As a guy from a white, middle-class American family, I hardly feel qualified to truly write about the subject of poverty. I have been in Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya, and I have seen poverty like I have never experienced. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like. I can’t even pretend that I have dedicated my life to this point to eradicating poverty.
But notwithstanding this, today is Blog Action Day, and the topic is poverty. I signed up with compassionbloggers.com to write a post regarding their ministry every month, and this month they encouraged all of their bloggers to write about poverty. So what follows feeble thoughts about poverty who knows precious little about poverty experientially.
But I have come to believe that we must talk about it, must hear about it, must see it, just learn about it…and perhaps I exhibit part of the problem when I talk about poverty as an “it.” Poverty is not just a thing. And one can never truly understand poverty until he knows people who live in poverty, until he befriends them, until he realizes that they have just as much to offer him as he has to offer them.
So what I will attempt to do here is to suggest some ways in which one could begin exploring issues related to poverty. If I am convinced that poverty is something important, what then?
First, perhaps we should see what Scripture says about poverty, and be willing to reorder our financial lives according to what we find there. Consider for example this prayer from Proverbs 30:
Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Third, examine whether we have committed ourselves to systems—governmental, economic, etc—that stem from selfish motives rather than caring ones. This is an area that I have only recently begun to examine, but one that I am sure I will be studying for some time to come. Christians en masse have committed themselves to capitalism.
But lately I have been asking this question—to the conservative side of the political aisle: Is a system that is presumably founded on the concept of self-interest really the one that best reflects the mind of Christ?
And to my Christian friends on the other side of the political aisle, I ask this question: Is simply giving the role of provider for the poor to government really what Christ wanted? Is that maybe abdicating the Christian’s (and the church’s) role of providing for the poor?
Perhaps we have all been held captive to systems when we should have been captive to Christ. Perhaps we are selfish. Perhaps we are materialistic. Perhaps we put in our hope in government. Maybe we’ve been ignorant. I don’t know what all the answers are. But I do know that if we never even ask the questions, we’ll merely remain in apathy (which Christ condemned by the way).
Fourth, there are groups out there doing good, Christ-centered ministry among the poor. Explore these groups. Think about supporting them. If you don’t know where to start, check out Compassion International. I am very impressed by them, and their ministry not only serves the poor, but connects people in developed countries directly with children in the majority world through the child sponsorship program. They don’t merely give children bread for today, either. They seek to develop children into Christ-like leaders for tomorrow.
Lastly, talk about poverty. Listen to people talk about poverty. Talk to the poor. Listen to the poor. Learn from the poor. Listen to the cries of impoverished hearts of everyone, including the economically wealthy. And let it remind us that we need God in every way. That we need him just as much as the guy living the in the slums does. Because if we are apathetic about poverty, perhaps we have not truly understood our own spiritual poverty.