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Our society is sick: Is generosity really the cure?

Our society is sick because we have built it upon values which are severely lacking in love - but there is a solution.

andy knox Andy Knox
6 min

Life on the bottom rung

‘I’m fed up of feeling like kids’ lives matter less here!’ Steph said as her eyes filled with tears. As a doctor, I’ve been working in communities like hers for over 15 years and her story is unfortunately very familiar. 

We took a walk around the estate where she lives . The community centre, owned by the county council, has been boarded up for over a decade. There is one public bin and the front gardens are flooded with rubbish, despite the weekly litter pick done by Steph and her neighbours. The skate park has huge cracks in the concrete ramps – several children have lost their front teeth to this and we know how hard it is to access dental help. The playground has only just had the swings put back after Covid and there is no other equipment which is safe to use. 

The local high school has been knocked down and the nearest alternative is across town. Bus fares are not cheap so a high percentage of young people are not in education, employment or training. Many of them also have special educational needs, and the longer they are neglected, the slimmer their chances are of gainful work in the future; and so the cycle of generational poverty continues. 

‘What about the church?’ I ask. 

‘The church?! They charge us £30 every time we want to hire the hall for a community meeting, the priest changes every year and no one goes it’s really boring and irrelevant’, she replied incredulously.

Our society is sick 

Steph’s assessment is sadly all too accurate. Some people in our nation (and indeed globally) matter far less than others. I wish that this estate was a one-off, but the reality is multiplied right across the UK and the situation is getting worse. The inequity gap is widening, poverty is increasing and more people are living in destitution.[1] Our society is sick.

In my book, Sick Society, I argue that our society is sick because we have built it upon values which are severely lacking in love. I invite us to reimagine what it might be like if we placed love at the core of how we build our society and how that might shape our politics, economics, ecology, schools, health and care services and many other facets of our life together. 

magnifying glass

I’m not talking about a sentimental, gooey-eyed, warm-fuzzy-feeling kind of love. I’m talking about love in action – a gritty, gutsy, difficult, inclusive, embracing kind of love that is not afraid to get its hands dirty. That is the kind of love which can transform our world.

The church is often thought of as irrelevant

The Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, recently chastised the church for abandoning the poorest communities in the UK.  Many big, successful churches and their multimillion pound building projects, with stage lighting and sound systems to boot, are often located far away from estates like Steph’s, or fail to preach a gospel that has any relevant implications. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are so many amazing Christian charities seeking to make a real difference in our most disadvantaged communities, and choosing to support them can make a profoundly positive difference. They are a massively important part of the wider body of Christ and a great source of hope to many – hope similar to that found in the song of Mary when she declares that, as a result of Jesus, the mighty will be brought low and the humble lifted up, the hungry filled with good things but the rich sent away empty (Luke 1:52–53). Hope found in the proclamation and life-poured-out love of Christ Jesus, that he came to preach and demonstrate good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Hope found in the declaration of Paul, that if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) – a whole new way of seeing and being in the world, a world in which we are called, as a prophetic people, to live by a different economy, one of radical generosity.

Generosity is a big part of the cure

Generosity is the antithesis of an individualistic, greedy, self-serving economy where every person has a varying level of value. God’s kingdom enacts the ultimate ‘levelling-up agenda’, where the mighty and the humble meet together with everyone satisfied and filled.  

Imagine for a minute what it would be like if the church truly believed in that mission. If it was a living temple, an open and radically inclusive people movement, filled with God’s Spirit, pouring out loving generosity to make the world new. What if there wasn’t a need to tell people how much they need Jesus before simply getting alongside them and demonstrating his love, through friendship, gentle humility, deep listening and genuine care. 

Can you imagine how much more beautiful and relevant people would find Jesus? Can you imagine the difference that could be made? 

Generosity is the recognition that freely we have received and so freely we give (Matt. 10:8). It is the antidote to fear and greed. What if we preached Good News to the poor along with economic and pragmatic practical implications?! What kind of restoration might we see in our land if the focus moved away from successful churches to renewed, healthy communities in which every child matters equally? 

money bag love

Generosity might not be the ultimate cure, but it’s definitely a big part of the overall solution. Money can’t buy you love but it can be a demonstration of your love for others. If as disciples of Jesus we put our money where our mouth is, we will undoubtedly start to see God do extraordinary things in the lives of the poor and marginalised.

What you can do to help

As a first step you might consider giving a higher amount or percentage of your income to fund a charity working on the frontline such as Acts435, Wonder Foundation, The Trussell Trust, CAP or Jubilee+? You might want to take a look at your giving strategy as a lot has changed financially over the last few years, or you could consider some practical advice about how to increase your generosity.

Ultimately, as your giving becomes a radical, practical and utterly relevant manifestation of your love of others in action, you will start to see how loving generosity can bring about lasting change in the parts of our nation which need it most.

Grow your generosity with a Stewardship Giving Account

A Stewardship Giving Account can help you manage all your giving in one place online. It provides you with full visibility of how much you give and who you give to, and the flexibility to make changes to your giving at any time.

For those giving over £25,000 a year, our Donor Advised Fund will allow you to enjoy supporting the causes you care about while we help you give tax-effectively and take care of the admin.


[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/uk-poverty-2024-the-essential-guide-to-understanding-poverty-in-the-uk


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Profile image of Andy Knox
Written by

Andy Knox

Dr Andy Knox is a GP and Associate Medical Director of the Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB who is focused on population health and health inequity. He’s also a motivational speaker and blogger. He was recently awarded an MBE in the King’s first Birthday Honours List for services to primary care and tackling health inequalities. He’s just released his first book, called Sick Society.