The True Nature of Poverty?

Looking at global statistics it is evident that we live in a world of considerable poverty: with approximately 1 billion people going to bed hungry, 2.5 billion without adequate sanitation, and 3 billion living on less than $2.50 per day it is clear that life is very difficult for many. Much effort has been made to reduce poverty and yet the problem persists. Why is this? Perhaps some of the problem is in our thinking; here are 3 ideas that might challenge your view of poverty:

1. Poverty is not just a lack of stuff.
Physical poverty is like the tip of an iceberg, it is the visible part we can see – but it represents a much greater mass of ice below the water line. If we only treat poverty as a lack of stuff we completely miss the bigger picture.

In his book “Walking With the Poor”, Bryant Myers suggests poverty is best modeled by the concept of “broken relationships”. If we start at the beginning in Genesis we can see man was designed for perfect relationship with God, others, the physical world and our own “self”. When these relationships are intact we thrive, we are living as God intended – when these relationships are broken we are living in poverty.

One helpful implication of this model is that poverty is no longer a label we attach to others, but is instead a problem that affects us all. Spoken word poet Micah Bournes addresses this topic eloquently in his poem, “Who Broke Africa?”, a line of which I will share here:

“Might African youth have greater joy with a beat-up soccer ball, than we do with flat screens, laptops, new shoes, and a hundred shirts we never wear, hanging in a closet full of things we thought would make us happy?”

2. Poverty is sustained and rooted in Lies 


If poverty is about broken relationships, than it follows that poverty began with a lie. It began when Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and doubted the truthfulness and goodness of God. They sought to be like God rather than trusting in Him, and as a result poverty entered the perfect world God made for us.

Poverty continues in this vein today. In the book of John in the Bible, Jesus describes Satan as a thief seeking to “steal, kill and destroy” and as “the father of lies”. Satan understands that ideas have consequences, and he uses lies in an effort to distort our relationship with God, other people, the physical world and our own “self”. These faulty beliefs and broken relationships result in issues such as greed, corruption, fatalism, hopelessness, injustice, laziness, and apathy – which in turn ensnare people in poverty.

Poverty is no accident, and without a Biblical worldview man cannot even understand the problem!

3. Poverty ends with the truth

If poverty entered the world with a lie, it must leave with the truth. The truth is we are created by God, freed from the power of sin, adopted as sons and daughters, loved beyond measure and tasked with the purpose of bringing Gods Kingdom on Earth. When we align ourselves with the truth, we cannot remain in a state of broken relationships – we change from the inside out.

What’s more, the truth is not merely an academic set of beliefs but is wrapped up in the person of Jesus who declared “I am the way and the truth and the life”. Truth is therefore inseparable from a personal relationship with Jesus.

Author: Keri Fishlock

Images: Photo by György Király (public domain), Picture: The Fall of Man by Lucas Cranach