In my class Historical & Philosophical Foundations of World Civilizations (aka Foundations), we finished reading and discussing the book When Helping Hurts. One of the big point of the book was that the problem of poverty is a problem of relationships, not one of material goods. Despite millions dollars of relief poured into certain countries, they remain destitute, largely due to corrupt governments (which consist of corrupt people) and a poverty of being for individuals in those countries. Even with all the help and information a person would need to escape poverty, he remains in poverty because of a poor view of himself. A fundamental change needs to occur within a person in order to overcome such a “poverty of being.”
The authors noted that there are four fundamental relationships that need to be addressed: relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation. They then explain that the gospel can restore these relationships, one person at a time. This requires much work and effort, but the result is a person coming to know God, which transforms their identity and causes them to overflow with love to the people around them.
The world’s problems are problems of relationship. The gospel provides the solution because at its core, the good news is all about restoring relationships. The fundamental relationship which the gospel addresses is the relationship between God and people. Once that relationship is restored, the other three fundamental relationships are transformed as well.
This problem (and solution) of relationships was made very clear to me in a recent conversation with a friend. My friend told me of people who were very devoted to their religion, keeping all the rules and doing all the right things. However, these people weren’t good friends, being self-centered and jealous. My friend noticed that despite doing all the right things (according to their religion), these people had more fundamental issues: a problem of relationships. Having just read When Helping Hurts, these problems of relationships were fresh in my mind, and I affirmed my friend’s observations.
The problem with people is that they are in need of a heart change. The gospel provides this heart transformation through Jesus’ sacrifice, and that inward change and restored relationship with God changes everything.
Relationships is the problem, but with God, relationships is the solution.
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