In our first two posts we have examined the nature of God's creation and how rebellion against God – sin – has shattered and broken what God intended to be good. Flourishing is God's design for humanity. We are meant to thrive in our relationships with God, self, our community, and creation. Yet, through the sin of Adam and Eve, and our own personal sin, we have removed ourselves from flourishing and entered into a state of brokenness that none of us can escape on our own. It is this state of brokenness that we all find ourselves in today. We all experience brokenness in varying degrees. Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, authors of "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself," have a great chart breaking down the ramifications of our four broken relationships and the various types of poverty we now find ourselves in 1:
Broken relationship with God = poverty of spiritual intimacy
- Denial of God's existence
- Worship of false gods (like self) and spirits
Broken relationships with self = poverty of being
- Spans the range between having a god-complex to having low self-esteem (both are pride: one thinking too highly of self, the other too low; both focus on self!)
Broken relationships with others = poverty of community
- Exploitation and abuse of others
Broken relationship with creation = poverty of stewardship
- Loss of sense of purpose
- Laziness or workaholism
- Materialism becomes the goal
- Ground is cursed
Do any of these sound familiar? I know I have suffered and continue to suffer some of these effects. The breaking of these relationships is the source of all suffering, sorrow, and deprivation, including material poverty.
In light of this truth, we must see material poverty for what it truly is, a symptom of our broken foundational relationships brought on by sin. And this brings us to the conclusion of the first unit in our study on poverty. Before we could put forth the cure, we needed to accurately define the problem.
Material poverty is an extremely complex and complicated issue that ultimately boils down to one root: sin. Knowing and establishing this truth, we can now determine the cure: the gospel. In our next post, we will examine “the gospel” and what it means and doesn’t mean in the fight against poverty.