This coursework topic is about effects on Christianity on behaviour, attitudes and lifestyles. In this assignment I will explain what Christians believe about their responsibility in helping the poor. This will include the ways in which a Christian should respond to the issues relating to world poverty and why they may respond this way. I will also explain an understanding that there may be a diversity of opinion among believers.
Some Christians believe that it is their responsibility to help poor people/ third world countries because the bible teaches that Christians have a responsibility to care for the poor.
Christians also believe God will judge them according to how much concern they have shown for the poor. Christian churches emphasise the need for people to share they have with developing countries. They believe this as world poverty could be solved if the world shared its wealth, but the problem is that people are not willing to give up their wealth. It is a well known fact that the resources in the world are unequally shared out.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The bible teaches people that they will never have a proper relationship with god if they care too much for their possessions and are now willing to sell to the poor.
There are various bible passages that explain why Christians may believe that they have a responsibility to help the poor. For example (Luke 6:20) Jesus tells poor people that they are special to god ‘Blesses are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ this is important to Christians, as it shows the importance of poor people to God, so they may feel a responsibility to look after the poor, or they will never be accepted in the eyes of God.
The book of Amos is found in the Old Testament. The prophet Amos preached a message of social justice. He would tell people that unless they treated the poor and weak with care, God would send the terrible punishments. He also teaches that worship is not valued in the eyes of God if people are ignoring the poor. So Prophet Amos is also saying that it is a Christian’s responsibility to care for the poor. There is a parable that can be found in the Old Testament.
This gives a similar message to that of the prophet Amos. It is the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25) it says that the people will be separated into two great groups: sheep on the right hand and goats on the left, just like a farmer would. Those on the right would enter into the kingdom of god, whilst those on the left will be rebuked in anger, and left reminded of the duties that they failed to perform. These duties were looking after the poor and the sick. This is a morale for how god judges people who performs there duties and looks after the poor. This parable is told to make both a moral and religious point of view. The moral side is that it teaches people that they should look after people, and care for each other. The religious side is that God will not accept them and will punish them if they do not do there responsibilities by looking after the poor and unwell.
There is an organisation called Christian aid, and this is an organisation that puts these teachings into practice. Christians are working to help others in third world countries; they care for the poor and needy in numerous ways. These include:
1. Helping the poor to help themselves- out of hunger malnutrition disease and lack of knowledge.
2. Clean water- Christian aid had helped to supply piped water to many villages.
3. Animals and tools have been provide
4. Improvement of medical supplies
5. Providing jobs
6. Helping with education and training
So in Christians doing this, these Christians believe that they are doing what is asked of them from God and Jesus, and will receive eternal life. In doing this they are doing exactly what is said by the Prophet Amos and in the parable of sheep and goats, they are helping the poor so they will receive good judgment from God.
Christians believe that they get there authority to do these things from God, and that he commands them to do it in a number of places within the bible, such as in 1 Corinthians 16, it is said that Paul tells the early Christians to set aside some money from the wages, to help the poor on a weekly basis. We are also told (Matthew 6-24) that you cannot serve both God and wealth, it must be one or the other. You will have to hate one and love another. Another account in the bible is in mark 12 41-44; when Jesus tells your money is worthless to God, unless it is donated in the right frame of mind. If it is for the purpose of looking god in front of others, then this money is viewed as worthless in Gods eyes. It says in the bible that a Christian can never have a proper relationship with God if he cares too much for his wealth. He should sell what wealth he has and give it to the poor. In Timothy 6-10 he says that the love of money is the root of all evil. So all of these bible references show why Christians believe that they are commanded by god, that money is no issue, that the wealthy should be spread, also that the love for him much be stronger than the love of money.
Christian Aid and other organisations are making a big difference in trying to relieve third world countries of poverty. They may know that they will never get rid of poverty, but it is important to them as they know they are doing what is asked in Gods eyes. Poverty may never be solved because of the unfair distribution of wealth, and the richer countries may not be as willing to give up as much as Christians are. So Christians are doing the best they can to try and spread the wealth.
In this section I am going to explain how a Christian might respond/apply their beliefs to the problem which are faced by those who are poor. I am now going to write about three bible passages which regard these problems. I will also include how all of this affects the behaviour attitudes and lifestyles of a believer, also how this is applied in decision making.
The first passage that relates to this is the ‘parable of the rich fool’ (Luke 16:19-31). There was a rich man, who had good ground on which to grow his crops, but he did not have enough room in his barns to store all of his crops. So what he did was tear down his barns and built bigger ones so that he could store all of his crops, he then said for the next few years he can take life easy. God then punishes the man and says that that very night his life will be demarked from him. God then says this is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God. This parable deals with the dangers of the pursuit of wealth. The rich man is more focused on trying to become more rich, instead of distributing his wealth to people who will need it more, he has done nothing of value in Gods eyes, he has not built up ‘treasures is heaven’. God is more interested about how much Christians help the poor, rather than how much money they have. This parable teaches Christians that they should distribute their wealth with the poor, and they will build up their treasures in heaven, and they will be punished for their greed and the pursuit of wealth. So Christians may respond to this parable by living their life in the way of this and believing they will be rewarded in heaven. Christians may have wealth, but they may also give some of that wealth into charity to help the poor and struggling in third world countries, so then they will believe that they are being rich towards God.
Another example of a parable is the story of the rich man and Lazarus is found in Luke 16:19-31. This parable is a story of a rich man, who had a beggar living outside of his gate, and for years he was ignored by the rich man. When both men died, the rich man was sent to hell, and the poor person goes to heaven. These were the consequences of ignoring the poor, and the rich man asked God could he warn his brothers of such consequences. But God told them that there had been enough warnings from the prophets. So this parable explains that Christians have been told for centuries that it is wrong to ignore the poor, so they have no excuse to ignore them. So this parable will make Christians think of the consequences and the warnings from prophets. So Christians would respond by paying more attention to the poor and put this teaching into action by helping the poor, or they will suffer the same consequences as the rich man.
The last parable I am going to talk about is (Luke 21:1-4) the parable is about the widows offering. There were rich people who put their gifts in the treasury, and lots of Gold coins, this was to make them look good in front of the crowd. He then spotted a widow, putting in two small copper coins into the treasury. Jesus then said that in Gods eyes, she has given to him more than what the rich people had. This was because she had given two small coins, which is all that she probably had, were as the rich people could have afforded to give more than what they had offered. So she had given everything she had, which is more important to god then what the rich people had to offer. Jesus said that what is important is the generosity of the giver, not the amount of the gift. So Christians will respond to this by thinking about being more generous with the poor. Instead of giving a little of what they can and thinking it will be enough, they will give alls that they can to please God as God will judge them on their generosity, not on the amount that they are giving. These parables and teachings of prophets are the reason why Christians feel it is their duty to help the poor. This is why organisations such as Christian aid are set up; Christians help the poor so God will have a God Judgement about them, and so they are rewarded in heaven.
In this section I am going to discuss the statement ‘charity begins at home’ I am going to include an argument of a supporter of this statement, and also those who disagree with this statement.
People who agree with the statement ‘charity begins at home’ would argue that it is more important to look after the ones you love first. This is because if these people were struggling, they would find it hard to give all they had if they had children or family to look after. This would not be them wanting to be selfish and greedy, but it is them naturally wanting to look after their own first. This is because they know the people at home, and will love them or know them better than people that aren’t within their home. So they could ask why they would have to give what they had to people that they do not know, when there are people that they know that need their help. The word ‘home’ does not generally mean the building in which we live in and only the people within this are included. The word ‘home’ could be used on more of a broader scale; it could mean your whole family, the people in your neighbourhood or even the people living in the same country as us. Charity is not just the giving of money, charity is us giving something that we posses to show that we care or that would help people that our in need of out help (anybody in need of out help are our neighbours). Poverty exists in the UK, for example, there are at least one in four children in the UK that are living in poverty.
Three million children go without adequate clothing, meals and toys everyday. Many of these children skip school as they feel ashamed of their poor clothes. Two out of the single parents with one child live below the poverty line. So people would want to help their neighbours in the UK; this is because the people might feel more that it is their responsibility to help people at home, rather than people that live half the world away. Some people may say that it is the people in the third world countries responsibility to look after people in their home. People are more likely to help those at home as they see the poverty first hand everyday, beggars in the street, NSPCC adverts, and homeless people sleeping in the street. So people are more likely to help these because they see it happening first hand. Charity to people at home could be something as simple as helping the elderly cross the street, or giving a few minutes of our time to listen to our friend’s problems, but we are unable to give this kind of charity to people who live the far side of the world.
Some Christians disagree that ‘charity begins at home’ there are a number of possibilities in which why a Christian may disagree with this. Some Christians may believe that there are other people outside of our home that are in greater need of our help. This may be because the UK is a country that is very wealthy, and they may feel that it is their responsibility to share this wealth with the rest of the world. Such as third world countries were living standards are very low and the countries are swarmed with harmful diseases. For example in developing countries 13,500 children will die from pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and malnutrition! They may feel that for the people at home there are enough opportunities to help themselves, whereas people in suffering countries have a slim chance of survival and are in desperate need of peoples help and it is not their fault, these suffering countries are often in huge debt, and more wealthy countries can afford to clear these debts, but are reluctant to. For example in 1994, Africa’s debt was ï¿½5 billion, and in the UK ï¿½5 billion was spent on sweets and chocolate. So this shows how unfair the distribution of wealth is, and how a country like the UK could reduce another country’s debts.
So it really it is not the peoples fault in these countries that their conditions are so bad. Christians have different views on the word ‘home’ this is because many believe that out home is the planet we live on. So is charity begins at home then that means that looking after everybody on our planet is just as important as looking after our brother or our sister. This is because Christians believe that God created the world, and we are all Gods children, so we shall all be treated equally and we are all as important as each other. A passage that would explain why Christians believe they should help others is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36). In this passage a man is mugged by bandits then was left to die. In this story he is helped by the most unlikely person, as people who you would have think would have helped the man, left him. A Samaritan helps save the man’s life, and would normally be considered a common enemy, but in this case helped the man. This parable teaches Christians about the question who is my neighbour? It teaches Christians that our ‘neighbour’ is anybody that is in need of out help. So modern day Christians will put this into practice as people in third world countries are our neighbour, not just the people at home.
So people will believe that it is their duty to love their neighbour, and give them charity, and not be single minded and help the people at home. Christians struggle with a dilemma, they have a belief/ responsibilities to help the poor, but they only have limited resources such as time and money. So they are trying to come up with a solution. Several voluntary agencies joined together to form jubilee 2000 to call for the end of third world debt. In achieving this third world countries will be able to strengthen its self and will no longer need resources that people don’t have to give them as the resources they have are limited.
The cancellation would make the Christians involved with jubilee 2000 feel as though they had fulfilled their responsibilities for caring for the poor. They can then concentrate on spending their limited resources they have on caring for the neighbours at home, so they have then both cared for people in need close to them and far away from them. I agree with the statement ‘charity begins at home’ but only to a certain extent. I believe that if it comes down to a choice between helping your own or helping a complete stranger, then you should look after your own. But if the people that you don’t know are in greater need of your charity, then you should give it to them rather than just choosing your loved ones. This is because I feel that it is wrong for a person to ignore someone in need simply because he does not know that person, but first of all we should put the people we love first.