Poverty hits us at every street corner. It’s made plain at every homeless shelter, abortion clinic, prison, and strip club. Yet it also hides in the alleyways. It’s in the secretly porn-ridden gaming device of the nine-year-old boy, the “concerns” of gossiping co-workers, and the silent sin battles of leaders who are petrified by their weaknesses.
Christians are those whose deepest poverty has been alleviated. We were impoverished of righteousness when Christ gave us his. We were made co-heirs with the highest King and imparted with his Spirit so that we might be his ambassadors in the world. Christians may presently continue to dwell in many forms of poverty, but our fundamental reality is in the riches of Christ’s love.
This kind of poverty alleviation that Christians experience—the gospel reversal of death to life—compels us to love God and love our neighbors. The scope of the problem of this kind of poverty literally spans the whole creation. Because of this, the task of poverty alleviation can quickly start to sound like an abstract concept that is untouchable in daily life.
But even though poverty makes the whole creation groan under its power, it is not omnipotent. The God who formed us, saved us, and calls us is strong to restore what is broken, bring justice where there is none, and make life out of death. Because of him and the power of the gospel, we can and must do poverty alleviation in our daily lives. Essentially, this means we must be obedient to love our neighbors. Here are a few ways we can personally work toward poverty alleviation this week:
1. Alleviate poverty through good listening
Relational poverty affects both Christians and non-Christians. If we don’t learn to listen to each other, marriages, friendships, and working relationships will continue to crumble all around us. Regardless of age or status, all people long to be heard and understood. One of the best ways we can love our neighbors now is by listening to them well. Listen to our spouses talk through their days, listen to our kids explain the game they played at recess, and listen to our co-workers share their ideas. We can love our neighbors and acknowledge their dignity by valuing what they have to say. Through listening well, relational poverty can begin to be relieved, one conversation at a time, .
2. Alleviate poverty through giving generously
There is no resource that we possess that Jesus doesn’t look at and say, “Mine.” Regardless of our income levels, there should be substantial giving in our regular budgets. We can give to the local church, to missionaries, and do our research to discover gospel-centered, effectively functioning nonprofits in our communities and around the globe that we can support, as well. Alleviating poverty on the community-wide and world-wide scale begins with the generosity and neighborly love of individuals.
3. Alleviate poverty through serving selflessly
Christ was the ultimate servant. If we can volunteer consistently in this season of life, we should make it a priority. We can serve at our churches and even weekly at a local nonprofit that is doing good work in poverty alleviation efforts. And beyond formal volunteer capacities, we can actively look for ways to serve those already in our paths. Writing encouraging notes, picking up an extra household or workplace chore, or cooking dinner for the family down the street who just had a baby are all examples of things we can be doing now. Poverty and selfishness go hand in hand, so to deny ourselves in service is to love our neighbors and work to alleviate poverty.
4. Alleviate poverty through speaking well
James rightly calls the tongue a world of unrighteousness. If unrighteousness is the deepest poverty this world knows, then the tongue has great power in contributing to or alleviating poverty. We should be slow to speak, thinking first whether our words will promote life or death. We need to consider carefully what our goals are in sharing on social media and regularly pray for our enemies and for those we know facing forms of poverty. Most of all, we should proclaim the gospel message with love and boldness. Only through gospel declaration and transformation will poverty truly be alleviated in the hearts of sinners.
So Christians, we must not let the bigness of the world’s forms of poverty lead us to doubt the bigness of our God. Through the gospel, he has alleviated our deepest poverty and made us his ambassadors in this world. We must work to alleviate poverty in all the ways we can; let’s love our neighbors, and invite them into the riches of Christ.