Guest Post By Ruthie H.
I am thrilled to introduce Ruthie to you through her guest post here on One Bright Corner. She is a firebrand for the Lord, and a dear friend whom I have known for fifteen years. (Wow, it's really been that long?) Her life and words are continually an encouragement to me, and this blog post comes special delivery from Uganda, where she has been serving since last January. Please give her a warm welcome and enjoy her unique perspective in this insightful post!
Are the poor in the “corner” you are to “brighten”?
If so, are you effectively sharing God’s love and light with them? As I have spent the last year working on an island in southern Uganda, this second question has often been on my mind.
Before we gauge our effectiveness we must ask, “Who are the poor?”
Perhaps the word “poor” stirs up images of Africa’s countless orphans, Latin America’s slum dwellers, the homeless in America’s largest cities, or the single-parent family living near you.
Recently I was humbled to learn that I, you, and indeed the entire world are “poor,” and that the definition of “poverty” is much broader than just a “lack of basic needs.”
Could it really be that the people of the island, who I am serving, are suffering not only from a lack of money, clean water, education and healthcare? But that the root of their destitution is much deeper?
Few books have really affected me in a transformational way. But, one that has captured my attention and excited me with its look at Biblical truths is When Helping Hurts – How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, co-authored by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.
Indeed the Bible holds the key for a true understanding of poverty and its alleviation. Clearly the destitute are very close to God’s heart since the words “poor” and “needy” occur 276 and 83 times, respectively, in the Bible. Repeatedly God commands His people to care for the less fortunate. But, how do we go about this?
According to the Bible, “poverty” lies in our brokenness. We are broken? Yes, we are. Ever since that day when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sin was ushered into the world, all of humankind has been kept captive in a perpetual state of brokenness.
During our lives, we experience brokenness in four fundamental relationships, ordained by God since creation and considered - “the building blocks for all of life.[i]”
But, with Adam and Eve’s rebellion, “The Genesis account records that all four of Adam and Eve’s relationships immediately became distorted: their relationship with God was damaged, as their intimacy with Him was replaced with fear; their relationship with self was marred, as Adam and Eve developed a sense of shame; their relationship with others was broken, as Adam quickly blamed Eve for their sin; and their relationship with the rest of creation became distorted, as God cursed the ground and the childbearing process.[ii]”
When these “building blocks” are in proper place “people are able to fulfill their calling of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.” But, when these “blocks” are askew, people are unable to be and to do what God created them for as they struggle in a world that is not running as it was meant to. Individuals, families and communities are plagued by brokenness, but so are the world’s systems – political, economic, religious and social. They can’t help but be imperfect, when it is broken people who are running them.
So, in a world staggering under thousands of years of damaged relationships and systems, is there hope? Yes, there is, and again we go back to the Bible for the cure.
The same Creator God who spoke this incredible world into existence, and who established these vital relationships, has also been working since the millisecond after the fall, to redeem, to sustain, and to reconcile His creation. His Son Jesus Christ came to earth for this very purpose.
“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” – Colossians 1:15-20 (emphasis mine)
As the ultimate reconciler, Christ not only reunites us with our Heavenly Father, through the forgiveness of sins, but He is also sustaining and reconciling all of creation. Brokenness has affected every inch of our world and Christ is working to make each and every thing new. This process will continue until He establishes a new heaven and a new earth – places marked by perfection, unity and harmony.
If we are born-again Christians, having personally experienced Christ’s reconciling power, then we have an incredible opportunity to be part of His mission of reconciliation.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
When we realize all of humanity is broken, it levels the playing field. As a Western Christian I am not “superior” because of my money, technology or ideas, and I cannot “rescue” the materially poor. I must humbly see my own destitution and need for continued personal reconciliation.
Understanding poverty stems from damaged relationships should cause ministry to be based on building those relationships, and not on implementing methods or programs. Additionally, since poverty cannot be alleviated by only meeting physical needs, which does not bring lasting change, we must serve in a holistic manner, also ministering to the individual’s relational, emotional and spiritual needs.
“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.[iv]”
As Christ has been reconciling the world since the fall, it means He has already been active in the very areas we want to reach with the gospel of reconciliation. In joining Christ’s work, we come alongside the poor, and encourage reconciliation, as well as proper stewardship of the resources and abilities God has already planted in an individual’s life, and in these communities.
We are to work together, ourselves alongside the materially-poor and non-poor, to fulfill our incredible calling – to glorify God in every area and relationship of our lives.
[i]“When Helping Hurts,” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 57
[ii]“When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 61
[iii]“When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, pg. 57
Picture Credit: Evan Lavine