I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at Thomas Beckett School Northampton last week during their mission week, by the Chaplain, Cath Worthington, on the beatitudes in St Matthew’s gospel. I was speaking about the fourth: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’.
Of course the Gospel uses food as a metaphor for a wider, more profound search for meaning in life, but it only works because of the elemental power of hunger and thirst as expressive of the simplest, most profound needs people have, and of course which Hope addresses: hunger and thirst, through our day centre. It’s where we began.
But of course, as the beatitude says, a hunger for a more profound level of self-actualisation is the true hunger, and it’s a hunger never satisfied on earth, remote as all humans are from the glory of God. For some Christians, there is also a further kind of righteousness to be pursued – social righteousness – the desire for a level of justice in society, which can be shared with those without faith but who strive for a better society. This is the ongoing hunger to see a more equal, fairer world, where people are not hungry or thirsty because of oppression, exclusion or poverty.
Without that pursuit of social righteousness, alongside the simple acts of giving, there is a danger that charities become part of the problem, not the solution, applying a sticking plaster to fundamental inequalities, rather than challenging the causes and origins of poverty. Charities should be striving to make radical efforts to change causes and help people obtain more sustainable solutions to their situation that will ensure they can leave what we do behind.
This was echoed strongly listening to an inspirational talk by Seb Mayfield at this month’s End Hunger event from the Northants Food Poverty Network. His message questioned whether simple charity, such as foodbanks, is ever enough, and the need to do more. His talk reflected what we believe at Hope: we do not assume that everyone who comes to us is someone in ‘deficit’, hungry because of some lack in their personality or problem in their lives, but rather, they often come because they are simply poor because wages are rubbish and living costs are rising endlessly. Alongside food, we need to offer long term, sustainable solutions like training and work, alongside arguing for changes to social , food or housing policy, that will help people escape poverty permanently; and we should not deny help to people because of some judgement we make about how much they have earned it, or somehow qualify, for the charity and help we provide. We don’t put people through hoops, asking them to prove they are prepared to ‘engage’ before considering them for help.
For us, at Hope, this is the expression of our hunger for righteousness – a vision of a better world, offering social justice to all.