You might be asking yourself, “If this series is on a cure for poverty, then what is the cure?" If you are, don't worry, you are in good company. I can’t wait to get to the greatest news ever. However, like any disease, in order to cure it properly, we have to diagnose the problem accurately. That is why these first few entries are going to dance around the cure itself. I want to make sure that the root of the issue is clear before I explain how to tear it up. As the old maxim goes, “A problem well defined is half-solved.” So, let’s continue defining.
In the first post in this series, we laid out the groundwork for what God’s design for humanity is. We were created with four foundational relationships as image-bearers of God: relationship with God, self, others, and creation. When all of these relationships are healthy and whole (as they were in the Garden of Eden) flourishing results and God’s design for mankind is fulfilled.
Sadly, we live in a world that does not experience this shalom, or flourishing wholeness. No one in their right mind would argue against the fact that we live in a broken world. Everywhere we look we see evidence of brokenness: poverty, divorce, abuse, exploitation, violence, war, and the list could go on. Where did this brokenness stem from? What is the root cause of all of these maladies to the human race? Why is God’s design for man to flourish not currently occurring in every life?
The brokenness that causes all human suffering is a result of sin. While many take sin to be disobedience to a set of divinely-inspired rules, sin is far deeper and far more dire than simple disobedience. Sin is rebellion against God. It is a violent shaking of the fist at the loving Creator. It is telling the Sovereign of the Universe that He doesn’t get a say in our lives and if He has a problem with that He can back off. Sin is the natural bent of all humanity because our most ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve, made a decision to believe that God was not truly loving towards them but was holding them back.
Most of us know the story: God creates the heavens and the earth and places mankind, His image-bearers, in the Garden as the pinnacle of His “very good” creation. Humanity was to rule in God’s place as His stewards, bearing the authority and power of the Great King, but never being the Great King themselves. They were His images but they were not Him. There were to function as He would if He was ruling Himself, but they were never to think that they were His equals.
It is into this setting that the serpent enters the Garden (Genesis 3:1). Approaching the man and the woman, the serpent directs a question to Eve: “Did God really say…?” The question that incites rebellion. This wasn’t a simple questioning of God’s commandment to Adam and Eve, but a direct attack on His gracious and loving rule over humanity. In essence, the serpent was asking Eve (and Adam by proximity), “Is God really good to you in keeping you from this one thing? Surely a good God wouldn’t do that? Surely you would be better at knowing what is good or bad for you than He could?”
It was this final piece that was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Adam and Eve bit (no pun intended). They took the fruit from the tree from which the Lord commanded them not to eat and in a bite curled their fingers into fists and shook them at their Creator. In disobeying His commandment they were telling God that He was not truly good to them. They knew better than He did what was good and evil for themselves and they rebelled.
This the Fall of Humanity. The entrance of sin into the world. Full on rebellion against God. Those who were most like Him out of all of the creation decided that wasn’t good enough for them. They needed to be Him.
The result of this rebellion was swift. While, ultimately, the first relationship to break was with God when they disobeyed Him, the first tangible result of sin was the severing of humanity’s right relationship to himself. Adam and Eve examined each other immediately after their eyes were opened to good and evil and they noticed that they were both naked and ashamed (Genesis 3:7). Mankind at this moment bore emotions that we were never meant to bear: fear, guilt, and shame. Our own hearts called our inherent dignity and worth as God’s image-bearers into question.
Next, mankind’s relationship with God was shattered. Knowing that they had rebelled against their Great King, Man and Woman hid from God. Instead of running to their gracious and merciful God they ran from Him. “Where are you,” the Lord called out to Adam and Eve. Their response was one of terror not of joy. Encountering God’s presence was supposed to be the ultimate delight of human existence. Instead, it has become our greatest fear to stand before a holy God.
The third tangible result of the Fall of man was our fractured relationship with one another. As soon as God called out, Adam responded. But this was not a response of repentance or a calling for mercy. Rather, Adam began to blame his wife. It was her fault he did what God told him not to do. It couldn’t have possibly been his fault. Instead of respecting one another as equals in dignity and value, we now see one another as scapegoats and targets to take advantage of. Interestingly enough, in blaming Eve, Adam was blaming God for this whole situation. It was the “woman You gave to be with me” that gave him the fruit.
Finally, our relationship with creation was broken. When God questions Eve about why she did what He had commanded Man and Woman not to do she blames the serpent, a member of the creation which her and her husband were commanded to rule over, not submit to (Genesis 1:28, 3:13). Because of this, God cursed the creation which was supposed to be a joy for humanity to rule over. In cursing the ground, God was frustrating man’s ability to work and provide for his family, while at the same time frustrating his God-given mission to have dominion over the world. Now, instead of a delight, it would be a painful and nearly impossible toil.
With all of these relationships broken, the only result can be death - both spiritual and physical. And this is the finality of the broken relationships. Life will be full of painful toil, shame, guilt, broken relationships, fear and hiding from God, and ultimately death. It is in the severity of this relational brokenness that we find the most extreme forms of poverty. In our next post, we will discuss the manifestations of each of these broken relationships and how they destroy the fabric of society and culture.
But before we leave this sad and depressing subject, we must remember to praise God. In the midst of this judgment to a broken existence, He was still a merciful and benevolent God. Genesis 3:15 is a subtle promise that one day, in spite of man’s rebellion, God would deliver them from the curse of brokenness. It would cost that Sent One his very life but in expending Himself, He would free all of humanity from the inescapable brokenness that it found itself in. In setting humanity free, He would walk with them again and show them how to flourish in the midst of a broken world–this is God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.