We had the pleasure of hearing from Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts this wee at gathering. His topic was reaching out. He challenged us to really think about how we”diagnose” poverty. What we envision as the solution is wrapped up in our diagnosis. If we see poverty coming form a lack of knowledge our solution becomes better educational systems. If we feel people are in poverty due to oppression then we tend to seek social justice reform as the solution. If we are certain that poverty is caused by the unwise choices (sins) of the poor then we look to evangelism and discipleship as the answer. If our definition is tied up in a lack of material things then we can easily solve the issue by giving them more stuff.
In this country the latter is most often where we settle in and we get frustrated when the “solution” doesn’t solve anything. Much of what we are really dealing with is a sense of hopelessness and a lack of self worth or purpose. As we who have material things provide them to those who do not have the stuff, we compound that sense of worthlessness and reinforce the “What’s the point?” attitude toward getting more education or improving life choices.
We are hard-wired to connect and there is secular research to show that one of the more critical connections is to a higher power. It is through our being created in the image of God (Imageo Dei) that we get our self worth. Dr. Fikkert talked about four primary relationships: with a God who is by nature relational, to self, to others and to the rest of creation. It is around these relationships that economic, political, social and religious systems are built. Problem is that the systems as well as individuals were broken with the fall.
It follows, then, that poverty is best expressed as the inability to fully experience image-bearing. In that context we are all in poverty. Those with material things are broken in our pride which is why we feel good when we provide stuff to others. He called us then to repent of our pride, repent of our material understanding of poverty, seek redemption and establish reconciling relationships.
Colossians 1: 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.