Christians should act with compassion to less fortunate people. They believe that life is sacred and that God loves every human being. Christians apply these beliefs to the question of wealth and poverty in different ways.
The Roman Catholic Church is often criticised for its wealth when so many people live in absolute poverty. The Church owns valuable property and art. Some argue that it should give more of its wealth away to the less fortunate. However, some Christians argue that the Bible teaches that there is nothing wrong with wealth in itself. It is greed that is wrong.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the poor represent those who are marginalised in society. Jesus himself taught the importance of helping those who are poor and need help. The Church also teaches about the 'preferential option for the poor', that in order to improve life for the poor, we should speak for the voiceless and defend the defenceless. The Roman Catholic Church was an open supporter, amongst many churches, of Jubilee Year.
Liberation Theology is a movement within the Roman Catholic Church. It began in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, in response to poverty in Brazilian society. It is based on the teaching of loving one's neighbour. Christians working in this movement focus on helping those who live in poverty. They believe that poverty is the single most important issue faced by people in today's world as poverty leads to all sorts of disadvantages to do with health, education and participation in society.
The General Synod of the Church of England said that:
As a matter of common humanity and of our mutual interest in survival, the world requires a new and more equitable system of economic relationships between nations.General Synod of the Church of England, 1981
Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, raised issues of the poor to international attention. His International Development Secretariat was involved in several programmes in sub-Saharan Africa to help build schools and support those suffering from illnesses such as HIV. The work of the Church lies not in imposing solutions but in working with local people.
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) believes in putting its faith into action. Quaker Peace and Social Witness is a member of the 'Close the Gap' global campaign. As part of this campaign, Quakers try to reduce the inequality between the rich and the poor, including in the UK.
The Quakers support their ideals with reference to Luke:
…He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.Luke 1:46-55
Many Christians support the work of charities in LEDCs.
CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) is the Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, and works with poor communities in LEDCs to end poverty and injustice. The organisation helps people of all religions, not just Christians.
CAFOD's vision is based on Catholic Social Teaching which says that we are part of one community, wherever we live. When CAFOD outlines its aims, it refers to Pope Paul VI's teaching in Populorum Progressio:
You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his … The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.Pope Paul VI Populorum Progressio (1967)
Christian Aid is a charity, sponsored by most of the Protestant denominations in the UK, that works to end world poverty. It helps both religious and non-religious people and it tackles the causes and effects of poverty. The charity helps in emergency situations providing food, clean water and shelter necessary for survival, eg in the Philippines, after the typhoon, monsoon and floods in 2012. Christian Aid also funds early warning systems so that people can be evacuated from their homes before they are in danger.
Christian Aid and CAFOD helped set up the Fairtrade Foundation in 1992. Both charities believe strongly in the importance of sustainable development to eradicate long-term poverty. The aim of fair trade is to enable farmers to receive a fair price for their produce.
Some Christians believe that they should help people in poverty directly by visiting LEDCs and being involved in charitable organisations.
Christians Abroad supports volunteers to go abroad and work with children and communities in LEDCs, eg the Rainbow House Children's Home in Kenya welcomes volunteers through Christians Abroad to work with former homeless street children.
Some Christians tithe some of their income for good causes and others donate their time, working in a charity shop for example. Some Christian organisations, such as Time for God, help volunteers take time out of their careers or education to help the less fortunate in the UK.