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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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17.04.2020

Providence in the Pandemic

Drawing parallels between current and historical events is precarious. But if today’s pandemic evokes the plagues of Egypt, the hardness of heart that inflicted Pharaoh is clearly still contagious. In some supermarkets, for instance, customers have deliberately coughed in the faces of hard-pressed staff and refused to keep a safe distance from other shoppers.

Others have emulated behaviours depicted a few chapters later in the Exodus story. When God provides the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, some ignore God’s instructions and gather more than they need. The result is that the next morning it’s full of maggots.

Recent hoarding like this has been leaving needy people deprived. Supplies have been plentiful, but they’ve been stacked behind walls of fear erected by those who have more than enough.

Thankfully, many people and organisations have sought to serve the needy by emulating virtues lauded by the Israelite singer-songwriter David: contentment and trust. No stranger to danger and deprivation, he wrote that because the Lord was like a shepherd, he would lack nothing.

Providing such service safely is facilitated largely by electronic means of communication, through which no virus can be transmitted. It also helps that homes today, from where many of us are now compelled to work, are better supplied with light, heat, power, refrigeration, water, and sanitation than at any other time in history.

These things – food, supplies, technology, and utilities – are at our disposal for such a time as this due to the providence of God. That providence, which lay behind the daily supply of manna, has been expressed throughout history in human creativity and ingenuity, made productive and profitable through business. It is also expressed, with so many companies now in freefall, through state attempts to secure jobs.

Recognising such providence for what it really is – God at work through human work – can have transformative power, replacing a scarcity mentality with one of abundance. Manufacturers of cars and vacuum cleaners producing ventilators, and major multinationals assigning vast resources to assist struggling healthcare services and small businesses, are just two examples of what can happen when an abundance mindset goes viral.

None of this downplays the hardship faced by many individuals, companies, and communities. But future historians could look back on this period as a time when society came together to address such hardship with the innovation and resourcefulness needed to serve the common good.

 

Peter Heslam is director of Transforming Business and of Faith in Business, Cambridge.

Comments

  1. Thank you! That is a real morale boost. It feels so often that ‘business’ – particularly manufacturing business – is seen as ‘unholy’ and too profit focused, greedy for resource, damaging to the environment. And so some can be. But your article is very refreshing to read and a reminder that whatever we do, do the Lord (Colossians 3)

    By Mark Edwards  -  17 Apr 2020
  2. Excellent writing Peter.
    I am trying to write a message every day that carries the same message. Apart from my messages are written for our largely non faith Society: And this is so hard.
    I am happy to share with you via my link :-
    Justaguy01705350.blogspot.com

    Have a fabulous day and thank you for your writings
    Kevin Reynolds

    By Kevin Reynolds  -  17 Apr 2020
  3. Thank you for this positive, inspiring and hopeful post

    By Sarah Raymond  -  17 Apr 2020
  4. Well said! For example without the current ‘virtual’ means of communication the effects of the pandemic would be much worse. Many GP consultations can now be held via smartphone videoconferencing as can vital contacts with friends and family. Imagine how much greater the problems would have been even 10 years ago let alone 20 or 50. Notwithstanding the need to acknowledge and mourn our tragic losses, let’s pray this vile attack of the enemy will spectacularly backfire as our prayer and purpose for ‘thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’ gains added momentum.

    By Peter Riley  -  17 Apr 2020
  5. Thank you Peter for your reflections on our current situation.
    When our society- and those of other nations – return to a new ‘normality’, we need to pray and act in accordance with some of the positive behaviours that we are learning. Such as : using all our new – and old! – technologies to stay better connected with one another; to be kinder to one another; to value poorly-paid public sector workers more; etc.etc; and thereby build a better more caring, and better functioning society to God’s Greater Glory

    By TONY GREENWAY  -  17 Apr 2020
  6. Neat, Biblical, contains His Spirit and , as ever challenging.
    Forwarding to my ‘prayed-for people’ in UK, The Gulf, Egypt
    Thank you

    By Martin Hines  -  17 Apr 2020
  7. Thank you, I thoroughly aporeciate your piece.
    I also wonder though whether God’s providence concurrently with what you have written above also exposes weaknesses in financial systems and whether as Christians there are creative ways to address these so that they could be more robust on future crisis eg problems of debt and tax systems that discourage savings in businesses eg non profit organisations?? But I’m not an economist. It also exposes the vulnerability of an already over stretched and underfunded NHS… I am on ky knees…. all the suffering makes it difficult to clap. I can’t help seeing God’s providence in exposing what needs changing . We are callled to bearers of truth and to both call these issues out while asking God’s wisdom to creatively address them .

    By Ally Berg  -  17 Apr 2020
  8. So much claptrap on how we need to pray to God for help, who do you think has ultimate power and controls everything? If you are a believer in whatever God you chose to believe in, then praying to the very entity responsible for this Virus is a waste of time, just as it has always been in such times as the Black Plague, Spanish Flu, World wars, and all the other terrible things that take place that inflict so much suffering on the Human race.

    By JOHN  -  17 Apr 2020
  9. While I appreciate the abundance we know, my friends in Uganda do not know. I spent most of 2019 volunteering with a Christian charity in a village. I decided I did not ant to go as a helper, but I wanted to live as one of them, just as the Lord of glory came to live amongst us. I learnt to live with the resources that I had. When I wanted to do something, rather than go to a shop to see if I could buy what I needed, I looked around to see what I had already ad asked the people how they would go about the taskIt was the most wonderful experience. We have grown so used to abundance that many of us just take what we have for granted.
    The people of Uganda have no water in their hoes, they have to fetch it. They have no electricity. Think how hard it must be for them to cope with the pandemic. The Kitega Community Centre has delivered over 300 parcels (by bicycle, as their lockdown prohibits all public transport and private cars). Now there is no more money. Their parcels contained the Easter message, soap, salt and flour: that is their abundance!

    By Linda Hopper  -  18 Apr 2020

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