Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

A Christian viewpoint on poverty

One of my dear cyber-friends yesterday wrote on Facebook: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV) Isn’t the last phrase interesting? “Pierced THEMSELVES.” This initiated a lively debate on the issue of money and poverty and the love of money and materialism and many other issues. After commenting back and forth (eventually the discussion took place between three people) I felt that the topic is important enough to blog about and perhaps get some more response.
One of the important remarks made was that it is not money as such that is a root of all evil, but rather the love of money. Which of course is true. And an equally important comment stated that the love of money is not restricted only to rich people, but that poor people often, in spite of their lack of money, also have an unhealthy love for money.
I myself have used these arguments often. But I cannot help wondering if I’m not using these arguments mainly to justify my relative wealth (and even using the term “relative wealth” is a way of justifying what I have while all around me people are literally dying of hunger.) And if you think you’re not rich, have a quick look at the Global Rich List and determine your position when your income is compared with the rest of the world’s population. You’re in for a shock.
The simple fact is that millions of people are living in extreme poverty through no choice of their own. Some were unfortunate enough to be born to parents who cannot care for them. Some were born in a country in war. Some were born in a country which has not had sufficient rain for many years. Obviously there are people who are extremely poor because they chose to squander their money on gambling or drugs or alcohol. But most of the people whom I know in Swaziland who live in extreme poverty (and approximately 60% of the population live on 45 US cents per day or less), had no choice in the matter. And the question which I have to answer, if I am seriously seeking the will of God, is what my responsibility is towards those who are less fortunate than I am. Is it all right with God if I continue with my life, making more money, collecting more material possessions, going on more expensive vacations, while all around me people are dying.
I was having a chat with a Black nurse yesterday about this very topic, and she made the remark that it sometimes seems that the poorer the people are, the more willing they are to share with others. Of course, this is not universally true, but I do have the same impression. I am busy collecting personal data of the 663 caregivers who are part of Shiselweni Home-Based Care, a ministry of our church consisting solely of volunteers, who are giving their time and energy to help people with HIV and AIDS. One of the questions I ask them, is how many orphans they are taking care of. With almost 15% of Swaziland’s population made up of orphans with very few official orphanages, it is usually the extended family that needs to take care of the orphans. However, if there is no extended family, then other community members will take over that task. One of our caregivers has four children of her own, ranging from 8 – 16, and then she is also taking care of 16 other children! Another one has five of her own children, ranging in age from 15 – 23. She is also caring for 15 other children. Sometimes it’s one or two, sometimes four or five orphans, but these people who are living in extreme poverty, without running water and usually without electricity, are doing things that the rich will most probably not even consider doing.
(We have now started with a project to assist these caregivers in Swaziland with food and medicine to enable them to do their work more efficiently. We call it: “Adopt-a-Caregiver”. If you are interested in helping these selfless people to have an even larger impact on Swaziland, you are welcome to contact me on wyngaard@lando.co.za )
We will have to start rethinking our attitude towards money and material possessions. I am convinced that God is not happy with the way in which the majority of rich Christians think about money.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 - Posted by | AIDS, Death, Disparity, Giving, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Partnership, Poverty, Social issues, Support teams, Swaziland, Tithing

5 Comments »

  1. Amen.

    Comment by ladyinkslinger | Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. We justify our wealth on the opportunities we have and had wich the poor people do not have. One lady made this comment: “I have a pair of shoed that costs close to the same price as al Corsa bakkie, but I don’t feel guilty about it, because I am also helping 25 children to get an education that will help them through school as well as further studies.” Justifying?

    Comment by attie | Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | Reply

  3. Attie, that’s not an easy one to answer. What I can say is that I don’t think that the lady you refer to represents the majority of rich people. And I do know, that in spite of what I do and give, it is still not enough. I’m justifying what I do or don’t do, but I think I might be wrong.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | Reply

  4. this is cool but not what i was looking for sorry

    Comment by the cool name | Thursday, November 12, 2009 | Reply

  5. Since finding your site, I have enjoyed reading it and searching past articles too.

    I enjoy the breadth of issues you cover. Also a bit of Africa perspective. While some western mission writers have served on this wonderful continent, not all share from a framework that has Africa’s issues in their applications.

    Just a note:. “The Implications of an Affluent Society on Gospel Ministry” by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary has change their website and needs a new link.

    Would love to meet you someday. We stay in Centurion, but on mostly on the road in countries north. On the other hand, maybe we’ll get to Swaziland wometime.

    Comment by Randy Rhoades | Sunday, April 25, 2010 | Reply


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