Pity the Child in the Budgets

David Mansfield

Political commentary and social critique has been pouring forth since the budget was handed down on Tuesday night.

Our own Grant Millard from Anglicare has highlighted the neglect of the needs of vulnerable children in our own country.

Tim Costello from World Vision has slammed the Federal Government for its promise breaking failure on its foreign aid commitments. Lives that could be saved will be lost. Even numbers of lives in the hundreds of thousands were quoted.

The Micah challenge made a similar claim. “Last night the Government broke its promise to increase aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income by 2015 . . . cutting $2.9 billion of the planned increase out of the budget over the next four years . . . keeping the promise in full and on time would have saved at least 800,000 lives.

So far, and as we wait for the Opposition leaders formal reply, the Oppositions silence has been deafening on this issue.

Pity the child, the vulnerable child, in the budgets.

I am in the process of preparing a sermon for Mothers’ Day.

I’ve been playing with it for weeks and gave it a real good live run last Sunday, as I inflicted my preparation to that point, on a church in the Southern Highlands. But it is this Sunday, where I was asked for a Mothers’ Day evangelistic sermon, where all the work has been heading for.

I will preach on John 19:17-30 and I will touch on the interplay between child and mother. Yes, the child is an adult. Yes, the child is dying before the very eyes of his grief-struck mother. Yes, the child’s destiny is in his own hands and he has chosen to submit to this death. Yes, he is dying for his mother’s sin, for his disciples’ sin, for his peoples’ sin, for your sin and my sin. And that will be the big idea in the talk.

But, referring to the enigmatic lyrics of Leonard Cohen, “Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower,” I will ask the question, “What did Jesus see from the cross?”

We are told that he saw his mother. We are told that he saw his friend. Both were dealing with grief, with John’s grief, no doubt, mixed with shame. What Jesus sees evokes words that bring mother and friend together in a new, personal and practical relationship. Spiritual family becomes as real as biological family.

Jesus sees his mother with need and his friend with resources. Jesus brokers a kind of partnership. But don’t conclude that it is a paternalistic model of partnership. The new mother who is welcomed into the new son’s home will bless the new son as much as the new son will provide for and bless the new mother. The idea of benefactor and beneficiary is, as always, turned on its head in the radical life and teaching of the One who said,

It is more blessed to give than to get (Acts 20:35).

Which brings me to the third budget that can be so easily overlooked as we point the bony finger at the failure of self-interested politicians, whether they are in government or opposition, and we carry on as if we are shocked by their narcissism but never really are.

What about our budget and our bottom line? How many lives are we saving through our sacrificial and compassionate generosity the world’s most vulnerable people; to the 24,000 children under five who will die today from preventable causes; to the 48,000 grieving mums and dads who will cradle them in their arms as their emaciated and feverish bodies fight for their final breath?

I have eight grandchildren under eight and five under two. I love them as much as I love the parents who spawned them. I feel and fear for them as much as I did for their parents a generation ago – even more so, given that massive cultural shifts and communication revolutions make them more vulnerable than ever before. But could I love my own so much but love other’s so little?

Says the boy who adopted Jesus’ mother:

If any one of you has material possessions and sees a  brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can  God’s love be in you (1 John 3:17)?

Does my budget reflect my commitment to the nations and the world’s most vulnerable? Does yours? For governments have a part to play, but so do we.

Whether we give ten, twenty or thirty percent of our income away, I hope we give at least half to direct Gospel work and almost half to caring for the world’s most vulnerable and genuinely needy people.

For Jesus’ sake, pity the child in all the budgets.