In this blog, I’m continuing from last week’s discussion on the issues that are most important to you.  A survey of my Facebook friends revealed that matters of justice, particularly for asylum seekers and the homeless, ranked at the very top of their concerns. [i]

The third concern was equality – or at least the lack of justice we often see in the world around us.  Inequality features highly for asylum seekers and the homeless, but it also ranks as a big issue for Australia’s indigenous people, along with victims of abuse, trafficking and domestic violence.  There is high inequality between those who have access to clean water and those who don’t; and the poor and weak are frequently oppressed by the rich and powerful.

Right now 844 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water. 2.3 billion people in the world – one in three – do not have a decent toilet. There are 289,000 children under 5 die each year due to diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. [ii]   Inequality for Australia’s indigenous people is massive compared to the rest of Australians,[iii] and there are over 30 million trafficked people in the world; half are children, and 80% are female.

Equality, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the Bible even though some of the earlier comments made in books like Leviticus look like anything but equality.  It’s of vital importance that we understand the progressive and changing nature of God’s revelation through Scripture. Reading through the book of Leviticus from a 2017 western perspective can be quite daunting. There are instructions on how much to pay for slaves and how to treat women. Some of these commands boggle our minds and we can easily wonder at the inequality reflected in what we read.

But when you understand that these things were written 3,500 years ago to an ancient Middle Eastern culture that had very few, if any, written rules, we get a different perspective.  In some instances, this was the first time written regulations gave slaves and women any sense of equal treatment. Until then, they were considered a man’s goods and chattel.  Leviticus was quite revolutionary in its day. It upheld human rights for disabled people (19:14), refugees (19:33-34) and the elderly (19:32).

Many of the prophets spoke out with a great condemnation against the wealthy and powerful that oppressed the poor and weak.  Consider Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed (correct the oppressor). Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  The prophet Micah summarised the importance of equality and justice like this: “what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love and to diligently practice kindness and compassion” (6:8).

Jesus’ teaching and actions continued this revelation.  He reached out to people that others (particularly the religious) would have nothing to do with –  such as lepers, the unclean, the sexually immoral and the mentally ill. The New Testament Scriptures also break down walls that divided people and communities – racial, gender and economic barriers are non-existent in Christ, says Paul (Galatians 3:28).

There is no place in the Christian faith for expressions of inequality because of differences in gender, race, creed or money.

On one occasion the Apostle Paul met with the other apostles in Jerusalem.  The outcome of the discussion was agreement that Paul and his team would continue to reach out to non-Jews with the gospel message.  Paul writes, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”  The apostle took this seriously and, everywhere he went, he received offerings to relieve poverty.  His stated goal was equality (see 2 Corinthians 8:13-14).

It’s interesting that amongst all the things the Jerusalem church leaders could have highlighted as the one most important thing that should accompany the gospel message, it was equality for the poor.

And equality for all people should still accompany the gospel of Jesus.  It saddens me when I hear a non-equal message preached by people who identify as Christian.  Their lack of equality contradicts all that Jesus stands for and, in the process, repels people from Him.  Justice and fairness for all must always be part of the real gospel of Jesus.  That’s why it’s such good news!

”Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” – Amos 5:24.


[i] Blog: Is justice an optional extra



Last September I posted a blog titled “The World is Getting Better.” In this blog, I made the following statement, In Jesus’ time most people were poor but over the centuries this has changed dramatically.  Since the economic growth of industrialisation the number of people living in poverty has decreased – and has kept on falling ever since.  The number of people living in poverty has decreased massively in the last twenty years.  While there is still much to do we are winning the war on poverty; the world is getting better!”

While we are winning the war on poverty, recent research has indicated that the gap between rich and poor is actually increasing. According to Oxfam, “The richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined.” Oxfam also calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. That’s 62 people having the same amount as 3.7 billion people!

What it takes to be in the top 1% is fascinating. If you have cash and assets (including your house) worth just over $AUD1 million you’re in the top 1% – the same percentile as Rupert Murdoch, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

The news is not all bad though. Other research shows that those in the middle and bottom of the world income distribution have all got pay rises of around 40% between 1988-2008. Global inequality of life expectancy and height are narrowing too – showing better nutrition and better healthcare where it matters most.

Oxfam said that the 62 richest people having as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the population is a remarkable concentration of wealth, given that it would have taken 388 individuals to have the same wealth as the bottom 50% in 2010.

This is not to be critical of wealthy people; especially when those who have more than enough spend so much time and money helping others. Bill Gates, for example, says he has no use for money beyond a certain point. And he means it. Gates has already donated $US28 billion since 2007 to eradicate deadly diseases around the world and he hopes to double that investment in renewable technology in the next five years.

In June 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett formally announced the Giving Pledge campaign. The organisation’s goal is to inspire the wealthy people of the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy, either during their lifetime or upon their death. By December last year, 141 individuals and/or couples were listed as pledgers on the official website.

However, bridging the gap between rich and poor is not just the responsibility of the super-rich. Governments around the world need to take action to reverse this trend and make sure workers are paid a living wage, the gender pay gap is ended and equal land and inheritance rights are promoted for women.

This is also the responsibility of all people in the top 1% or even the top 10% – anyone who has more than enough, has a responsibility to help those who don’t have enough. The Bible speaks into this need to bring about equality between the haves and the have-nots, Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14). The apostle Paul wrote this to the believers in the Greek City of Corinth about coming good on their promise to help those affected by the famine in Judea. Many of Corinth’s Christians had more than they needed and Paul is encouraging them to take some of their surplus in order to help those struggling with poverty. The same principle applies today. The purpose of giving and generosity is about bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

One of the things I’ve done in recent years is to decrease the number of latte’s I buy. I used to buy one on most days until I realised it was costing me just over $1,000 a year. These days, I donate that money to help the 8 boys we look after in our Bayside Church Forever Home in South Africa. I encourage you to look for ways you can do the same. Maybe go without something so others don’t have to go without the things they need for sustaining life. Let’s all do our bit to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

If you want to do something practical to help right now, please consider making a donation to Bayside Church’s Home and Away fund.  100% of the money donated goes towards projects aimed at relieving poverty such as Matt’s Place (our twice-weekly lunch program giving a hot meal to the homeless and marginalised people in Bayside Melbourne) and the Forever Home in Johannesburg that I mention in the blog.  You can give on line by clicking on this link.

All donations are Tax deductible if required.

Martin Luther put it this way, “Satan doesn’t care which side of the horse we fall off, as long as we don’t stay in the saddle.” Some people fall off the horse on the side of poverty.

The poverty gospel claims that money is inherently evil and avoiding it is the best policy. Believing this message, countless Christians over the centuries have taken a vow of poverty and submitted themselves to some bizarre practices. They believed that doing this made them more spiritual as well as more acceptable to God.

But if we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion then:
• The poorer you are the more spiritual you are
• Sell everything and live under a bridge
• Don’t help the poor because you’ll make them unspiritual!

And yet the Bible teaches that poverty is a curse (see Deuteronomy 28). Over 2000 times in Scripture God tells His people to help relieve poverty – Why would He ask this if poverty was spiritual? Jesus said, “… do to others what you would have them do to you.” If you and your family were hungry what would you want prosperous Christians to do for you?

"Give me neither poverty nor riches." The other extreme to those who have a poverty mindset is people who hold to what has become known as the prosperity Gospel. This teaches that money is a sign of godliness as well as God’s favour on a believer’s life. But the Bible teaches that financial blessing is a sign of God’s goodness not ours …

Matt 5:45, “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” There are plenty of wealthy people who don’t care for God or others. The psalmist lamented this very thing when he observed, “… the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Ps 73:12; cf. Psalm 37:35-36; Eccl 7:15; Jeremiah 12:1)

The poverty mindset views money as always evil. Prosperity teaching sees money as always good. But money is neither good nor bad. Things don’t have morality – people do! Think about that $20 note in your pocket. What has it been used for in the past? What will you use it for? What will it be used for in the future? For all we know it could have been used in a drug deal or to buy porn. You might use it to buy lunch. The next person could donate it to charity. It is the person who has the money that makes the money good or bad. It’s what resides in the person – their goodness or lack thereof.

The apostle Paul addressed this when he wrote, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Money isn't evil but the inordinate love of it is. “In the midst of prosperity, the challenge for believers is to handle wealth in such a way that it acts as a blessing, not a curse.”

The balance between these two extremes is generosity. I believe this is one of the signs of true spirituality, and generosity doesn’t depend on the amount of wealth you have but rather on what you do with what you have! One day Jesus was observing people putting money into the Temple treasury. All the wealthy people were putting in large sums of money but it was only a small percentage of what they had. Then a widow put in two small coins – everything she owned. Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on." She was demonstrating generosity. In Matthew 27 we're introduced to Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who was also a disciple (follower) of Jesus. He was wealthy and also demonstrated generosity by donating his tomb to the deceased Jesus.

The Bible is full of examples of both poor and wealthy people who lived lives of generosity (read 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 9:8, 10, 11; 1 Kings 17:7-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7, 8-37). Over the years I've met generous poor people and stingy poor people. I've come across generous wealthy people and stingy wealthy people. I t's not how much or how little we have its whether or not we have a generous heart. And so it doesn't matter if you find yourself with plenty or little or somewhere in the middle, practice living a generous life.

For many it’s a problem they’re aware of, but it’s so big – and they can’t do much – so they do nothing.  And so poverty is largely ignored.  We see the pictures on TV, but it’s so far away and such a big problem that we turn away and go back to what we were doing.
Others try and justify their inaction by asking questions like: How do we know these people are really poor?  Isn’t it largely their own fault?  If I give money how do I know it’s going to get to the people who really need it anyway?  So the ostrich sticks its head back in the sand and pretends the problem isn’t really that big and hopefully it’ll just go away.  But it won’t – not without our help!
Some Christians do little or nothing to help the poor because they have a poverty mindset.  I’ve met so many of these people over the years.  They talk so much about helping the poor, but they have such an issue with money that they’re not able to help much because they don’t have much.  They think that being poor is in some way being spiritual.
Of course if you push that thinking to its logical conclusion then the poorer you are the more spiritual you are, so you might as well sell everything you have and live under a tree.  Then you’d be really spiritual!  If poverty is spiritual why would you help the poor?  If you help them you’re actually making them less spiritual.
The Bible teaches that poverty is a curse.  Over 2,200 times in Scripture, God tells His people to help relieve poverty, but why would He do that if poverty were spiritual?  And, you only relieve poverty if you have something to give – i.e. wealth.
Two words sum up a right response to world poverty:  appreciation and generosity.  Rather than being judgmental of what we (and others) have we need to be full of appreciation to God and have a thankful heart.  I am so grateful that I live in Australia with all its blessing, prosperity and opportunity.  I am also grateful that I have something that I can give to those who have little or nothing.  I love to be generous and helping the poor and needy.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”  In a prosperous country like Australia we have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate than us.  It is not God’s will for people to suffer as much as they do.  He expects those of us who have to help those who have not.  And it doesn’t take a lot – it just takes everyone doing what they can.
It’s easy to say; “The problems too big;” or “Not everyone’s going to help.” But it’s got to start somewhere.  All God is asking us to do is to do what we can do.
In Luke 16 Lazarus was “longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”  That is what many in poor nations desire to do.  The rich man’s crime was that he didn’t even give Lazarus the food scraps.  Let us not be guilty of the same crime – let’s do our part in responding to poverty.


Recently Sacred Heart Mission Chief Executive Michael Perusco asked Opposition Leader Tony Abbott whether a government under his direction would continue with the Rudd government’s goal of halving homelessness by 2020. His answer was no.

In justifying his stance, Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: ”The poor will always be with us,” and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for people who choose to be homeless.

I believe that Tony Abbott is very committed to his Catholic faith, but I wonder at the wisdom of a politician quoting Scripture to reinforce reasons for political policy – especially when the Scripture quoted is obviously misunderstood and in reality, teaches the opposite truth.

Jesus’ statement, “The poor you will always have with you …” (Matthew 26:11) was spoken by him to his disciples who were questioning why Mary had just poured an entire jar of very expensive perfume on his head. This jar of ointment was worth more than a year’s wages. It was an extravagant act which some of the disciples thought was over the top. Jesus disagreed. That’s when he made the comment “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” In other words, you won’t always have the opportunity to do good to me because I’m not going to be around; but there will always be poor people whom you can help. Jesus is not teaching inaction towards the poor – he’s teaching just the opposite.

Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s gospel is a quotation from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 15:11: “There will always be poor people in the land.” Reading this verse in context reveals that the Bible is encouraging us not to be hardhearted or tightfisted toward the poor, but rather to be openhanded and freely lend whatever their needs. This passage also encourages us to give generously to the poor and do so without a grudging heart. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” This is one of over 2000 references in the Bible on the responsibility of those who have to help those who have not. The Bible teaches action to alleviate poverty, not inaction because there will always be poor people.

People become homeless for all sorts of reasons including mental illness, domestic violence and neglect. Right now there are over 100,000 homeless people in Australia – over half of these are under 25. Political posturing or misquoting the Bible won’t fix this problem. It will take a concerted effort on the part of all sides of politics along with churches, charities and social welfare organizations all working together to make a difference to those who, for various reasons, find themselves homeless, poor or underprivileged. Let’s not look for reasons to do nothing to help them!


According to Melbourne’s Herald Sun Newspaper (Saturday, October 3, 2009) “Australians are in danger of succumbing to “compassion fatigue” with multiple disasters leaving charities in critical need.”  The paper went on to quote UNICEF Australia spokesman Martin Thomas who said “there is certainly always a great danger of compassion fatigue…when we have seen disaster after disaster.”

Compassion fatigue is apparently what sets in when there have been too many disasters and we all get fed up with having to dig deep again and again to help alleviate human suffering. Of course, such a condition could only be named and blamed in a self-indulgent, prosperous western nation such as ours. “I’m so sorry, I’d love to help out but I’m suffering too – from compassion fatigue” – give me a break!

In a country where the poorest person is still in the top 8% of the world’s wealthy, we are in danger of committing the sin of Sodom.  The prophet Ezekiel had this to say about this former city: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). It’s a fascinating verse especially as much of the church think that Sodom was destroyed because it was full of gay people. Ezekiel reveals that God’s anger burned against the people of this city because they had plenty of time and plenty of resources (just like us) but they didn’t give a rip about those in need – the poor dears suffered from compassion fatigue – and paid the ultimate price!

I’m told there are over 2000 references in the Bible to the responsibility of those who have to help those who have not. Obviously, this is a major topic on the mind of God. And we better get used to it because Jesus prophesied that there would be an increase of natural disasters leading up to His Second Coming (see Matthew 24:7).  This prophecy is highly concerning, but at the same time, it offers a wonderful opportunity for we Christians to demonstrate our counter cultural hearts.  So, “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9-10).