You Better Believe It

Self, Justice

Contributed by: JustUs

Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.

The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.

Possibly some of the first questions we should ask whenever we are talking about poverty are where do we fit into the issue, and where do we encounter poverty in our lives? Though poverty can certainly be experienced as material lack, it also appears in relational and psychological ways that apply to all of us. In our own lives, and in the lives of those around us, we see the consequences of broken relationships – people living with fear, isolation, depression, hopelessness, exploitation. So how then do we address the poverty of the world, both material and immaterial?

If belief informs action, what beliefs are we operating on and how are they affecting the way we live in this world?

David Collins would say that an essential piece is uncovering the beliefs that cause and perpetuate poverty in us and for others. If belief informs action, what beliefs are we operating on and how are they affecting the way we live in this world? This requires taking a hard, honest, likely uncomfortable look at ourselves. The truth is, many of us probably believe deep down that the problem of poverty is just too large to be solvable; and that our small decisions and actions are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I know a lot of people who really believe that we are neither accountable for the poverty of others nor responsible for addressing it. I know a lot of people who believe that this whole world is just going to burn anyway.

So what if instead we believed God when He said He had a plan for us, and was already working to restore the world? What if we believed that we just had to show up to the work that God was already doing? What if we all believed that justice and mercy for others was required of us by God? What if we actually believed that every human being is deserving of our love and compassion and care, not because of who they are or what they’ve done, but because they are an immortal soul, created by the living God, in the image of the divine? Every human being.

What would the world look like if more of us believed these things? What could change? When I think of all of the people throughout history who have changed the world for the better, I wonder what it would be like if even a few more of us believed like they did. In Psalm 27:13, David pens these words: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The goodness of the Lord, right here in the middle of our messed up world. This is what I choose to believe.

Written by Karis Chitty
Originally published on the JustUs Blog
Photo by adrian on Unsplash