One of the most depressing scenes I’ve seen this year was that of still, lifeless neighbourhoods in several HDB estates, reduced to a shell of their former vibrant selves by the two-month Circuit Breaker. In this densely populated city, the sight of empty squares, shuttered shops, and deserted eateries was downright depressing. It was as if the entire humanity had left this earth.
So it was most heartening to see life come back to coffeeshops, hawker centres, and shopping malls in Phase 2. These days, it seems life is almost back to normal—business is bustling at many eateries and shops, and the streets are full of people again.
But beneath that, the sad truth is: All is not well.
The last few weeks have seen report after news report of retrenchments, wage cuts, and business closures. Singapore is entering what is likely to be its worst recession ever, unemployment is on the rise, and lay-offs could hit a record 150,000 to 200,000 by the end of this year, according to some estimates.
What’s heartbreaking is that the ones who tend to suffer the most, are the ones who have the least. Many lower-income workers earn daily wages and work in retail, tourism, food, hospitality, and services—the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19. With less savings, fewer connections, and skills that are less in demand, they tend to have fewer options when they are retrenched.
During the Circuit Breaker, many people had suffered from isolation and loneliness because of the restrictions. Now, with joblessness and financial hardship thrown into the mix, their afflictions are likely to go even deeper and longer.
As Christians, can we do something? If we have been blessed in wealth and resources, what would God want us to do?
A Practical Way to Help
The Bible makes clear that we are to help the poor, the needy, and the afflicted in our midst. It even suggests many practical ways to do so. One interesting instruction comes from Leviticus 19:9–10:
“When you reap the harvest of your land,
do not reap to the very edges of your field
or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Do not go over your vineyard a second time
or pick up the grapes that have fallen.
Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”
As the story of Ruth showed, this practice of leaving some crops unharvested gave poor people a chance to gather what was left behind. And when Boaz wanted to help Ruth and Naomi, he went a little further to ensure that there were more leftovers for Ruth to glean (Ruth 2:1–7, 15–16).
What would this mean in today’s context? I am reminded of the touching response of many Singaporeans who received the $600 Solidarity Payment from the government in April: many people who didn’t need it donated the money to charities. That month, the fund-raising website Giving.sg received a record $13.6 million.
Can we do more of this? While we have a responsibility to take care of our families, some of us do have more than enough for ourselves, and are able to support those who don’t have enough. Can we give more of the edges of our field and the unharvested grapes to those who need it desperately? Can we, like Boaz, leave more behind for the needy?
I believe God will give us the heart to do so. During the Circuit Breaker, many Christians had responded readily to reach out to the lonely, the isolated, and the poor in their churches and neighbourhoods. Many had made special effort to stay in contact or buy them groceries and other essentials. May we continue these good deeds, which please God and show the watching world how our faith can really transform lives.
As the battle against Covid-19 is far from over, and the recession has just started, there will be more opportunities to share God’s love in practical ways.
As Galatians 6:9 urges us: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” —Leslie Koh
Father, give me a heart of compassion
to help the needy around me,
open my eyes to the opportunities
to share Your love,
and the courage to care.