What Is Poverty?

Matt Shiles

Your answer determines your solution

What is poverty? Although you might not think about it often, the way you answer this question can have a profound effect on how you interact with those around you. This is because the way we define poverty determines our solutions to alleviate it. So often in our culture, we shrink poverty down to only a lack of material items – food, shelter, transportation and clothing. While these are absolutely part of the equation, they are just that – part of the picture.

We see in the Bible that God gives us four key relationships: relationship with God, with ourselves, with others and with the rest of creation. When any of these relationships are broken, we aren’t living the way God intended for us to live, and we can experience poverty.

The problem is poverty can manifest itself differently than we expect. For example, instead of not having a job, it might look like being a workaholic. Or instead of having a low self-image, it might look like overconfidence that can turn into a God complex. (This means that we think the problems we see can simply be fixed by the material resources we have.)

But God is calling all of us to something greater. He came to reconcile all things. Not just material poverty but all of our brokenness. The Bible tells us in Colossians 1:19-20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (NIV).

Join us for the next When Helping Hurts seminar, when we will explore this idea of poverty. It will affect the way you serve others and possibly each relationship in your life. The free seminar will be held Friday, May 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. (with dinner provided) and Saturday, May 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (with breakfast and lunch provided). Register here. For more information, contact Jim Dees at jimdees@vermeersoutheast.com.