[Hint: the young woman’s ear is the old woman’s eye. The young woman’s neck is the old woman’s chin. How are you seeing it now?...]
The way my grandfather saw the world is a vivid memory for me. He had a way of seeing through the lens of particular traumatic experiences. He remembered how a rich Christian farmer exploited him as an 8-year-old child laborer in the Netherlands in the early 1900s. This farmer, an elder in the church, did not see this child’s hunger, even as the boy stole and ate raw eggs from the chicken coop.
My grandfather also remembered how, years later, he got sick during the depression and the bank took his house for the $3500 he and my grandmother owed and no one from my grandmother’s church helped them.
The way my grandfather saw Christians and the church and the world was deeply influenced by these experiences and his lens influenced me to try to make a difference in this world in the name of my faith.
My journey with World Renew has been about my desire to make a difference in this world through the lens of my faith.
Selecting new World Renew workers is one of the challenges and joys of my work as the Asia team leader. In that process we pose this question to job applicants: “Worldview can hold people in poverty. Share how you see this, and how you would help free people from worldview beliefs that perpetuate poverty."
A recent job opening brought applicants from at least eight different nationalities and I was enriched by their ways of seeing, specifically how they see worldview as it relates to overcoming poverty. Here are a few of their replies, slightly paraphrased:
- There are two types of poverty: mind poverty and stomach poverty. Addressing stomach poverty is the temporary solution, but we have to address mind poverty by using Christian education.
- The poverty in the world is caused by greed, corruption, and by our daily indifference to the weak, vulnerable, and to our brother. The poverty is not only material; it is lack of hope, dignity, decent work, compassion, hope, and charity—our Christian values. We all have the duty not to leave even one behind.
- If you are stuck in poverty you might see the world as a brutal place; you might try just about anything to get ahead. You might steal or lie. You might give in to hopeless fatalism. But that’s not the Bible message—that people are created in God’s image and that our world belongs to God!
- We must be aware that poverty is not always a result of individual failure. Today millions go to bed not knowing about what tomorrow holds because of lack of hope, isolation, and not being aware of self-strength that comes from God.
- Worldview affects poverty through the conditioning mindset of the powerful—that money economy is what is important in the world.
- I believe that a fatalist view on life, where a lack of personal agency is often felt, often leads people to live a life with blinders on. This can mean blind adherence to what the culture says and can enmesh people in poor health and unjust societal systems.
- Not many are willing to fight for and change the attitudes and cultural norms that contribute to the injustices. Jesus challenged the injustices, the lack of care for the poor, and the structures that allowed the poor to be abused. He came to preach good news to the poor.
- Worldview is the grid by which we evaluate all of reality. Poverty is a mindset or worldview problem more than an economic problem. When people are poor they don’t have a full sense of their human dignity. Then, they let themselves be exploited by the rich and powerful, to accept that the rich have the right to be their leaders, and that it is fine for a rich country to take the resources of a poor country….that the poor deserve to be in jail when they commit a crime, while the rich deserve to be pardoned.
In my own understanding, both rich and poor tell themselves lies. For the rich, one of the lies can be “I deserve what I have because I have worked hard for it.” This seems to me to forget that everything is a gift from God. For the poor, it can often be the lie of “I was fated to be poor,” or, “It’s God’s will.” For my grandfather, I think the poverty of his worldview also included the inability to forgive and his belief that “You had better take care of yourself, because nobody else will.”
It’s our privilege at World Renew to bring the good, Biblical news of God’s Kingdom justice, of God’s Kingdom abundance, and of God’s forgiveness in Christ to all.