We’re going to need a whole new level of generosity.
I participated in two virtual forums recently, featuring government and other experts who were discussing the fall-out from the Covid-19 crisis the world now finds itself in. I have to tell you the information was sobering! The current health crisis precipitated by this new virus is going to be with us for some time – at least until an effective vaccine is found and made available. But the economic impact is going to be with us even longer.
A couple of stats from these meetings help frame the scope of what we’re into. Seven point eight million Canadians are currently receiving support from one of the Federal government’s financial aid packages in response to this crisis. That’s 1/3 of Canada’s entire workforce. Of those affected, lower-wage workers are the most impacted, at a rate of 5x higher than other earners. As we begin to emerge from the immediate health crisis and look to restart the economy, no one knows yet how many of these jobs have been lost permanently. But every forecast is that the economy has shrunk considerably. It’s a bit like emerging from our basement after a tornado to survey the damage in order to see what’s still standing. Some will praise God that everything remained intact! Some may have to replace a fence. Others a roof. Some will have lost their whole house. There may even be some neighborhoods wiped out.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road: As we reopen the economy the government needs to reign in the subsidies it has made available because the deficit has ballooned exponentially. That’s debt for the future and eventually they will have to embrace fiscal restraint. At the same time that they do that, the need for financial and social services is going to go way up. It’s like there’s a perfect storm brewing in the distance. It’s coming, and it’s unavoidable.
We cannot expect our governments to carry this on their own. Michael Van Pelt, from Cardus (a Christian organization that promotes Christian theology for the public good) recently said, “Government assistance can never substitute for strong families, a robust economy or a vibrant charitable sector.” These other supports systems create an invisible safety net for people in need. And we’re going to need them in the days ahead.
I’ve always been challenged by what Jesus said to his disciples when they asked him what to do about feeding a crowd that had gathered to listen to him teach. “You give them something to eat”, He said (Mark 6:37). The disciples did the mental math and quickly responded that buying food for that many people was going to be VERY expensive, hinting that they didn’t see that as an option. But we know the rest of the story. Jesus took what they had (the few loaves and fish) and miraculously fed the entire crowd with that. It was a lesson in faith, and I think we’re going to need to recall that lesson now.
We need to get ready to give more. We need to stir up a faith-fueled spirit of generosity within ourselves. We are going to be surrounded by people who need help (we already are). We are likely going to feel overcome by the need. We will need help ourselves. Some have lost jobs. Some have had to close businesses. Some will lose their futures, and maybe their homes, before we get this economic ship righted. And here is where Jesus (and us) can help.
Let’s learn the lesson that, with Jesus, it’s not impossible for us to feed 5,000 with a brown bag lunch. We can’t balk because of the size of the need. Instead we need to dig into our pockets and offer, through Him, what we have.
I encourage us to start now. If we look around, we’re likely already aware of a friend, a family member, a neighbor, who has had to shutter her business. Another who has been laid off from his job. Another who is wondering where his tuition money is going to come from. Others will need to pay rent and mortgages; buy food; pay off credit card debt; find the resources to start over. None of these may have their hands out for help. None of the crowd around Jesus did either. But the disciples could put two and two together easily enough and see what was happening. More importantly, Jesus already knew what He was going to do to help in the situation.
This is just as true for us at this moment! Now is the time for us to prayerfully reach out our hands with whatever help we can give. Make a donation to a local charity, or to a summer camp that has just learned it’s not going to be able to operate this summer. Give a cheque to a neighbour who had to close his barbershop for the past eight weeks. Give to the food banks. Give to mental health services (another big need on the horizon). Remember to give to the church! We’re the ones who help people see how the multiplication of our little into much, is actually the blessing of God being poured out on them by His grace.
Come on, fellow Christian. This is the moment we shine in the darkness (Philippians 2:15). May the Holy Spirit stir up in us a holy passion for generosity!