Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “injustice”

My Live Under The Line Diary

The final day of the Live Under The Line challenge is drawing to a close, but as many of us contemplate our first ‘above the line’ meal in days, Phil Olckers reflects on his three-day experience.

"It just hit me how blessed I really am"

“It just hit me how blessed I really am”

So Monday morning started a little crazy for me. The Live Under The Line challenge kind of slipped my mind a little bit over the weekend, and after church on Sunday evening it was too late, and I was too lazy, to go and do my grocery shopping. I woke up Monday pretty hungry, about to smash a bowl of Pronutro and coffee as I often do on a Monday morning, but then I remembered I was supposed to be “Living Under The Line,” so a glass of water had to do the trick. (Thank God for clean running tap water!) And off I went to start the day.

I had a really busy morning at work so only got around to go shopping at about 10:30ish. By then I was starving and very tempted to call it all off. But the fact that I had committed to speaking in front of church kept me going. I can’t lie, that was the only reason. So after quite a few calculations, I managed to work out a perfectly good LUTL diet for the next three days.

I carefully picked three decent-sized bananas. Usually I’d just go for the best looking ones, but now I had to try keep this cheap, so had to take size into consideration here. Then a loaf of un-sliced freshly baked bread. It was  the cheapest option, but  turned out to be the best (the bread is AMAZING!) A jar of peanut butter, which luckily for me was on promotion, so I scored R3 leftover, and oats for breakfast. My menu then became oats for breakfast, peanut butter and bread for lunch and dinner, and a banana as a snack.

Day 1

I struggled. My body was a bit man down from a general flu-ish feeling. But I had committed so I didn’t give in. I did a 12km run after work – I really enjoy training and staying fit – but I was seriously craving a full meal afterwards with a proper portion of meat. But two slices of bread had to do the trick and off I went to a farewell where everyone was eating food and drinking beer – I had my water. Live Under The Line was a great conversation starter and got a lot of people thinking and inspired, so I’m glad I stuck out day one.

Day 2

My mind was now in the game. I was so ready for day two. I mean it’s actually a lot to eat considering people who really live under the line. Got to work and when I reached over to get my packet of lunch for the day, the horror hit. I forgot it at home. Noooo. Luckily, I had spare oats at work and the R3 I saved thanks to the peanut butter promotion, so a R3 delicious roll from Spar served me for lunch.

Was still feeling flu-ish though, so I bought some Corenza-C and a Lucozade. I debated for a while whether I could buy these, but the whole point of LUTL for me is the change it brings to my heart, and so I decided to take the “stay healthy” route. This challenge made me realise how expensive even just your basic everyday medicine is – in one day I blew five days worth of budget for about three days worth of medicine. to treat a common cold.

Did another run, so I really needed that Lucozade energy. This made me realise that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my training program if I was living on R10 a day. Even after just two days I could feel my energy decreased significantly.

Day 3

It’s my birthday today so saying no to cake is going to be difficult. I bought a cake for all my colleagues at work, so I get to watch them enjoy it – not looking forward to that! But, hey, hopefully it opens up some more awesome conversations.

Went swimming at 6am, and after that my girlfriend gave me my birthday present and wanted to surprise me with a smoothie. I then remembered I was LUTL’ing… But… I can’t lie, I cheated, I let her buy me one. It’s my birthday – I’m allowed a treat, right? Besides, my R10 diet isn’t really helping me stay energised with my training program, so I really needed it this morning. I will do my best to stick to it for the rest of the day, but the temptation to quit and enjoy birthday treats is really getting to me.

Final thoughts

This year, LUTL has been a good one for my heart. The first time I did it in 2011 I was really excited and on such a buzz afterwards, phoning Common Good peeps and wanting to give, give, give. But that disappeared after a month. During last year’s LUTL challenge I just wanted to get it over and done with. I got a little bit annoyed with it and it didn’t really do much for me. But this year, LUTL really got me thinking.

I walked past a beggar yesterday. I had a wallet full of money and could have easily given him some food, but I just though about my own stomach and shrugged him off. I’m not changing over night, but this year the challenge is really causing me to ask God to help change the way I view all the things I have and earn in this life. I’m also asking God to reveal to me how I can give more effectively and allow him into that part of my life.

For now I’m just grateful for all that I have, but I’m really praying for God to help me become more gracious and joyful with my giving. It’s a slow process but at least the praying for that has started now.

– Phil is a Sound Engineer. He works at a film company in Cape Town doing Sound Design and Final Mixing for feature films. He is part of the Common Ground Constantiaberg PM community.

P.S. Other great LUTL reads: “What It Felt Like To Be Homeless” by Richard Bolland, and “Why My Family Is Going Hungry” by Julie Williams

Is this an Opportunity or an Obligation?

This isn’t a question many of us ask as we go about our days, but when it comes to responding to the needs of this world it could be a very important one. Richard Lundie explains.

Photo Credit: Amy L. Riddle via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Amy L. Riddle via Compfight cc

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed HIV+. She was working her hands to the bone to earn enough to prove that she could take care of her children who had been placed in a foster home. As her friend I wanted to do everything I could to help her, but her situation also made me ask myself, “If I help her, shouldn’t I also be doing something to help the millions of other South Africans with stories similar to hers? Why should my compassion stop with her?”

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 demonstrates that our neighbour is anyone in need. Anyone. In a world that is so fill of need how do we show love to all our neighbours?

Helping a friend or family member is one thing, but what about the needs of the millions of other people in this city, this country, this continent?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when the needs are so broad, so deep and so big!  But should we treat each situation equally? With limited time and resources, where should we be focusing our efforts?

How can we sift through these immense challenges and point our time, talents and treasures towards a few? We are only human after all. If we tried to respond to every situation we could risk burn out, or we might become so demoralised by our attempts to ‘save the world’ that we’d eventually stop trying to respond at all.

There is a concept called ‘moral proximity’ which I think can be a helpful lens to look through when deciding how or when to respond to an injustice or a need.

Let me explain.

When reading scripture, we see how the early church was called to provide for their families.  1 Timothy 5:8 uses pretty strong language to get this point across saying that not providing for your family members makes you “worse than an unbeliever”. Yikes!

But I think the reason Paul made this bold statement is because our family is the closest to us in terms of our ‘moral proximity’.

Moral proximity states that the closer the person is to you, the more responsibility you have to act and participate in addressing their need.  This is not necessarily a geographical proximity, but primarily a relational proximity.

An example is: your sister, who lives in another part of the country or continent, has a particular need.  You feel a stronger desire and perhaps obligation to assist her, compared to another person who lives in the same city as you, but whom you barely know.  That is moral proximity.

This is why in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul urges, encourages, inspires and blesses those from the church in Macedonia who contribute towards supporting the church in Jerusalem undergoing famine, but at no point does he say that if they don’t give they’ll be “worse than an unbeliever” – the strong warning he gave to the believers in 1 Timothy 5:8.

I believe the reason for his change in tone is because the two churches he’s speaking about in 2 Corinthians were far apart, but connected, so the contribution was an opportunity, rather than an obligation.

The closer the person or the need is to you, the greater the obligation.  The further away it is the more responding to their need becomes an opportunity, and less of an obligation.

This is not about drawing a line so we can ‘get away with less’.  It’s more about distinguishing between those situations which provide an opportunity for us to be generous and those situations where we are obligated as Christ-followers to sacrificial love. And, here’s the tough part, where not responding is actually sinning.

So what does this mean for us?  As we face the wide range of human needs in this world, the first people we should be looking to help are those around us.  We should be careful not to clamber over people in need who are in our midst to help others ‘further out’.

Who are the people in your life in need who you could move towards in relationship? Have you perhaps overlooked the person that works with you or for you?  Or the congregant in the seat next to you?

While God still wants us to take those opportunities to love our neighbours across cities, oceans and continents, he has mandated us to care for those who are nearest to us in space, kinship, time and geography.

There could be people who are outside of your social circle, but who fall within your moral proximity. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 shows us that we should not limit our love to those in our ‘inner circle’. And moral proximity should definitely not be used as an excuse to only help those who are like us.

Why not prayerfully consider those people who God has placed in your sphere?  What are the opportunities that God is offering you to be generous and loving?  Who are those closest to you – in your family, your small group and so on – who you could moved towards in compassion and support during a time of need or injustice?  What can you do to journey with them?

God wants to use us as his instruments to bring hope and restoration to this world but he can only do this if we’re willing to open our eyes and see the people in our midst who he is calling us to love and serve.

-Richard is the Partners and Initiatives Programme Manager at Common Good. He also serves on the leadership team of Common Ground Church Wynberg, together with his wife, Ruth.

(Author’s note: I’d like to credit the book “What is the Mission of the Church” by Kevin deYoung and Greg Gilbert as a key resource in writing this post)

What are your thoughts on this? How do you decide when and how to respond to those in need? Do you think ‘moral proximity’ could be a helpful lens?

P.S.  Related articles you might want to read: “Social Justice and the poor” by Kevin DeYoung and “What does it really mean to live social justice?” by Rigby Wallace

Praying for Discernment

This month’s newsletter looks at how we can discern the will of God in our daily lives. Join us as we pray for greater discernment as we respond to those around us. By Lindsay Sherring

As Christ-followers, we are called to respond to the needs of those around us, but this requires great discernment in order to know what the best response is for that person or situation. We need discernment not just in dealing with vulnerable people, but in dealing with our own personal life decisions as well. Should I give this person money? Should I drive them to a shelter? Should I take this job? Or marry this person? The decisions we need to make are endless.

We all want to make the right choice, but how do we respond to people amidst the busyness of our daily life? Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut formula to helping those in need around us. But we do serve an all-powerful and all-knowing God so our first response should always be to seek Him. It all comes down to God desiring us to be closer to Him and His will. As we walk closely with God, His whispers and desires become evident and our decisions begin to fall in line with His will.

This month, please pray…

  • That God’s desires and wisdom would become clear to you

It may sound simple, but asking God to place His desires on your heart is a great starting point to understanding His will. If we are not constantly seeking Him, it becomes harder to discern just what He wants for our lives. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment to make the right choices.

  • That the fear of making a wrong decision won’t hinder action

There are many ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of helping others and sometimes the fear of ‘doing justice incorrectly’ can overcome our desire to help and we end up not doing anything. Remember, God can restore and redeem any situation even if you think you’ve done the wrong thing. This doesn’t give us permission to flippantly ‘do justice’, rather it is a comfort to know that God has the ability to correct our mistakes and use them for His glory.

  • That we would be open to hear God speak in different ways

God can speak through His word, the people around you, industry professionals, articles you read, etc. We must take all of these messages and use our best judgement when faced with a situation that requires our action. It is important to remember that although there are various sources of information and ways to help those in need, God will never ask you to do something out of line with His word. Ask God to give you discernment to hear his voice through all of it.

  • That you seek and find the third way

Discernment is about finding the third way in many situations. A person may be asking you for money, you may want to drive them to the shelter, but what they really need is prayer. Don’t become so wrapped up in your own dos and don’ts of reaching out that you forget to listen to God’s promptings. Ask God to reveal people’s true needs so that you can respond appropriately in a Christ-like way.

– Lindsay is a member of the Common Ground Bosch PM congregation and is the fundraising coordinator at Common Good.

Why I Volunteer – In Under 100 Words

Thinking of serving through Common Good this year? Here, five volunteers share with us a bit about why they chose to give their time and talents to serve through Common Good initiatives last year. 

pic- Jessica GrangerIzandla Zethemba

“I think that realising my call to “live social justice” and responding to it by volunteering for Izandla Zethemba has been very fulfilling. Realising that even though I am volunteering to be an influence in the lives of the kids at IZ, I myself have learnt so much from them and they have positively influenced me as well. Being part of something bigger than myself, where God is so evidently at work, has been wonderful.” – Jessica Granger, Izandla Zethemba volunteer

Paradigm Shift

“The end of course graduation is an amazing event where graduates and past graduates share how much they have benefited in their business, in their confidence in facing life’s difficulties, and in their daily walk with Christ. It is like seeing a miracle where a “few loaves and fishes are used to feed a multitude”. Helping men and women recognise their gifts and God-given abilities despite material poverty, remains an awesome experience.” – Roy Mayers, Paradigm Shift volunteer

DentonMaintenance Ministry

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that my time can be used to help organisations with something I enjoy doing. Not only do I get to do what I enjoy but also help where it’s needed, in a practical sense and seeing the end result.” – Denton Walters, Maintenance Ministry volunteer

IMG_2741Bedtime Reading

“I genuinely look forward to seeing the kids each week, and while it is often sad or frustrating to be there it is also so rewarding when they remember what you taught them the week before, they give you hugs, or they ask you to pray for them. God has definitely opened up my heart even more to His children and taught me more about the things that matter to Him.” – Debbie Kusel, Christine Revell Children’s Home Bedtime Reading volunteer

RoseParadigm Shift

“My most fulfilling experience as a volunteer was seeing the entrepreneurs grow in their business, grow in their confidence and their spiritual growth. Their enthusiasm and willingness to participate in all aspects of the lessons was also really encouraging… To be part of this initiative is an amazing blessing to me. I just feel so encouraged by this programme. God  IS at work! In  us and through us,  and I ask the Holy Spirit to continue to show me where opportunities to serve present themselves and step up. I feel so privileged!” – Rose Reddy, Paradigm Shift volunteer

Are you interested in finding out more about the volunteer opportunities available through Common Good? Click here for a full list!

A Monday Blessing


May this Franciscan blessing encourage you during the week ahead. (We have it stuck to our office message board 🙂 )

May God bless you with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen.

May God bless you with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless you with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless you with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the blessing of God, who creates, redeems and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. Amen.

(Photograph by irene gr, via

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