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Poverty and Isaiah 61

April 23, 2012

This week I’ve been working on a message from Isaiah 61, the passage that Jesus quotes in Luke 4, and as I was going through the first three verses I was particularly struck by the list of characteristics of those the Messiah came to minister to.  And I know that I myself am in that list, some days under one heading and others days under another.  However, I think it’s been the many years of missions’ work and my reading that made me spend more time digging deeper this Sunday into what poverty is and is not.  Poverty IS NOT just the lack of material assets, as many people seem to want to limit it.  Poverty may better be titled impoverishment, because poverty is far more multidimensional than the general public sees it to be.

The definition of poverty, or impoverishment, is important because as we go about our Kingdom business of announcing the Good News it helps us to shape how that news is shared.  If poverty is merely a lack of assets, then giving money or getting better jobs should solve poverty.  That, however, is manifestly untrue.  According to Wall Street Journal article, Why Foreign Aid is Hurting Africa, “Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population — over 350 million people — live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.”  You would imagine that $1 trillion could do something to relieve poverty, but in fact the average person is earning less that he was in 1970!  That’s simply because poverty is not merely lack of assets.

In his book, Walking With the Poor, Bryant Myers discusses the many facets to poverty.  In his book he uses diagrams and discussions by Dr. Christian and Dr. Jayakaran to illustrate his points.

You can see from this image that just giving money, a job, or even better education is just not going to resolve poverty.  It’s much more than that, and in the end only the Good News of Jesus the Messiah can sufficiently solve the problem of poverty, because the Good News is all about true peace – with God, with oneself, with men and with the creation around us.  If you carefully compare at each of the points where the “web of poverty” begins with promises out of the Bible, one will discover that God promises to transform our weaknesses into strengths.  A quick listing of them would be: material poverty with Mt. 6:25-34; vulnerability with 2 Tim. 1:7-8; powerlessness with Eph. 3:16-21; spiritual poverty with Eph. 1:1-3; isolation with Jn. 14:18-27; and physical weakness with 2 Cor. 12:9.

God through His Son and His Spirit seek to lift people out of their poverty (and grief, mourning, captivity and bondage) so that they may experience life abundantly.  It is His Church on earth that must faithful minister this truth and news to all peoples.  It is not a simple problem and our ministries will need to be equally multi-faceted to address them, but the solution lies ultimately in the One who was anointed to preach the good news.

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