“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom 103 in all its meanings.” Brent L. Meyers 104

All over the world we deal with poverty.  It is everywhere and it is complex.

We can say that poverty strongholds take root when: 

  • good leadership principles are ignored—leading to systemic injustice and broken systems
  • personal responsibility is given over—when people are without agency and stuck in victim thinking
  • theology is filtered through our own best knowledge—without the revelation of  The Holy Spirit it just never comes out right
  • greed and lust and sins of the heart are allowed unchecked—sin, violence, and injustice abound
  • people as individuals and communities corporately agree to the lies and accusations of the enemy—cultural, generational and corporate strongholds
  • culture remains more important than Godly living—when we refuse to change the stories, the perspectives, paradigms and self talk, that we tell 

Now, right at the start it is important to note that poverty is not so much about a lack of money or material possessions (although this is part of a poverty experience), rather, poverty reveals itself at our very sense of self, where an accurate awareness of identity and of our belonging is broken.  It is possible to have a deep sense of poverty even with the acquirement of many things. 

We could say, that poverty is the accumulated result of broken relationships at every level of our lives and at every level of society over many years.

Read what Steve Corbett has to say: 

“The Genesis account (of creation) records that all four of Adam and Eve’s relationships immediately became distorted: their relationship with God was damaged, as their intimacy with him was replaced with fear; their relationship with self was marred, as Adam and Eve developed a sense of shame; their relationship with others was broken, as Adam quickly blamed Eve for their sin; and their relationship with the rest of creation became distorted, as God cursed the ground and the childbearing process.” Steve Corbett  105

Our purpose in this month’s study is to empower the thinking of those caught by poverty and to point to practical shifts in both thought and action that may make a difference in day to day lives and that may lessen the ‘voice’ of poverty over their realities.

We acknowledge that global poverty is much more entrenched than most of us realize and are able to impact.  There would be much to say, write, and instruct in the fight to eliminate systemic injustices that lock poverty into place.  NOTE, that for the purposes of this course we will not touch on the complexity of pervasive injustice, wide-spread and systemic corruption, and the broken systems world-wide that perpetuate and lock poverty into place for many nations. 

Rather, we will look at actions, choices, and responses, that we, as common persons in our everyday lives, might take on as participation toward peace and restoration, to harmony and shalom, in our homes, communities, and nations.  To do this we put our attention to three pervasive habits by which we are caught. 

  1. Violence
  2. Pain Upon Pain
  3. The Stories We Tell

First – Violence are the habits of destruction that we do to others and that others do to us.  Violence keeps the world on edge, afraid, demoralized, unable to get ahead, caught in chaos and without peace. 

Second – Pain Upon Pain are the habits of loss and of sorrow not grieved, the result of hurts and harms against us.  Pain upon pain keeps us broken down internally, unable to find emotional, physiological, and physical strengths; pain upon pain has us barely surviving. 

Third – The Stories We Tell are the habits of denial, excuses, rationalizations, that we tell ourselves and others as ways to explain why things are the way they are.  The stories we tell are meant to make us feel better, but they may perpetuate faulty thinking and less-than living. 

Before we go further let me share a bit about my own life.  I speak into this issue of poverty strongholds not from a place of observation or as an outsider, but I speak from a place of, “I’ve lived through some of these very same things”.  I have intimately known the mindsets (thinking), the chronic fears and lack of safety found in poverty. 

For instance, there was a time when there was very little food and I was starving myself so that my children could eat.  There was a long period of time when the money I did have seemed to be consistently and always disappearing as though my ‘bucket’ had a giant hole.  There was a time in my history where I was continuing in bad relationship with ‘hope’ that refused to look at reality.  There was a time when I depended on the generosity of others in order to clothe my children.  I have known delayed maturity, low self-esteem, and the profound emotional wounding that comes from sexual trauma. 

For decades I carried accumulated pain-upon-pain (heart pain) that nearly stole my life in chronic autoimmune diseases that were threatening to leave me bedridden.  I have known what it is to be in despair and to be buried in pain that overwhelmed me in both good thinking and in energy required to rise above my circumstances at the time. 

It is from this experience of being neglected, abused, shamed, stuck, demoralized, broken, and burrowed deep into poverty mindsets, that I have seen and known and am still experiencing, the way out.

Thankfully, the Lord has taken me in hand for some time now to bring my thinking, decisions, habits, and emotional state into practical and healthy balance in the Lord.  It has not been easy but this has made all the difference in the world to me and for my life.  

To be certain, I do not come as an expert in poverty alleviation.  There are easily many others who have spent entire lives studying and researching and living out solutions for the betterment of lives around the world.  

What I do bring is a layman’s experience of the mindsets, the faulty worldview assumptions and judgements that set me up for poverty and, in contrast, the life-giving inner work of changing my mind, of having my heart healed, of coming into agreement with God about what he would have for me and my life.  This is what I share with you as Poverty Strongholds, Month Nine of our studies.  

103 shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” http://www.gotquestions.org/Shalom-meaning.html
104 Brent L. Meyers, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Maryknoll. N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1999), 86
105 Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty with Hurting the Poor — and Yourself, (Chicago, IL, Moody Publishers, 2009, 2012), 58

=>  We continue our learning with Chapter 67: Violence

Capturing Courage International Ministries :: capturingcourage.org
College of Capturing Courage :: collegeofcapturingcourage.org
Email Us :: college@capturingcourage.org