Christian giving dates back to the birth of the church, to the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus gathered after his tragic death, resurrection and ascension. The early Christians shared their possessions to help each other and the wider community. ‘All who believed were together and had all things in common. They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need’ (Acts 2:44). In Christianity giving is a matter of social justice rather than individual charity.
The commitment to giving, to helping others and being concerned about the poor, the weak, widows and orphans, was rooted both in the life and teachings of Jesus and in the scriptures and Jewish tradition. Both Old and New Testaments in the Bible contain many references to the care of others.
Over the years Christians have carried forward this desire to serve, to help others and to give. They have become involved in running hospitals, orphanages and schools. Where the church has formally run institutions and services, this has been referred to as ‘diakonal ministry’. This concept also went with the missionary movement as Christians opened schools and hospitals throughout the Third World. This continues today as churches in many countries still provide excellent services, reaching out to the community and being involved with relief and development work.
Since the second world war many European and North American churches have formed special agencies for responding to people’s and countries’ different needs. Christian Aid’s own remit developed from work with refugees, first rebuilding society in Europe and then working throughout the world. Sponsored by 40 churches in Britain and Ireland, and now working in over 60 countries, Christian Aid is their official development agency.