Monday, August 01, 2011
In the West, poverty is almost exclusively viewed as a lack of material wealth, characterized by insufficient food, money, clean water, and medicine. But when over 60,000 people living in material poverty were asked to define poverty, however, they did not use such straightforward terms. Researchers Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development said, “They tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.”
These are the lies of fatalism, victimhood and powerlessness. They have lost the hope that they or anyone else can change their situation. They have come to believe that no amount of hard work can change their circumstances.
Biblical principles such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness etc. are essential for an economy to work. The foundation of successful economies is the trust that is built through honest interaction between people. If you destroy trust between people in a society through dishonest transactions and corruption, the economy will decline. The poorest countries on Earth are often riddled with corruption and violence at every level of a society, from the government on down. The biblical character traits that make a prosperous society possible come from lives transformed by Jesus through an effective discipleship process.
But economic growth does not come automatically when people commit their lives to Jesus. People need training in ordinary basics like personal money management, how to run a business and good work habits. This should be part of our discipleship too as we plant churches. Church planting should lead to economic growth among the poor. If it doesn't, then something is wrong.
With a combination of effective discipleship and practical, locally-based economic solutions the poor can come to believe that they can do all things through Christ, including raising themselves and others out of poverty. They can then create their own wealth and not be dependent on outsiders for their survival.
Journalist and self-proclaimed atheist Matthew Parris wrote in The Times of London that—as much as he hated to admit it—he saw the importance of Christianity in development work. Growing up in Africa and returning years later, he saw that aid and relief work alone wasn’t enough. Christianity brought about true heart change: “The [African] Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world –a directness in their dealings with others—that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.” In his article, Parris shares how the truths that Christianity teaches—that mankind has inherent worth and dignity—are the key difference in escaping poverty.
(selections from Rick Wood, Poverty, Getting to the Heart of the Matter, and Peter Greer, A Hand Up Not a Handout: Why Enterprise and Business Are Changing Our Approach to Poverty Alleviation,
Mission Frontiers, July- August 2011)
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