How to be human in a cost of living crisis

by Jo Frost

Four ideas about how to support those disproportionately affected by rising prices

In the spring of 2020, as we bedded into lockdown one and began to appreciate just how seismic the effects of Covid-19 would be on our country, there was talk of how we were all in this crisis together. That Covid did not discriminate. That we would all be affected in the same way and to the same extent. But this is a myth that needs debunking, said Emily Maitlis on Newsnight in April 2020. The truth was that the crisis was disproportionately affecting the poor and the vulnerable.

Today, with yet another crisis flooding our newsfeeds, as inflation soars and the cost of living ever-increases, we are once again seeing the poor disproportionately affected. Many of us are feeling the squeeze, reigning in our spending, forgoing luxuries and thinking twice about a longer car journey. But, for a sizable portion of our community, the effects are much more keenly and harshly felt.

One in five of the UK population is currently living in poverty. The rate is even higher among children: 31 per cent are living in poverty and that number increases to one in two for children in single parent families. In every street in the UK, there will be a family who is struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and heat the rooms that they occupy. Foodbanks are struggling to meet ever-increasing demand. People are struggling to put petrol in their cars to get to work. Children are going hungry.

On top of the physical and practical needs that the cost of living crisis exacerbate, unseen challenges of emotional distress, shame, mental exhaustion and anxiety are wreaking havoc in the lives of individuals and families across the UK.

My friends, this should not be.

In one of the most developed nations in the world, the level of poverty and deprivation that we see in our communities is an immediate and scathing indictment on how we view and treat the humanity of our neighbours and of ourselves.

The flourishing of some cannot be at the expense at the suffering of others. To dismiss or diminish the humanity of an individual is to dismiss and diminish the image of God which they bear. For suffering and hardship to continue unbated behind closed doors, for people to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the challenges being experienced by those around us, for those in authority to act with impunity to the detriment of those struggling, is to disregard the warning of Jesus: ​What you did not to for the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)

“The flourishing of some cannot be at the expense at the suffering of others.”

So, how do we live out and share a better story of being human, of the good, true and beautiful life on offer in Jesus in the middle of a cost of living crisis?

We can pay attention; look out for people who might be struggling disproportionately in this moment, listen out for quiet pleas for help and offer support and care where you are able.

We can work together in churches and with local authorities to make immediate as well as long-lasting changes that secure the health and wellbeing of families within our community.

We can campaign, petition and vote in favour of packages and measures that help those disproportionately affected by the crisis. Reach out to your local MP and engage with them. Chat with your local Citizens Advice branch, CAP centre or foodbank, find out the needs and campaign for them to be addressed.

We can pray. Pray for our neighbours and our communities to turn to Jesus, to find life in abundance in Him and for our churches to be the expressions of His compassion to those in need.

And remember, whatever you do for the least of these, you are doing for Jesus.

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