The War on Poverty: 4 Things I Know About the Poor

This post was originally published on November 12, 2012.
Recently, I completed a book titled, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself. This book provided tremendous insight into why people are in the cycle of poverty. In addition, it demonstrates how the government has hurt the poor by throwing money (taxes) at the problem .

The war on poverty has gone on since the beginning of time. In Matthew 26:11, Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

Based on my experience with helping poor people through LOVEINC (providing financial counseling) and reading this book, I have gained some insight that I did not have before.

In regards to why people are in poverty, here are four things I know:

  1. I know that when the poor’s relationship with God has been broken or does not exist, their thoughts, words, and actions can run astray. When we reconcile our relationship with God, we experience his presence and live a joyful and intimate relationship with him.
  2. I know that when the impoverished’s relationship with themselves is broken,they lackself-worth and dignity.
  3. I know that a cause of poverty is a lack of a loving relationship with others. If you don’t have a relationship with God and yourself, then you most likely will not have good relationships with others. We can see this with the increase of single parent households and crime in urban ghettos.
  4. I know the most obvious reason for poverty is the lack of Material Resources. Just like problems in personal finance, lack of material resources is the symptom of the poor and in many cases, not the cause of their situation. Over the decades, our government has spent trillions of dollars to help the poor. This Nation’s Welfare program has trapped people and families in an endless cycle of poverty providing no incentives to improve one’s situation.

To appropriately help the poor, it is so vital to correctly diagnose the problem. The wrong diagnosis can lead to a waste of resources. For example, if the underlying problem is relationships, then a monetary response may not be proper.

An interesting description of poverty was described Bryant Myers, author of Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not right for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”

As a Christian, I believe that we are called upon to help the poor, but that does not always mean monetary help. It seems that many of our resources (taxes) have gone to waste and in many ways have hurt the poor.

Question: Has this post altered your view of why people live in poverty? Why or why not?