Emergent and liberal mainstream churches say the main goal of the church is not to save souls, but the relieve the suffering of he poor and therefore “create heaven on earth.” Other churches preach a prosperity gospel, saying that if we “lay claim” to the promises of God, he will shower us with material blessings. Liberal politicians tell us that it’s in our power to reverse poverty if we just unite and fund the correct programs. Conservative political pundits tell us that when churches promote social justice it’s only a code for secret plan to undermine democracy.
I’ve been disappointed and unsatisfied with all these claims. The problems of poverty require more than just money and education. But the “tough love” that is often put forth as an alternative solution is not biblical either.
In Awaiting a Savior, Aaron Armstrong has thought through these problems. He’s taken a look at the problems of poverty and the proffered solutions, weighed them against Scripture, and done the heavy lifting as he examines the cause of poverty and how Christians should respond in light of the gospel.
[A]s Christians, we need to be very clear about something. Resources and awareness and policies are important, but poverty is not fundamentally about any of these things.
The root cause of poverty is sin.
Starting with the fall of man in the book of Genesis, Aaron traces how sin contaminates all of life. Not only is sin the cause of poverty, sin affects how we respond to poverty. We can fall into the trap of thinking it’s within our power to change the world (or within the poor’s power to change themselves), or else succumb to feelings of despair. None of these responses are biblical.
It is not within our power to solve the problems of poverty. But that doesn’t give us a free pass to sit around and sing “Kum Ba Yah” while doing nothing. Rather, we should care for the poor, because God is glorified when we do so.
That’s why, although we must be wise in how we help those in need, we must avoid notions of anyone being “deserving” of our help. None of us deserve the grace of God, yet he freely gives it!”
But the good news of the gospel includes the fact that grace always comes before the demands of the kingdom. Jesus is not telling us what is required to earn blessing. He’s telling us what to do in light of the fact that we are already blessed! “The gifts of love always precede the demands of love.”
Understanding that the root of poverty is sin, and realizing that poverty will continue as long as sin is present in the world allows us to love and serve the poor freely as an act of worship. It also reminds us that though we must do what we can to help relieve suffering in the world, we should also be pointing those in need to the Savior.
He closes with some practical suggestions on ways we can be effective in our ministry to the poor by addressing both their physical and spiritual needs. Each chapter ends with discussion questions.
This book will help anyone confused or frustrated about how Christians can best show mercy to the world. I think it would also be helpful for anyone planning to serve areas of the world where poverty is rampant.