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Poverty

November 12, 2010

I am teaching on poverty this weekend. Both in our Jr. high service, and then I am touching on it in our High School service. I have been reading, praying, and carrying a weight that all is reflecting on poverty this week. To be honest, it has been tough. I can’t help but feel this heavy heavy burden. As Americans our idea of poverty is probably a little different from the rest of the world. Yesterday I was driving through Mesa, it was what would be considered the poor part of town.  In that area I saw houses with intact roofs, cars parked in the driveways (or the front yards), and houses that were all over 1,ooo sq. ft. This picture of “poverty” is not what the rest of the world knows to be poverty.

When we take a deep look into poverty we may have some typical responses or thoughts. Here are some things that I struggle with:

  • Maybe I should never buy anything ever again, because I carry this weight of guilt for having too much.
  • What can I do to make a dent in what seems to be an insurmountable problem?
  • Why?
  • Americans seem to be so focused on themselves and they don’t even have the poor on their radars.
  • How do I paint a picture clearly so a Jr. High student can understand poverty?
  • Is the church responding the way we should?
  • Why am I struggling with this and still frequenting Starbucks 5 times a week?

That is just a picture into my mind. I easily get discouraged by immensity of the problem.

Stats on poverty

  • 26,000 children will die today due to poverty related problems. (this is due to many factors, water, food, disease, health care, education, and others)
  • 1 in 4 children in developing countries is underweight
  • 2.6 billion people live on less than $2/day
  • 1 billion people live on less than $1/day
  • the top 20% of the worlds population consumes 86% of the worlds goods

Even just a few stats can seem staggering. I look at that and I don’t know what to do.

Extreme poverty is something that can be done away with. I have now seen the ugly side of extreme poverty. Being in Malawi I got to experience it. It definitely stirred something in me to look into it more. But… now I am faced with the fact that I have to respond. What do I do with what I saw. I have a face to put to poverty. I saw the kids. I gave them their meal. I saw what a borehole does for a community. I saw what it looked like to give skills to youth. But WHY? What does God think of poverty? What does God call his people to do about it?

The Bible is full of passages that have to do with the poor, justice, money, and the oppressed. Isaiah 61 begins with Isaiah making a statement of God anointing him to preach the good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release the darkness for the prisoners. This is the passage that Jesus first references in Luke 4 to say this is why he has come… to do these things. Proverbs says that the righteous care about the justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. (Proverbs 29:7)

I believe that God’s heart breaks for the suffering of the poor. I imagine that God is looking to His people to help distribute resources around the world to those who have none. Where are his people with the good news? Does God’s heart break for the poor? If so, then should ours too? Do we have more than 1 master?

Side note: I am speaking strictly of poverty dealing with economic, educational, social, physical, and environmental needs. I believe that the worst poverty is a spiritual poverty, but that is for another post.

“Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything” – Richard Stearns

We must do something. I am afraid we don’t need all the material possesions that we have. I am afraid we don’t need anymore stuff for Christmas. But… are we willing to “sacrafice” for others? It seems harsh, but I am just wanting to do what God wants me to do, and I can’t help but think that we HAVE to respond in radical ways.

This Christmas we are participating in Advent Conspiracy at MISSION, we are asking our students to jump head first into our attempt at relieving some suffering around the world. We are looking to bring hunger to an end for 2011 for thousands of orphans in Chikudzulire, Malawi. It isn’t everything, but it is something. It is a step.

I would plead with you to look into poverty. Be educated. Make changes. Don’t fight alone, grab some friends. DO SOMETHING.

Resources to read: The Bible, Hope Lives by Amber Van Schooneveld, The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, Everybody Wants to Change the World by Tony Campolo, Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 9:49 pm

    Hi Josh!

    I’m Shanxi from Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), a sponsorship organization based in Kansas City, Kansas. Thanks for your blog post – I was really impressed with the research, as well as the passion, with which you tackle this subject.

    We have free curricula and additional resources on our website for youth ministers, in case you’re interested: http://www.cfcausa.org/GetInvolved/TellOthers/YouthOutreach/ResourcesForYouth.aspx

    Feel free to share or use these as you see fit. All the best, and I’m praying for your discussion on poverty this weekend.

    Blessings,
    Shanxi

  2. November 23, 2010 4:12 am

    First, I love that you’re blogging more frequently recently. 🙂

    Second, I love hearing your heart for justice, and love that I have a fellow friend and pastor who shares a passion for ending poverty.

    I’d add a couple books to the list: The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs; Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald Sider, Generous Justice, by Tim Keller.

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