Wednesday, September 07, 2011

To fully address Poverty - begin with God's original Creation

In Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself", they analyze the issue of poverty. It may surprise you that the authors rely on the Creation account in Genesis!

Selections from  Jean Lightner's book review of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

(These selections, edited by Marko Malyj, are of the book review published in Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal, Volume 47, Number 4, Spring 2011)

The Genesis account provides an understanding of reality on which a useful understanding of poverty and its alleviation can be built. Creation is important to all areas of life. In missiology, for example, New Tribes Mission begins with Genesis when they bring the gospel to tribal people who have no background in Christianity. While poverty alleviation overlaps with missions, I was still impressed by how important the first few chapters of Genesis are to developing an understanding of poverty.

Thus man, who is created in the image of God, is inherently relational also. Four fundamental human relationships are identified: with God, with other people, with self, and with the rest of creation.

While all relationships were harmonious at Creation, things did not stay that way for long. The authors do a nice job of examining the effects of the Fall on each of the relationships. While most Christians are very well acquainted with the effects of sin on man’s relationship with God, some of the observations made on the other relationships are quite interesting.

The authors describe two extremes that are common when the brokenness from sin is evident in our relationship with ourselves. They term this as "poverty of being". The first is low self-esteem, which is common among the poor. In their marred identity, they feel worthless and powerless. They do not recognize that they were created in God’s image and have an inherent value and dignity. They do not realize that God cares for them and has given them talents and abilities to use to bless others and provide for themselves.

A second manifestation of a poverty of being is found in the god-complexes of the rich, “a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which they believe” they have all the answers and can fix the problem for others. They often help in the way they feel is best and leave with a sense that they have successfully solved the problem. Unfortunately, there are times when they have actually made the problem worse. The book provides some excellent examples that illustrate this point clearly.

When we suffer from god-complexes, we seem to forget that it is God who has all the answers and everyone is dependant on Him. We also fail to realize that God has gifted others too, and, if we are willing to listen, we might learn something. Scripture certainly encourages us to have a teachable attitude (Proverbs 1:5, 7; 9:8–9; 12:15).

Christ sustains things, even in this fallen world. They bring out the point that wherever we go, God has been there first and is already at work (cf. John 5:17). I know this realization has been very important for missionaries who minister in some of the most challenging and seemingly God forsaken places on earth. Perhaps we need to recognize that this is also true in the secular universities where it sometimes appears that the atheists rule.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2009, 230 pages, $15.00.

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