As important as charitable attempts to address symptoms of poverty are, charity is not enough.

Person planting in a garden
In Canada, 4.9 million people live in poverty.
Credit: Our Place, Victoria, BC
Published On: March 7, 2016

Scripture tells us that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and throughout the Bible we are reminded to act justly and to care for those on the margins (Isaiah 58:5-10, Mark 10:21). The United Church of Canada believes that as we lead lives of compassion and justice, “the poor must have priority… over the wants of the rich.” (“The Church and the Economic Crisis (1984)” see 1c.)

Globally, more than one billion people live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day. In Canada 4.9 million live in poverty (low-income measure) – with greater rates among people who are Indigenous, racialized, recent immigrants, impacted by disabilities or living in a female-led lone-parent family.

Charitable attempts address symptoms of poverty with soup kitchens, food banks, etc. As important as this work is – charity is not enough. A metaphor commonly used to explain the difference between charity and justice is that charity is helping people who are drowning in the river (certainly needed), while justice is going upstream to see how they’re ending up in the river and working to stop it from happening. Our work falls short of justice when we don’t work to eliminate the structural causes of poverty, or if we lack real connection with those who have lived experience.

The United Church works to address issues of poverty through a wide variety of initiatives at the local and regional level. We also work in partnership with organizations in Canada and around the world.

United Church resources:

Our Canadian and Global Partners:

  • ACT Alliance: advocacy, development, and humanitarian relief by over 130 churches working together
  • ASTHA Sansthan: works to empower the  impoverished in India

How might you, or your faith community, deepen your involvement in poverty eradication?


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