“Put your life into Christ’s hands, then ask Him to use you to help others overcome both their material and spiritual poverty.”–Billy Graham
Aside from ministering His Word to the people, Jesus’ ministry also focused on rendering aid to the poor and needy. Christians have also been tasked to continue in His footsteps to reach out to the least among us (Luke 14:13–14). How then can we become more cognisant of poverty in today’s context?
In July 2019, a panel on the topic of privilege was organised by The Straits Times, with the aim of developing actionable ideas to encourage giving. One of the poverty myths addressed at the panel was the misconception that the poor in Singapore “aren’t actually that poor”. Contrary to this belief, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation found that one in five low-income households in Singapore grapple with severe food insecurity.
One of the reasons for this misconception is an inability to fully understand the experiences and stories of the underprivileged.
Dr Roland Chia, Professor at Trinity Theological College also echoes this view, “Justice to the poor… is about ensuring that they are not forgotten, that their conditions are improved.”
Poverty is not only detrimental to one’s physical well-being but can also affect one’s spiritual health. In an interview with the United Bible Societies, Preacher Qian from Shandong, China, shared a real-life example of how poverty affects spirituality in their community—“When financial stress arises due to family needs like children’s education or emergencies, people tend to focus more on earning money instead of coming for worship.”
As a body of believers, how then may we take the first step to walk alongside those who are in need of help?
Rev Ezekiel Tan, CEO of SowCare— a charity arm of The Bible Society of Singapore—provides us with some practical tips. With a heart for the vulnerable and marginalised in society, he hopes to create a platform where different partners may pool their resources, and come together to empower the poor and needy in Singapore.
“Just as Jesus actively ministered to the poor and needy in society, SowCare also hopes to foster the same spirit of charity within the Christian community in Singapore. We want to extend a helping hand to the often-neglected facets of society, such as the guest workers, foreign domestic workers as well as the rough sleepers in Singapore.
The first step to reaching out to these individuals is first to gain a better understanding of their stories and experiences—walking alongside them. Only by making an effort to know them, we can provide meaningful assistance to them.”
What are some of the ways in which Christians can extend a helping hand to the poor and needy?
“It is our call to go beyond, as a Christian community, to provide a shelter for the homeless, as mandated in Isaiah 58:7. The local Church can become journey-makers by providing them with holistic care, empowering them while connecting them to necessary service that will meet their immediate needs. If we pool our resources and expertise together, I believe that as a united Body of Christ we will be able to make a difference in their lives.”