Can our generation end poverty?
This was a question posed several weeks ago at Jon Acuff’s blog.
A few days ago I was reading through the comments in reply to the post, and I was reminded of one very ironic pattern. Those who tend to have the most negative/realistic/jaded outlook of poverty are missionaries, NGOs, and medical workers who live in these developing nations.
Either that group of people are habitually negative people or they are people who have spent a life time worth of effort addressing the issue of poverty and feel like they are discovering very few lasting solutions to poverty.
Since I live in a developing nation, my conclusion is as follows:
Poverty is complex and complicated. The ability to impact it will be incremental, and it will be dependent on the interaction and contact people have with people (not people’s interaction and contact with money).
Two Common Myths Associated with Eradicating Poverty
1. We can solve their poverty problem.
When we ask the question ‘can our generation end poverty?’ you might automatically assume that poverty is exclusively our (wealthy nations) responsibility. Our wealth makes us participants in the global issue of poverty, but not the saviors of it.
No person can solve another person’s problems unless that person is willing to be a participant in the solution. In fact, rather than being a participant, the person with the problem must often be a leader and an owner of the solution.
The same is true of nations, and the same is true of poverty.
In our mission field, we’ve attempted to implement different benevolence and assistance programs and more often fail than succeed. We then go back to the drawing board and try another plan.
However, what this means is that sometimes people wait to see what we come up with next. Change will be difficult unless we learn a way to shift that burden of responsibility away from recipients to initiators. Somehow, we must make it our goal to motivate, initiate, and influence change from within, and then those suggested changes from outside can really make a difference.
2. The eradication of poverty is accomplished by neither math nor money.
Poverty is a global issue, and I’m not willing to say (this will be unpopular) that the poor are poor because we haven’t sent them enough money yet.
Check out the video on Jon’s post again. It makes us believe that by sending out more dollars we can eradicate poverty. Money, one might erroneously think, is the solution to poverty.
It’s not. I think that’s making money our god. It doesn’t matter how much money American Christians make and how much money American Christians give UNLESS we find ways to make our gifts ‘stick’. I use the word stick because I can’t think of a better one. But what I mean is that unless we discover a way that those gifts make a lasting difference, they’re not actually helping.
Bring it closer to home. Let’s say that a young boy is raised in the inner city. His father abandoned him, and his mom is hooked on drugs. He’s a good kid with a good heart. Someone gives that kid $100,000 so that he doesn’t have to be poor any more.
Will it work?
Not a chance.
The kid won’t know how to open a bank account. He won’t have any idea about investment. He may not think about his future. Chances are, the money will evaporate in weeks. He needs a person to lead him through that experience. The person helps him, not the money.
There’s an organization in Alotau that helps distribute aid dollars from Australia. Recently, they’ve been pulling back on the amount of money it provides. Why? They’re having trouble finding anything to show for it.
In a sin fallen world, we do whatever good we can – never expecting to solve anything – but simply to make our God ordained contribution to the brokenness of this world.
- When will sin be eradicated?
- When will child abuse end?
- When will rape desist?
- When will love rule in the heart of every world citizen?
See, poverty is a mark of our sin stained world. People are poor because of the presence of different kinds of evils and dysfunctions in our world. Since we cannot eradicate evil, we need to learn to be a light in the midst of this dark world. No, we don’t ignore the problem. No, we don’t hoard everything for ourselves.
We do whatever good we can in whatever ways we can. And then we place the problem within the hands of our Maker. Since sin is at the root of poverty, we cannot fix it or redeem it. We can participate in the process.
We must do all we can so that His will can be done here on earth just as it is in heaven.