The Question of Poverty

Imagine with me for a moment that you need to go to the Doctor. You have an uncomfortable, painful condition and it’s beginning to trouble you. Your doctor says, ‘I know exactly what’s wrong’ and without examining you or asking any questions, writes you a prescription…. I imagine you’re not convinced they’ve made the correct diagnosis or certain the prescribed medication is going to work – right?

What’s that got to do with poverty? Well if we make a hasty diagnosis about what poverty is, we’re likely to offer a highly imperfect cure or even leave things in a worse state than when we’ve started.

If you ask people for a definition of poverty, I suspect most of them will talk about the lack of money – the World Bank defines people in poverty as those living on less than €2 a day. Other measures of poverty allow for things like health, education and access to key resources and services. 

This seems like a much more rounded definition.

However, Tearfund’s understanding of poverty goes further still – deep into the pages of scripture.

We believe poverty has its roots in broken relationships. Broken relationships between ourselves and God certainly, but also our relationship with ourselves, with our fellow humans and with the whole of creation.

All over the world we see poverty springing from these four types of relationships being broken and dysfunctional. Take, for example, our relationship with God’s creation: it’s easy to see the cost of our treatment of the natural world – overconsumption, famine, flooding and extreme temperatures that destroy crops for the poorest.

Or consider our relationship with ourselves: at Tearfund, we believe everyone has been made in God’s likeness with infinite dignity and worth. When men and women don’t recognise this, they can feel powerless to rise out of the terrible poverty and challenges they face.

At Tearfund Ireland, we believe that we’re called to become ‘restorers’ until Jesus finally returns.

That’s why our partners on the ground in some of the poorest communities in the world, start with a series of Bible studies when they are working with people to help them change their lives. Through these studies they are able to communicate the individual’s true worth and the amazing God-given resources they already have, locally as well as within themselves – this understanding, releases people to become incredible change-makers and lift themselves out of poverty for good – no hand-outs, no donor heroism, just transformation from the inside out for individuals and whole communities who encounter the love of God.