I look outside my window on a glorious summer's day and find it hard to engage with the reality of the economic storm that is rapidly heading our way. Yet the clouds are already gathering in the form of soaring food, energy and fuel bills, a reflection of the current UK inflation rate of 9.1%, the highest for 40 years.
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the cost of living crisis reports that almost a quarter (23%) of adults said that, compared to a year ago, it was ‘very difficult’ or ‘difficult’ to pay their regular household bills in March. That number goes up to 43% for those who said it was either 'very' or 'somewhat difficult' to afford their energy bills¹ specifically. This number is almost certain to rise as we enter the winter months. Overlay that with the toll on the mental health of the nation caused by the pandemic² and the outlook is even more bleak.
Giving in the face of the cost of living crisis
What happens to our giving as we batten down the hatches for the pending storm? The need all around us is more acute than ever, but can we even keep on giving, let alone give more?³ We can easily feel that whatever we may have to give is a tiny drop in a vast ocean, too small to be of any material help, and we give up.
For Christians, the silver lining in the storm clouds always comes in the form of the Gospel message – as we grow in our faith, we start to understand more of God’s incredible generosity to us, which finds its pinnacle in the cross, where he gave his only son Jesus to save us.
God’s generosity to us is what shapes us as new creations in Christ; our identity rests in belonging to Jesus, not the world, as a much-valued, unique child of God. We still encounter the storms of life, but we do so in hope, with Jesus by our side, and in victory, strengthened by the power we find at the cross.
Alongside the hope of the Gospel message, the Bible can be hard-hitting in its examples of people giving from very little. In Mark 12, we see Jesus watching the crowd making their contributions to the temple treasury. It is as we would expect, ‘Many rich people threw in large amounts’ (12:41), but we also see a poor widow give ‘two very small copper coins’ (12:42). The detail seems incongruous until we hear Jesus’ observation to his disciples: “Truly I tell you, 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.” (12:43-44). All giving is good, but special commendation comes for sacrificial generosity.
As if that wasn’t challenging enough, we see another example of radical generosity in 2 Corinthians 8 where Paul talks about ‘the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.’ (8:1). Unbelievably, they gave ‘even beyond their ability’ (8:3) and ‘urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
' I for one find this mind-bending – it can be hard enough to respond to the latest urgent charitable appeal at the month’s end, never mind proactively seeking out opportunities to give when we're in real financial struggles ourselves.
The 'grace of giving’
These examples of incredible generosity reflect a maturity of faith and trust in Jesus’ provision that can seem truly breath-taking. The Macedonians’ ‘overflowing joy’ came from a complete conviction of their richness in Christ and a deep gratitude for his gift of grace. We are challenged to embrace these truths for ourselves – as Paul extols the Corinthian church to ‘also excel in this grace of giving’, we hear that prayer for ourselves too.
It can feel impossibly hard. We read and take on board these Gospel truths, we pray, and then we try to square it with the reality of paying the bills, going short, and feeling spent in all respects:
- physically, mentally and emotionally. Yet God knows our struggles and shepherds us through them (Psalm 23); His ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9), and he brings us ‘into a spacious place’ (Psalm 18:19), rescuing us because he delights in us. He is right there at the heart of the storm saying “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
All scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised Copyright ©️ 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica UK trademark number 1448790.
¹ Financial journalist Paul Lewis tweeted 24th May 2022 that the typical fuel bill of £2,800 from October this year is a third of the state pension, 70% of Universal Credit for a single adult, and 58% of DLA/PIP for disabled people
² Vicki Nash, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs for Mind, in her response to the Queen’s Speech this year: “The pandemic has taken a massive toll on the mental health of the nation, with the prevalence of depression doubling and crisis referrals up by 15 per cent in the past three years, including among under 18s.”
³ CAF's UK Giving Report 2022 says 62% of us will reduce discretionary spend and 13% will cut their giving.
Giving in action
If you would like help in choosing which causes to support, then you might find the list of featured charity partners on our UK Poverty and Debt CauseFinder™ page useful.
Do you need the £400 energy rebate that the Government will apply to bills automatically from October 2022? If not, then you might like to pass on that saving in your giving.
In real terms, your account balance and giving will be falling in line with the current UK inflation rate of 9.1%. If you are able, you might like to consider countering this effect by increasing either or both by that amount.
Putting your Donor Advised or Philanthropy Fund to work
If you have a Donor Advised or Philanthropy Fund and have built a balance for your long-term giving, now might be the right moment to consider making grant requests. We can also help to facilitate any suggestions you might have to provide matched funding.
If you are not ready to make grant requests, you might want to consider allocating some or all of your account balance into one of our three Investment Portfolios, which you can set up easily via your online account. To make this service more accessible, we have reduced the minimum investment threshold to £10,000, and removed the minimum fee.