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Poverty: More Than a Lack of Resources With Brian Fikkert

FaithFi: Faith & Finance | May 7, 2024


Show Notes

The dictionary defines poverty as having little or no money or possessions…and no means of getting them. 

That definition of poverty is undoubtedly true, as far as it goes, but is there more to poverty than a lack of resources? Brian Fikkert certainly thinks so and joins us today to discuss it. 

Brian Fikkert is a Professor of Economics and Community Development and the Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He is also the co-author of the best-selling book, When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor…And Yourself

In his book, Brian describes how the Allied powers established the World Bank to rebuild a shattered Europe after World War II. 

How can that lesson inform us about treating poverty today?

While pumping money into Europe was successful, pumping money into developing regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America afterward did not have as good results. This shows that while surface issues like lack of infrastructure may look the same, the underlying conditions are often very different, and we need to consider those underlying conditions when addressing poverty.

The World Bank then surveyed impoverished people, and the results were surprising.

What did the results reveal? 

They were shocked to find that the answers people gave were things like "I feel less than human, I feel shame, I lacked dignity, I don't feel like I'm part of the team, I feel like I'm ignored by society, I feel like I have no voice no agency." 

This showed the World Bank that impoverished people experience poverty in more social, psychological, and even spiritual ways related to their sense of self and place in the world, rather than just in material terms of lacking resources.

Why are definitions so important?

They are crucial because if you misdiagnose what's wrong with someone, you can give them the wrong treatment and make them worse instead of better. If you go to the doctor and they misdiagnose the problem, they may prescribe something that doesn't address the underlying cause and could worsen the condition. 

If we define poverty incorrectly when trying to help people, we may treat symptoms rather than causes, making the situation worse. Defining poverty accurately is crucial for understanding and effectively addressing the root issues.

How can Christians do a better job of caring for the poor rather than simply sending money or giving material things? 

By taking a relational approach, you can help solve problems that can’t be solved with just money. Christians must walk with people in poverty in highly relational ways that help them rediscover their dignity, sense of self, and relationships with others and God. 

This involves walking with them over time, not just quick fixes. We can also support organizations that work effectively with the poor and seek human flourishing by promoting the common good. 

On Today’s Program, Rob Answers Listener Questions:

  • I own real estate. Should I pay my tithes out of the gross income I receive, or should I pay them after all the bills have been paid? I've been wrestling with this question for a while. I have some answers, but I just wanted to touch base and get some assistance.

Resources Mentioned:

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