A problem of not enough
2 Corinthians 8 brings us evidence of a community in Macedonia living in ‘extreme poverty’. It doesn't talk about the worry they must have felt though – about how they might feed their children, about what the next day’s expenses might be and how they would meet them.
Maybe some didn’t sleep well? Perhaps there were those who wept in secret when their children asked them for things they wished they could provide for them, but couldn’t? Possibly, there were those who carried heavy feelings of lost hope? Who looked at the situation around them and wondered at God?
It doesn’t tell us about these things. It does tell us what they did.
‘In the midst of a very severe trial,' Paul writes, acknowledging their stressful context, ‘their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity!’ he says. ‘For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.’ (2 Corinthians 8:2–3)
They gave. Generously. Beyond what they were able.
How, and why, were these people able to respond like this? Paul tells us in verse 5. ‘They gave themselves first of all to the Lord,’ he writes, ‘and then by the will of God also to us.’
The answer is simple. They trusted God first. Then they gave to the need.
The needs – ours and our family’s
Inflation rates are high everywhere. Disturbing price increases on basic items are impacting all of us.
In the UK, food banks are short of food, inflation is over ten per cent, and energy bills are soaring. Across the board and around the world, the effects of the cost of living crisis are being felt.
At the time of writing, our Ethiopia team reported that the inflation rate there had hit over 30 per cent. In just two months, the cost of staple food items, such as rice and potatoes, had gone up by more than a quarter. This means that those who were teetering on the brink of poverty will now be pushed firmly into it.
It affects individuals and families and whole communities. It also affects planned Tearfund projects. Budgets set for projects which could transform communities have been destroyed by the knock-on effects of the Ukraine conflict. With those increases to the cost of basic items, projects that were feeding thousands of people are, of course, affected on a scale of thousands.
Hebdavi Kyeya, Tearfund’s Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, points out that this means that those families living in some of the hardest conditions – and where there is no other option for them right now apart from the food assistance that they are relying on – are receiving even less. It means that promises we made to people, giving them hope that they will feed their children, are being cut and squeezed as we can’t afford to buy the quantities that are needed.
Our staff remain faithful and prayerful, but the responsibility weighs heavily.