This is the text of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2:
Whenever I hear the phrase 'Children in Need' I hear the echo of something Jesus said in the gospels. Surrounded by a load of adults – probably men – he became aware of a child and said those famous words: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” That's the old version – it actually means “let them come” -, but it's the one that has stuck for me.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that what he meant was that we should make the children suffer. Because it seems we do quite a good job of this in a variety of ways. If we didn't, then why is it necessary to have the Children in Need appeal every year?
I remember that story about Mahatma Gandhi coming to London for the first time. As he got to the bottom of the aircraft steps a journalist asked him what he thought of western civilisation. He replied: “I think it would be a very good idea.”
Now, he wasn't being miserable about it – he no doubt had that twinkle in his eye for which he was famed – but he did point up the question. Why, in this day and age, do so many children now live from foodbanks in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet?
Well, we can moan about it, or we can do something about it. The other striking thing about Jesus's teaching is the emphasis on generosity. Give it away. Don't be imprisoned by things and stuff, but love your neighbour and be generous. Hospitality runs through his life and teaching like Blackpool through a stick of rock.
If I was bidding for a juke box song this morning, I might be tempted to go for Graham Nash's 1970 song which not only tells parents to “teach your children well” – who can argue with that – but goes on to tell the children to “teach your parents well”. It's the grown-ups who need to learn, in the words of St Francis of Assisi, to give and not to count the cost.
This show raised three and a half million pounds last year. Surely there's more to spare this year?