Sunday, 24 February 2013

Food banks - a dilemma!

There has never been a time when there have been so many food banks starting across the UK. My own church at St. Luke’s in Liverpool is shortly to launch its own project in conjunction with Trussell Trust .

According to the trust, 13m people live below the poverty line in the UK. They expect to provide food for almost 1/4m people over the next year. This creates a dilemma. At one level it should not be for churches and other voluntary groups to be feeding the hungry in this country. When we hear of £40m wasted on trying to find a new provider for a perfectly well run rail service and £300m for state of the art court building to accommodate commercial disputes, we rightly question the priorities of our politicians. Surely it is the role of the state to ensure that its citizens do not go hungry.

So isn't the church just making matters worse by setting up these banks? Won’t the government see what is being done and say ‘there you go; we don’t need to look after the poor because the churches are doing it’? I would have no hesitation standing up to make that case. But I am also fully behind the St. Luke’s initiative.

That may seem to be a contradiction but ultimately we have to look at the bottom line. That has to be hunger. For Christians this is a mandate which outweighs almost everything. In Psalm 146 a faithful person is one who is –‘executing justice for the oppressed and giving food to the hungry.’ Jesus himself identified himself with those in need and described his true followers by saying – ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.’ And so we could go on.

So when it comes to this bottom line we have to place the provision of food ahead of everything, even our own political convictions, however reasonable they might be! So to support those most in need Christians will do what they have to do.

But alongside that the arguments should continue. The UK remains one of the wealthiest nations on earth – don’t let the loss of AAA status deceive you! It is not acceptable that anybody should need a food hand out. That has to change. The fact that churches are doing the right thing does not lessen the responsibility of government to write budgets that place the poor and hungry at the top of the agenda.