Rev Norman Hamilton: It’s Christian to seek after the needs of others in real need
Thought for the week:
Recently, I have spent quite a lot of time exploring the Old Testament book of Proverbs — a book that I think is seriously undervalued in many Christian circles.
In essence, it sets out how to become wise and productive in everyday living.
The opening chapter says ‘the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.
I have been very struck by the number of times it talks about people whom it describes as “righteous”.
That’s a word which is rarely used in church circles or personal conversation, for none of us would dare to say: “I am a righteous man / woman”.
To do so would certainly be seen as boasting.
As a way of describing a Christian, we simply don’t go there, even though it is used in Proverbs dozens and dozens of times.
That first step means bowing down to God in reverent and worship-filled obedience which is then worked out in generous love for our neighbours.
This is beautifully summed up by Jesus Himself in the parable of the good Samaritan in St Luke 10. Proverbs however, spells it out in real detail, and emphasises the constant need to do what is right and just in the eyes of the living God – irrespective of what the standards are in the world
around us, or what colleagues or friends may say. To take just one example, there is the stark statement in chapter 29: The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
These words have every bit as much relevance today as they did when they were written around 2,500 years ago. Day and daily, we are being told that the cost of living will continue to rise. We see it under way in the rising price of petrol and many foods in the supermarket, alongside the cost of heating our home and paying more tax.
Here is Northern Ireland, the government reckons that 13 per cent of people (approximately 241,000) live in absolute poverty (before taking into account the costs of housing).
This means that 17 per cent of children, 14 per cent of pensioners and 11 per cent of the working age population are in very dire straits.
We are within striking distance of Christmas. That one proverb tells me that doing what I can to help meet the real needs of others around me is but one expression of being seen as righteous by the Lord.
So, for example, helping to supply the local foodbank by putting some extra groceries in the big collection box in my local supermarket is massively important – not just at Christmas, but all through next year too.
And following through on this also means playing my little part in helping to meet the indescribable needs of billions across the world. I’m so blessed by being in a position where I can help.
If you are too, neither of us can dare to be found wanting. How’s about it?
• Rev Dr Norman Hamilton OBE, Presbyterian Church
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