Begin with the end in mind
Stephen Covey is famous for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His second habit is a key one at this part in our study of the cure for poverty, begin with the end in mind. If we want to cure poverty according to the Bible, we need to remember what the beginning looked like and then apply all of our energy towards recovering and pursuing God’s design for the world.
God created the universe and all that is in it in a state of shalom and beauty. Living in this state, the first Man and Woman enjoyed perfect flourishing and the fullness of their four foundational relationships - with God, self, other, and creation. Sadly, as we know so well, sin entered into the world when the Man and Woman rebelled against God’s loving rule and brokenness began its reign on earth. But the Bible reminds us in Romans 5:8 that while we were still enemies of God and living in brokenness, Christ came and died for us. Believing in that truth - the gospel - we are set free from our brokenness and given the power of the Spirit to recover and pursue God’s design for ourselves, our communities, and the world.
But how do we do that? The Bible gives us many ways but let's examine three today.
Restore Self - Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Restoring our relationship with self begins with being transformed through the “renewal of our mind.” Renewing our minds is the process of thinking God's thoughts after Him. As we expel the things of this world from our minds and are filled with God’s thoughts, we are able to truly understand who we are called to be and living out God’s will to restore all things broken by sin into things of beauty.
Restore Others - Matthew 28:18–20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)
Gaining an understanding of self in light of the restoration of the gospel allows us to begin to see God’s desire to restore all mankind through the gospel. Indeed, the Lord Jesus calls us to pursue all people and call them to repent and believe in Him and then teach them how to live under the rule and reign of God on earth. This brings flourishing not only to the individuals effected, but also the community surrounding them, as all live under the goodness of God's loving-kindness.
Restore Creation - Colossians 3:23–24
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV)
While many people who are not believers in Jesus are able to work hard, the restoration of believers to creation shifts the perspective. While before, we worked hard for self, as new creations in Christ we now work hard to and for the Lord. We do this not to gain all for self, but in order to provide for our families and care for others for the renown of our King.
This is the mission of the church, to join God on His mission to restore all that sin has broken into that which is beautfiul. Will you join?
God created the universe and all that is in it in a state of shalom and beauty. Shalom is the welfare and wholeness of people in the most comprehensive sense. It signifies not just peace, but the absence of all brokenness and hostility in relationship. Living in shalom meant that all of the four foundational relationships that Adam and Eve had as image-bearers of God (with God, self, others, and creation) were whole and functioning rightly. Looking at the Garden gives us a shadow of the fullness of the human exeperience.
As we know all to well, this shalom and beauty did not last long. Man and Woman were tempted by the serpent and mankind rebelled against the loving rule of their Great King. In becoming God’s enemies this came brokenness and death. One of the major effects of sin’s curse is the destruction of our four fundamental relationships as humans. As these are further and further corrupted, we lose sight of what it means to be truly human and begin to live, think, and act in ways that degrade both our own humanity and the humanity of those around us. It is this degredation of the image of God in us that leads to all of the issues of material poverty that we face today.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Instead of leaving us in our brokenness, Jesus came to us and lived a perfect life of obedience to God that we could not do, died a death that we more than deserved to die, and was raised from the dead to walk in new life. Through trusting in this truth - the gospel - we are set free from our brokenness and empowered to recover and pursue the reality that God always intended for us - one where all sin and brokenness is turned into life and beauty and the four foundational relationships are restored to their fullness.