South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The evidence is all around us. Being an unequal society has massive implications for everyone living in such a society. As Christians this puts us in a privileged position of contributing to the cause of justice, and being examples to the world of what pure and true religion looks like.
Issues of inequality have clear connections to the gospel since they touch on the heart of justice which the Bible calls us to think about. They also cause us to grapple with the application of texts that allude to the fact that the poor we will always have with us, therefore we are commanded by God to “freely open [our] hands to [our brothers], to [our] needy and poor in [our] land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).
We Cannot be Silent
The neglect of robust discussions and helpful writing and preaching by Christians on these issues has resulted in and contributed to the confusion and uneasiness when it comes to dealing with these issues. They might be dealt with politically, but I do not think they are exclusively political, and so to push them out of the church by branding them political and coining them as ‘social gospel’ issues is rather unfortunate. These are deep seated gospel issues, and if anyone really cares about the people of God then they will have something to say about the negative effects of varying socio-economic issues and the impact they have on the people of God. The inequality in our country has spilled over to all areas of our lives.
All of us are one day going to stand before the Almighty & All Compassionate God. We might hear these words: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
What are you doing about issues of inequality in South Africa? How can you exercise grace in this regard?
Removing Structural Inequalities
In Acts 6 when the disciples increased in number (v1), there was a complaint by the Hellenists that rose against the Hebrews “because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food” (v2). The response of the Apostles gives us a model for our churches. Firstly, their affirmation of the centrality of the word of God among the people of God (v2). Secondly, they made sure that they did away with the structural inequalities so that the less privileged would not be neglected (v3).
Led by the Holy Spirit, they chose men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, from all the race groups that were represented amongst them. Those who serve in the church should, likewise, be of a similar diversity in order that they may better understand the problem of socio-economic inequality. And be in a better position to address these issues. The Church of Jesus Christ is now more dynamic than ever and thus we must be even more aware of the tensions and the particular struggles of those who belong to the body.
Tsholofelo Kukuni is the pastor of Hope Bible Church, a multicultural church in Bloemfontein. He is married with two children and is passionate about pastoral ministry, biblical justice, and theology.