Poverty is intricately linked to the social and systemic consequences of broken relationships between God, people and wider creation. We see that poverty comes from a distorted understanding of self, which affects how we interact with other people, with wider creation and with God. God is working to redeem and restore the whole of creation, and we believe that as God’s people, we are called to be part of this, responding to poverty holistically by seeking to restore relationships.
We recognise that every individual and each community lives and operates within systems, and that these systems can be transformed through our engagement with church, businesses, governments and wider civil society. When we hear about people like Jumana in Chad, we know we want to respond. So how can we get involved ourselves?
There are many ways individuals and churches can engage with these institutions and systems to help bring change. At Tearfund, we believe that tackling poverty calls us to a whole-life response, incorporating prayer, giving, action, advocacy and lifestyle.
- Pray. Through prayer we connect with God’s heart, entering into a space where we are shaped by God and can talk to him. Prayer reveals God’s heart for those living in poverty and enables us to intercede for them. We know that prayer is powerful as God responds to the cry of our heart.
- Act. When we respond to Christ’s offer of salvation and accept the invitation to enter a restored relationship with God, we begin to be transformed through the power of the Spirit. This impacts the way we live, the ways we behave, the choices we make and the actions we take. Our faith inspires us to address the underlying causes of poverty, work for justice and support good development We can do this through advocacy and lifestyle choices which can influence the systems and institutions around us.
- So, for example, we may be able to vote in elections or write to our representatives to encourage them to act on the things that matter to us. We may be able to volunteer with local or international organisations who are seeking to reduce poverty, supporting their work with our skills and time. And we can make choices about our own lifestyle, including the things we buy, the food that we eat and the ways that we travel. Even small acts, taken together, help create a groundswell of support for change. You can join with Tearfund Action in advocating and campaigning for change, and learn more about lifestyle changes you can make to have a positive impact on poverty.
- Give. We give because God has been so generous to us. Giving allows us to express our gratitude and it gives us the chance to partner with God in his redemptive plans for the world. By giving to Tearfund, you are able to support and participate in our work to see people lifted out of poverty, and be a part of restoring broken relationships with others by reducing inequality and tackling injustice.
Here are some questions for you, your family and your church to consider, to help you decide how to respond:
- Are you praying for people living in poverty?
- What are the particular issues surrounding poverty that you feel called to respond to?
- Can you describe the ways that your faith shapes your response to poverty? Can you describe how you would like it to shape your response?
- If you are a church leader, are you providing your church with a biblical basis for responding to others and caring for our world?
- Is your church seeking to respond to poverty practically?
- Do you reflect on how you spend your money, including your giving?
- Are you thoughtfully considering and embracing lifestyle changes? You might find it helpful to think about the issues that matter most to you, and start there.
- Are you advocating for just government policies
- and business practices? This might involve writing
- to a government representative or business leader, participating in a campaign, or voting in a particular way.
- Are you actively encouraging and helping your church and community to respond to poverty?
- Do you think about how you influence the people
- and systems around you (for example, at work or in community groups)? How could you encourage people to use their personal influence in responding to poverty?
Acknowledgements: Adapted from Tearfund UK’s booklet “Understanding Poverty” by Anna Ling and Hannah Swithinbank