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How do I Respond to Poverty as a Christian? // Ask an African Pastor

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Poverty is a major issue in Africa – we cannot just turn away. But what advice does the Bible give us to really make a difference as Christians?

Beware of False Teaching about Poverty

We are living in a day and age, especially here in Africa, when the prosperity gospel is wreaking havoc. It’s amazing how many passages of scripture have literally been chopped out of the Bible. Or if they are still there, they are now given a totally different meaning. For instance, the Bible is very clear that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. We find the Lord Jesus Christ himself also saying that you cannot love both God and money.

And yet, as I said, we are living in a day and age when so much of popular preaching – on TV and radio – indeed, filling vast amounts of church buildings, is largely about God making you rich. Making you very healthy, etc. etc. If you really believe in Him. That’s definitely not correct. If you read your own Bible, again and again, you will see that’s not the message of the Bible.

in Africa we are largely dealing with levels of poverty that need to be addressed. You can’t just look the other way.

But on the other hand, we still must face the fact that in Africa we are largely dealing with levels of poverty that need to be addressed. You can’t just look the other way. We have too many individuals who have got empty pockets and have resigned to simply begging.

3 Steps Towards Alleviating Poverty

So, what should be our Christian response to all this? I honestly think that one of the best examples in the Bible of an individual who just had the right mix with respect to this matter was the Apostle Paul. In Acts 20, as he was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders, this is what he said to them. I begin reading from verse 33.

“I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all these things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20: 33-35)

learn not to lust after wealth.

Don’t Lust After Wealth

Three things that we learn there, I think, would be cardinal for us as African Christians, or Christians in Africa, to really hold dearly. It seems to me the first is to learn not to lust after wealth. Wanting to simply compete with one another. ‘If my friend has so much wealth I must have more.’ The Apostle Paul here was saying I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold. And that’s an attitude we generally have to have.

the popular teaching in churches today is if you just ‘do the right thing’, ‘say the right words’, ‘dabracadabra!’ Your bank account will suddenly be full of money. Now that’s a lie.

Be a Good Steward

The second, is that our own wealth creation must be a product of hard work. Paul says it here. That you yourselves know how these hands of mine, he says, have ministered to my necessities and with those of others. In other words, let’s be known for being hard workers. If there is anything that is robbing us of real wealth creation it is nothing but laziness. And that’s why the popular teaching in churches today is if you just ‘do the right thing’, ‘say the right words’, ‘dabracadabra!’ Your bank account will suddenly be full of money. Now that’s a lie. The means that God has given is hard work. So, let’s study. Let’s work hard in our careers. And see how in being stewards of our God’s world, he will multiply our income.

Remember, biblically speaking, it is more blessed to give than to receive. I hope that is true about you. Make that your lifetime philosophy.

Grow in Generosity

And then thirdly, and lastly, it is that out of this must grow generosity. Not that we must now start building mansions upon mansions upon mansions. Multiplying the metallic grey cars. The most expensive ones around our homes. But that we should then be able to give to those who are needy around us. And indeed, to be faithful in tithes and offerings in the church. The Apostle Paul ended with that when he said “in all things I have shown you that in working hard in this way we must help the weak. (Acts 20, 34) Remember, biblically speaking, it is more blessed to give than to receive. I hope that is true about you. Make that your lifetime philosophy.