As I’ve reflected on the brokenness and division that’s erupted in our world lately, I’ve found myself crying out for justice. I long to see the narrative of redemption and restoration reign across the edges of our earth, because that’s not what I’m seeing when I look at the news or open up social media. How do I respond to the pain and inequity ever unfolding before us?
As we find ourselves living in this tension, it becomes more and more evident that we are created to long for God’s kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). In fact, this is in our nature as human beings, as sons and daughters of Christ! The Bible says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23). All of creation groans, longing for redemption. My own longing for redemption was stirred up as I considered the brokenness of the societal structures that are said to promote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had a “heart for the poor.”
Well, as much as a five year old girl from affluent Ontario could have.
I distinctly remember seeing a World Vision ad on TV with poor, sick children from somewhere in the world I had never heard of, who were desperately in need of MY help. So, with my heartstrings pulled and my mom’s assistance, I set up a craft sale and lemonade stand and raised $25 to send across the world to help those sad and hungry children. I felt both proud and accomplished as I licked the envelope enclosed with the cheque, and sent it off to help the poor children.
Flash forward 11 years.
Many of us social justice-minded, environmentally conscious folks spend a fair bit of time making choices that are in line with our beliefs. I know that if I say I care about these types of issues, my choices in life must reflect the things that are important to me. Often, it’s small choices, like sorting my garbage and recycling, or trying to consume less and shop more ethically.
In my early twenties, I tried to go a year not buying anything made in China because I didn’t like the Chinese government’s human rights record. I knew my tiny buying power wasn’t going to have any measurable impact at all, but it was important to me to try my best to literally put my money where my mouth was – if I said I human rights and environmental impact were important to me, I didn’t want my purchases supporting questionable practices.
Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.
The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.