• The Federal Budget - what's in it for the poor?

    Posted by Tim

    7 May, 2012

    As Australia focuses on the Federal Budget and how our hip pockets will be affected, Christians are called to view it in another way. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in the US has often referred to federal budgets as moral documents. He recently pointed out that budgets reveal our nation’s priorities – who is important and who is not, and what is important and what is not.

    One very important priority for our nation is that of our overseas aid and development expenditure. As I have said elsewhere recently, most Australians don’t realise how little our Government gives in this area. Our current level of overseas aid sits at just 35 cents per every $100 of GNI.

    As Christians we are called to view the Federal Budget in terms of how God wants us to use our nation’s finances. It is about caring for the ‘least of these’ as described by Jesus in Matthew 25. This parable near the end of Matthew’s Gospel is a call to the nations; it seems to be talking about how the nations have treated the least of these. It is a call which Australia, as one of the richest nations in the world, needs to take seriously.

    How our nation uses its finances is a specifically Christian issue. If we believe that God cares about people, then He cares about their conditions. In Jesus and the Old Testament prophets we have been shown the importance of calling those in power to account.

    The main characteristic of the biblical prophets was that they boldly spoke truth to power as they recognised the reality of sin and evil in their world.

    I have previously pointed out that sin is the reign of evil and is expressed in hunger, injustice, sickness and spiritual alienation – in short, all that cripples the image of God. Christians must seek to overcome the reign of evil, and the only thing that can do that is the reign of God – the kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. Part of this involves speaking up in the tradition of the prophets.

    There is no question that we as a nation can and must do more to aid the world’s poor (most of whom do not live in Africa but in our own region of Asia). After all, private giving in Australia is higher than in many other countries, so if the citizens can do it, our Government can too. Let’s heed the words of Desmond Tutu:

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

    Tim Costello is the CEO of World Vision Australia, a partner agency of Micah Challenge.

    This article first appeared in the May edition of Eternity Magazine.