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Helping those trapped in poverty in the UK

Matt Holderness portrait Matt Holderness
6 min

The troubling but truthful reality about poverty in the UK

We have always had the poor among us, and Jesus told us we always would (Mark 14:7a). Right now, 22% of the population (14.5 million) are living in poverty in the UK alone. That means one in five people can’t currently meet their basic food, clothing or housing needs. It’s a figure that is deeply troubling.   

Why poverty is a problem for us all

One woman in the UK is so intimate with her household budget that she can tell you the hourly rate of a light being on. It’s about 10p in case you’re wondering. She knows this type of information because her finances are at an all time low. In her poverty she is genuinely weighing up whether it would be better to sit in the dark and save some pennies to give to her local church. Sound familiar?

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21: 1-4, NIV).

It’s common knowledge that Jesus taught a lot about money and how we should use it. Here he is commending a widow for her act of sacrificial giving. The natural conclusion is that this must be a praiseworthy thing to emulate. Which of course it is. But if you stop and read between the lines, Jesus is also making a comment about the wealthy in that community. The widow shouldn’t have been in the position of having to use her last pennies in an act of worship. Perhaps, being that deep in poverty, her community should have stepped in and helped her (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

Contrasting the widow and the wealthy in this way should be a lightbulb moment for us all. Especially when we hear about the woman in the UK counting the cost of keeping the lights on. Being that deep in poverty, she shouldn’t be on her own in the dark, worrying about how to make ends meet.  At the end of the day, her poverty is not just her problem, it’s our problem too!

It’s time to be actively generous

As noted earlier, most biblical teaching on Luke 21:1-4 tells us to mirror the actions of the widow. Yet many of us reading this post will likely never be in such a desperate situation. Even though we are currently facing tough financial decisions, I’m assuming very few of those us reading this blog will be throwing our last pennies into the church offering plate any time soon. So we need to consider Jesus’ implicit challenge to the wealthy, not the poor. How we can be helping those trapped in poverty.

It's understandable that receiving a call to give right now might be difficult to hear, especially when times are hard. But while there is never really a good time to talk about money, there is always a good time to talk about helping those in need. Thinking about what poverty is, is a good catalyst to start thinking about how we can respond.

For some people, poverty means having to skip an entire meal every day so that their kids can eat. For others, it is setting off two hours earlier to walk to work because they can’t afford the bus fare, let alone put fuel in a car. To others still, poverty means being sat in a cold and dark house until their next payday.

These are all things most of us take for granted every day. We might complain about rising food prices, that it costs nearly £100 to fill a family car and that energy companies are charging us a fortune. But in reality, we still eat, travel and warm our homes every day. If that is true for us, then it’s time to be actively generous to those around us who find themselves in deep poverty. So, what can we practically do?

Make a PLAN to help out

We think it’s always a good idea to make a plan when it comes to managing our finances. Here are four simple steps that will help you create a PLAN to help those trapped in poverty:

•    Pray about the troubling reality of poverty in the UK and ask God to show you what you can do

•    Learn about how you can help those in poverty in your local community

•    Adjust your monthly budget to free up some money to give to something that you feel passionate about. It doesn’t have to be a huge gift, you can always start with something small, such as £10.

•    Nominate an organisation to receive a regular gift and watch the impact it has.

Find out who is already helping

Sometimes it can be hard to work out who to give to. There will be many organisations in your local area and on a national level who are helping those on the poverty line in the UK. One of the benefits of using our Causefinder tool is that you can explore sections dedicated to specific causes, like UK Poverty and Debt. Also, anyone on there has been verified by us. Here are a few from the current list that you could give to:

CAP (Christians Against Poverty) who are on a mission to release thousands from grinding poverty through award winning debt management advice.

London City Mission which exists to share the love of God and the good news of Jesus with the least reached of London.

Storehouse who aim to restore dignity, significance and hope in the lives of everyone they encounter.

Things are financially tight for most people in the UK right now. This is especially so for around 20% of the population who find themselves in deep poverty. We believe that with a little perspective change and a simple plan we can all make a difference together.

If you need any help with your monthly budgeting we have a number of resources available to use. This currently includes a Budgeting Guide for all, and a Guide to Giving for Married Couples, with more planned for the future. Sign up to receive Generous, our monthly email, that will keep you up to date with all the latest news and resources.


Profile image of Matt Holderness
Written by

Matt Holderness

Matt joined Stewardship in 2022 with over twenty years of marketing experience from roles at Kendal College and Capernwray Bible School. He has degrees in Business and Marketing, Theology, Management and most recently a Masters in Hermeneutics. 

Through raising awareness of Stewardship’s services, Matt helps people explore the impact their generosity can have on the church and Christian charities. He’s passionate about supporting Evangelism and Bible causes, and has a particular interest in charities that are helping people in Poverty and Debt in the UK.