ€™s totally unexpected response.
Perhaps some in the crowd would have preferred the â€˜pray more oftenâ€™ option.
The Bible is full of scriptures that challenge our natural default towards self and self-preservation, and invites (even commands) us to instead live authentic lives of faith, that put the needs of others – particularly the poor and vulnerable – first. In a climate where there are now debates here in the UK over the rights and wrongs of ring-fencing the overseas aid budget and changes to the benefits system, letâ€™s ask God to bless us, so that we can be a blessing to others. Let us live counter-cultural lives like those of BCTâ€™s project partners, that refuse stultifying self-preservation, but instead embrace every opportunity to give, love, share, encourage, uplift and to do good, because he has been so good to us.