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Faith, hope, and tax deductions

Dave Andrews said Christ calls us to do more than acts of charity. Photo courtesy of Dave Andrews

IN THE King James Version of 1 Corinthians 13:13, we are told to uphold faith, hope, and charity.
“But the greatest of these is charity.”

The Apostle Paul and the members of the early church strived to live as Jesus had lived.

Paul, particularly in 1 Corinthians, encouraged people to look at the life of Jesus as an example of a perfect life and to practise charity (or love) as Jesus had.

Community worker, speaker, and author of Plan Be, Dave Andrews, believes Christ’s example and teachings foreshadowed issues that would affect the globe for centuries to come.

“The teachings of Christ, epitomised in the Sermon on the Mount, were a process of education which taught people there would never be enough resources in the world to gratify everyone’s greed,” Mr Andrews said.

“Members of the early church devoted themselves to relationships, sharing meals with each other, and praying for one another.”

Mr Andrews said Christ pushed people outside their comfort zones so they could perform true acts of charity.

“Christ encouraged a movement of people who would take the alternatives he had developed and implement these principles and practices without hesitation or reservation,” Mr Andrews said.

“He demonstrated a process of community development which did justice to the poor.

“He prayed for a total transformation of society.”

While it may sound like a revolutionary concept, Mr Andrews said the form of charity offered by Jesus and his disciples was fairly basic.

“The charity Christ and his disciples practised was a simple transfer in cash or kind, with no strings attached, to anyone who asked for help,” he said.

Deception Bay Uniting Church minister Mark Cornford also has a passion for justice.

He said people were often caught in a cycle of giving to charity only in reaction to advertising campaigns.

“An aid agency screens an ad with images of starving children and we feel guilty as we eat a packet of chips while watching The Simpsons”, he said.

“The ad then promises us that for x dollars a month they can relieve us of our guilt. We hand over money and go back to eating chips and watching The Simpsons in peace, knowing we’ve done our bit to make the world a better place. We even get a tax refund for our generosity.

“I’m not saying sponsoring children overseas or giving money to aid agencies is a bad thing. There should be more of it.”

However, Mr Cornford is concerned that helping others in this way turns charity into a business deal where the giver is the ultimate winner.

“We take this word ‘charity’ and turn it into a transaction where we buy a clean conscience for the appalling distress and poverty that a billion people live in,” he said.

Mr Andrews believes Christ calls us to do more than simple acts of charity.

“In a time of emergency, charity is often the only place we can start,” he said. “But Christ calls us to be ready to help people in any way we can.”

Mr Cornford agreed and said that as Christ demonstrated, a true act of charity is a lot more than giving away money.

“Charity is indeed an appropriate response, but it goes way beyond just handing over a few dollars,” Mr Cornford said.

“In the older sense of the word, charity towards the poor means a selfless, loving kindness towards the poor.”

“It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.”

“This then is the meaning of charity, of the loving kindness that is at the heart of God.

“This is the work of real Christian charity for a world where God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Followers of Jesus need to ask questions such as: ‘Why is it that poor countries pay more in loan repayments than they receive in aid?'”

“Why are overseas coffee farmers paid almost nothing for their crops when the coffee companies make massive profits?'”

“Why are Australian companies allowed to abuse workers’ rights when they employ them in a developing country?”

“Why is it that in a world of such wealth where we suffer from diseases of affluence, so many suffer from poverty?”

“These are not questions that can be answered by giving a few dollars here and there.”

Mr Cornford believes true charity will only exist when Christians take seriously the call to love and have charity towards those who are in poverty, and are not satisfied with the platitudes of politicians and business leaders.

“We need to work for justice, peace and God’s kingdom where there is enough for all,” he said.


Photo : Dave Andrews said Christ calls us to do more than acts of charity. Photo courtesy of Dave Andrews