My Impoverished Understanding

A little while ago I asked the question, "what is the poverty of the rich?"

Often when asked what it means to be poor, the poor themselves will respond much differently than the non-poor would imagine that they would. As a non-poor person, I would define poverty as a lack of something such as money and/or resources. It turns out that that definition is very common among North American Christians.

Yet, most often the poor themselves define poverty in different terms. They use words like shame, humiliation, powerlessness, lack of control, hopelessness, and fear. Yes, they do talk about lack of money or resources too, but often that alone does not do justice to what poverty means to them.

So, part of the poverty of the rich is not really understanding the plight of the poor. And if I really do not understand the poor and what poverty means to them, I will very likely err when it comes to providing aid to the poor.

For example, if I define poverty in terms of money or resources, my solution will be money or resources or the means to make money or resources. What I will have failed to realize is that sometimes, in fact, many times my money and resources themselves more deeply instill a sense of shame, humiliation, powerlessness, lack of control, hopelessness, and even fear. And when that happens, poverty will increase in spite of the additional money and resources.

But how can my gifts of money and/or resources actually make things worse? I'll save that discussion until next time.