URC Daily Devotion 8th July 2023

Acts 4.32-35

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

The creation of the NHS was overseen by Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan in 1948, but the basic principles on which it was founded – universal healthcare free at the point of use – was not a new idea. Rather it emerged from many influences, including the foundations of the welfare state introduced by the post-1906 Liberal government and the proposals contained in the Beveridge Report of 1942, which in language reminiscent of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress called for radical change to tackle the five giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

Another important influence came from mutual aid societies. Healthcare was unaffordable for many people, and so workers grouped together to form their own insurance schemes. One of the most successful of these was the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in Bevan’s home town in the south Wales coalfield. An affordable weekly membership fee gave access to care which was provided based on need, not ability to pay, and the society built clinics and employed medical staff directly, treating tens of thousands of people. This society and others like it directly inspired the universal values of the NHS.

But we could go back much further in time, and see Christian values at work here (both Bevan and Lloyd George were brought up in the Welsh nonconformist tradition.) In the book of Acts we are given a vision of the early Church sharing their resources to ensure the needs of everybody are met. Everybody counts to God and, though it may not always work out in practice, the same basic principle applies in the NHS. Visiting a hospital or surgery might not always feel like a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, but perhaps it is; people coming together to pool what they have to ensure that nobody is excluded. If we really believe everybody counts, how are we going to continue to tackle Beveridge’s ‘Giants’ today, and build on that vision from Acts?


God of universal, irresistible grace,
we give thanks you love us all,
and that Jesus came so we might have all
have life in all its fullness.
God of compassion and love,
help us to see how, together,
we can help care for everyone in need,
as we are told the early church did.


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