Back in the beginning, when everything was good, mankind enjoyed three perfect relationships. Our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the rest of creation were all perfect, whole, complete relationships. Unfortunately, that perfection didn’t last long. Sin ruined everything. The three relationships that were once whole and perfect were broken.
Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett explain this so well in When Helping Hurts. "Of course, the grand story of Scripture does not end with creation. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and their hearts were darkened. The Genesis account records that all 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 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."
This brokenness is the true source of poverty. Poverty doesn’t come from lacking material things; it comes from broken relationships. Since all of us have broken relationships, all of us experience poverty. We tend to notice it more when we’re in a new context or on a ministry trip, but it’s all around us all the time.
We are quick to notice physical and material poverty, the evidence of a broken relationship with the rest of creation. That kind of poverty may be especially obvious if you’re on a ministry trip or in a new setting. But don’t assume that is the only kind of poverty. You may very well start to notice spiritual and relational poverty. And you may notice those kinds of poverty in yourself and within your own team.
Just as you and your team may be able to identify and care for some of the physical poverty that you’ve identified, your hosts may be able to help you and your team address some of the poverty that you experience. They may have a lot to teach you about walking by faith, living in community, and sharing with generosity and compassion. Be careful not to assume that you are the wealthy ones here to rescue the poor. We are all poor, suffering from broken relationships and in need of spiritual, physical, and social restoration.
What kind of poverty have you seen on your trip? What kind of poverty do you see in yourself?