God’s heart for those in need is crystal clear throughout the Old Testament. In a cost of living crisis the call to love your neighbour as yourself is more relevant than ever, says Natalie Williams

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My boiler broke last week. I’m writing this wrapped up in a dressing gown over my clothes, clutching a hot-water bottle, with a heater struggling to warm up my living room. It’s day five of no heating and no hot water (I have showered; I went to my mum’s!).

It’s a first-world problem, of course, and one that I’m aware I am experiencing from a position of privilege. My new boiler is being fitted as I type and I’m determined to be more grateful for instant access to hot water and warm radiators. 

I keep thinking about all of the people who are, like me, living in one of the richest nations on the planet but, unlike me, do not have the means to replace their broken boiler. Or, worse still, can’t afford to use their working one.

Inadequately heated homes are one of the leading causes of death in Central St Leonards, the neighbouring ward to where I live in Hastings. People are cutting back on food and heating because, no matter how they do the maths, they cannot make ends meet. They are our neighbours, and we are called to love them as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).

What does it look like to do that? When my boiler broke, I got in touch with a plumber as soon as possible. Loving my neighbour as myself would probably look like reacting just as quickly when their boiler breaks as I do when my own conks out.

There is no shortage of opportunities to catch God’s heart for those in need

The call for Christians to care about the poverty around us is clear. It’s a thread that runs throughout the scriptures, from the Law and the prophets to the Gospels and the Letters – there’s no getting away from God’s heart for the most vulnerable. 

A modern-day paraphrase of Isaiah 58 might read something like this: “God, I read my Bible this morning. I prayed. I went to church on Sunday. I even went to small group last week, and a prayer meeting! So why aren’t you answering my prayers? You don’t seem to be listening to me!”

God’s response in that passage was that his people had missed his heart for the oppressed, the hungry and the homeless. 

God hasn’t changed.

Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, we are giving food to him (Matthew 25:40). The current cost of living crisis, combined with the dire situation in local and central government finances, means there is no shortage of opportunities for Jesus-followers to catch God’s heart for those in need, and love our neighbours as ourselves. The challenge is great. But when we take even small steps of generosity towards people who have less than us, we are giving to Jesus himself.