Three steps to overcome poverty: relief, rehabilitation and development
What issues are important to you this election year? One of the complaints I hear all the time is that the rich get richer while the rest of us get left out. To help me think through wealth, poverty and what we can possibly do, I have been reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Their focus in this book is doing the best for people who are facing need without doing them (or ourselves) harm.
At the risk of oversimplification, they break down the process for helping someone in need to three steps: relief, rehabilitation and development. Relief is what we do to help people when a crisis has brought them to a desperate place in life. Relief is usually meeting a physical need to stop the bleeding. Once their life is stabilized, rehabilitation begins. The authors describe this part of the process as working alongside the person in need to help them back to where they were before they began their descent. Once they are back where they started, it’s time to begin working on development. Development deals with reconciliation – being made right with God, themselves, others and the rest of creation. This step is where we all become part of the process because it demonstrates that each of us live in some kind of poverty. In a fallen world we all struggle in these areas of our lives. We all struggle to relate rightly with our creator. Our God created us, loves us and sent his Son to receive the punishment for our sin. It seems like as soon as we are reminded of God’s free gift of grace, we decide to rebel against that grace and either condemn ourselves or begin to judge someone else. We struggle with our own identity. Most of us are so busy trying to impress other people that we can’t just be who we are. We have a hard time relating to other people because they have something we want. And, we struggle relating to the rest of creation because it seems to fight us at every turn. I once had a teacher describe it this way:
We were created by God to love God as our Father, love one another as brothers and rule over the earth. When sin entered the picture, we rebelled against God and lost our dominion over the earth. In our struggle to recover what was lost, we started running from our Heavenly Father and rule over other people because we no longer ruled over the earth.
When we understand development this way, it becomes a lifelong task for all of us. I want to challenge you to think about your development this week. Maybe it has financial ramifications for you and your family. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way each of us has a long way to go. What relationship do you need to spend some time and energy reconciling this week? What’s your first step that direction?