by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Issues of "Poverty" Class Session One
The authors of the book WhenHelpingHurts argue that there is a "right" way and a "wrong" way to "help" those who are "poor". The majority of our 13 week study will be given over to class-room evaluation of their perspective to see how we might be more effective in really "helping" someone who is "poor".
That brings us to the first question: What does it mean to be "poor" from a biblical standpoint?
The Biblical "form" for our understanding:
I. Genesis 1-3 -- God's simultaneous creation of two "kinds" of universes: physical and relational.
II. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 -- the "categories" of "sanctification" are identified as "spirit, soul, and body". The "need" is that each of these arenas is "out of kilter" and needs to be "sanctified" as in 2 Timothy 2:21 .
III. When we look into the Bible, we see that "poverty" shows up in respect to these three categories.
A. We must first define "poverty" in a way that can apply to this need for "sanctification" across the board.
1. The basic sense of the words used to describe "poverty" in the Bible seems to coalesce around one issue: having a "lack" that imposes a downward spiral upon the one possessing the "lack".
a. Biblical poverty is not the "lack" of abundance .
b. Biblical poverty is the "lack" of a required element in respect to the ability to "live".
c. Biblical poverty does not seem to be concerned with having "more than enough" so that one can take of the excess and create more; in other words, it is not about whether a person can "become rich", but about whether a person can "live".
2. But this means that we have to understand the foundations of "life".
a. In the physical universe, "life" is having a non-degrading "relationship" with the physical world in respect to the vitality of the body (no overwhelming germ, virus, "accident", corruption of the DNA or genetic makeup that mars the vitality of the body). In this sense, the physical universe depends upon the more significant relational universe.
b. In the more overt relational universe, "life" has two areas of potentially degrading issues.
1) The degradation of relationships with "others" who have some level of capacity to protect one's "life" so that those "others" seek to insert an element of "poverty" into the experience of their "enemies".
2) The degradation of the primary relationship of "Life": fellowship with God.
B. This means that we define "poverty" as the presence of some degrading issue in the overall issue of RELATIONSHIP.
1. According to Paul's categories, there can be a "spirit" level of degradation that needs to be addressed, there can be a "soul" level of degradation that needs to be addressed, and there can be a "body" level of degradation that needs to be addressed.
a. Biblically, the categories are interactive internally so that the "spirit", the "soul", and the "body" impinge upon each other's "health" so that there can be an internal war that automatically sets the whole person up for degradation.
b. Also, biblically, the categories are interactive externally so that one person's "spirit", "soul" and "body" can introduce degrading "poverty" into another person's "spirit", "soul" and "body".
2. Historically and prophetically, God has addressed, or will address, each of these areas in exacting detail.