From Egypt with Love, 4
Almost 30% of Egyptians live at or below the poverty line, which is better than it’s been. Still, there’s a considerable number of people begging or working very low income jobs on the streets. And it’s not entirely clear to me how much social assistance is available. I’ve been told, however, that if you’re a visible minority, you’re less likely to get what’s available. For all the beauty of the people, life here can be cruel.
Given the depreciation of the pound, everyone is looking for money. So it’s nice that we’ve been able to hire a local single mom to help with the cleaning. Our kids make sure that she has lots to do, and she has a regular source of income. There’s another old woman - Om Yousef (mother of Joseph) - on our walk to the daycare. She is out every morning selling tissue or socks (rarely do Egyptians beg without offering something in return). Her daughter died in childbirth, and she helps support the kids by sitting on the corner through cold and hot weather. Many Christians in the neighbourhood chip in to help her out on a weekly basis.
Gary Anderson has written a wonderful study of charity in inter-testamental and New Testament times. Filling in the background to the Lord’s Prayer’s “forgive us our debts,” he shows how the Old Testament and Apocrypha already considered almsgiving an equivalent to the temple sacrifices. As Jews and Christians came to view sin as a kind of debt, they understood almsgiving as a way to pay that debt and store up treasures in heaven. They weren’t doing this for selfish reasons, Anderson says, but to imitate God. Indeed, almsgiving was the major way one proved that one believed in a good Creator. The example of the early church’s faith in this regard, is so helpful to remember. It is their everyday belief that creation actually rewards the charitable that grew into all of the organizations that we take for granted in the West - from hospitals to orphanages to all kinds of charitable. societies.
Jeff and Jenn