Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky! Four out of the five authors are here at the Global Missions Health Conference 2013, where many of us met for the first time. We are excited to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and discuss some of the future planning for this growing blog.
In the evening’s first plenary session, Dr. Brian Fikkert, co-author of “When Helping Hurts“, gave a sobering overview of how our perspectives on poverty determine our approaches to the people we encounter living with it. In short, if we view it as primarily an issue of material deprivation, we will attempt to “fix it” with a compensatory financial response. However, the issues are never that isolated and are always rooted in other issues, such as broken relationships with God, with others in our community, and with ourselves. In exploring these roots, we find that we ourselves, the so-called “helpers”, are also impoverished and that only through the reconciliation brought through the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all sectors of life can we hope to find true and lasting transformation.
It reminded me of an old post on Entitlement (excerpt here):
One of the most difficult things I’ve struggled with since moving [into the inner city] has been a sense of entitlement. That word is not one I ever hear from those living here, mainly because it’s never used in a positive context. It is typically in reference to “handouts to the poor” and finds its anchoring in food stamps and other poverty-related imagery, even though the largest entitlement programs in the US are Medicare and Social Security (which merit the name simply because they are guaranteed payouts/benefits from the government, even if they are drawn from money you put in previously through your paycheck). I hear it mainly from politicians these days, people who want you to believe that such handouts are not only unmerited but expected. It is meant to inspire you with a sense of injustice: that there are deserving victims and undeserving freeloaders, there are hardworking benefactors that just need a hand and lazy ingrates who not only feed off the system but feel that the benefit is owed to them…
The true reality of our human condition is that we are all impoverished, that there is nothing that we deserve or have earned by personal right or vigilance. We are fools to think otherwise. Politics gets it all wrong; it is not that 47% feel entitled, or that 99% are disenfranchised or that 1% hoard the wealth. We are 100% impoverished in demographic, in spirit, and in human condition.
Who will liberate me? How am I freed from this body of death? In Jesus Christ, we find the secret to contentment, the effacement of entitlement. Through the willing and intentional identification with Christ and his suffering, I choose to allow the revelation of the selfish and human-centered desires of my heart and through that twinge of self-righteousness and entitlement, understand the audacity and magnitude of the self-emptying suffering of Jesus Christ.
P.S. If you would like to share thoughts about your own experiences or reflections on the inner city, send them to us to publish! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.