What does it take to see poverty end?
In the areas where we work, people are very poor. Besides the multifaceted economic and political concept, we identified poverty-promoting beliefs and worldviews as a crucial factor.
Our beliefs significantly impact how we behave.
Cultural fatalism that often hold people in poverty includes the convictions that sickness is normal, poverty is inevitable, help needs to come from outsiders, vindictive and unpredictable gods are in control of everything- the quantity of the harvest, illness and health. If a peoples perception of the world is ruled by ideas like this, there is no reason to make any effort to try to change their future.
Education is a powerful tool but it does not overrule our worldviews. The opposite is true: we fit every new information into our grid of reality.
Our program begins by identifying the key beliefs that hold communities in poverty and aims to combat those lies by bringing an understanding of God’s truth. Why God? What has religion to do with poverty? We need to ask the question in a different way.
What does it take to see poverty end? Professional programs for health, education, agriculture economics? Political revolution? That's what we started with...but we became challenged.
The people we work with have a history of chronic poverty and little knowledge of current best poverty-alleviations theories, tools and practices. Rarely did they embrace any of the programs. Instead, we saw people inexplicable moving out of poverty as they sought to obey God in every area of life and sought to love their neighbour. The principle is simple: When we learn about our identity in God, we cannot neglect our neighbours need, then we value what God values. This is very often the opposite that culture does- children and women, disabled, orphans and widows- we are to treat them with respect and dignity. We not treat them like possessions, we do not beat them, we send them to school, we maintain equality, we stop female genital mutilation.
If He tells us that the earth and everything and every creature in it belongs to the Lord, then we need to be good stewards and think of ways to prevent pollution and take care of the environment.
If we are commanded to use our given talents, then we need to work and serve diligently.
The bible’s inherent assumption is that the economically poor have knowledge, insights, and abilities to be stewards over their own communities.
If that becomes our focus- obeying God and seek to live as he intends in all spheres of live- much poverty will automatically withdraw.
So maybe the bible is right, it happens as “my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). It’s worth pondering.