The true meaning of charity
Several years ago Rosemarie and I hosted black South African friends, who, on a drive through the city and down Hobson Street late one afternoon noticed an assembly of visibly needy people outside the Auckland City Mission. They expressed their amazement at this evidence of disadvantage in a country that they assumed was adequately provided for in terms of social services. They would be more concerned to experience our country in its present stage of social imbalance that deprives many of our fellow citizens of the basics necessities of life of an acceptable standard without any immediate prospect of relief. Rather than elaborating on the causes and consequences of such distress I have chosen to quote a submission from the Council of Christian Social Services, which has taken a decisive stand on this issue. In doing so I also, for the sake of balance, refer to an article by regular columnist Diane Clement in the New Zealand Herald, who took issue with a representative sample of people, who fail to take personal responsibility for commonly occurring risks. She singles out individuals and families, who can afford insurance, but prefer to spend their discretionary income on non-essential pursuits without regard for life’s risks. In relying on the goodwill of others in time of need and personal distress at times of material loss and ill health, which are certain to beset many of us, they are relying on the goodwill of others as providers of last resort. Hardly a week passes without some heart wrenching story in the media calling for financial assistance through public appeals on Give-a-little, sometimes in pursuit of alternative treatment in third world countries at great expense. Speaking from personal experience I am very much aware of the availability in our country of health services in particular that frequently feature in such appeals. I also agree with Ms Clement that alternative treatment expenses incurred in third world countries could be better spent in support of ongoing high quality scientific research in New Zealand that requires and deserves greater financial recognition with better certainty of outcomes.
Seen in the light of increasing polarisation in our society in common with Australia, the United Kingdom and North America it is imperative to contemplate the social and environmental costs that are already evident in several resource rich countries. As followers of Christ we need not only be conscious of the demerits of the developing social order, but be actively involved in support of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services in pursuit of a fairer society for all.