(This is the third article in a series on poverty. If you missed the previous two, please back up a few weeks and read those posts.)
What does poverty look like around the world?
Before we get any further, let me clarify some terminology. It turns out that sociologists use the terms absolute poverty and relative poverty, and it’s important to know the difference. According to the UNESCO website,
Absolute poverty measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The concept of absolute poverty is not concerned with broader quality of life issues or with the overall level of inequality in society. The concept therefore fails to recognise that individuals have important social and cultural needs. This, and similar criticisms, led to the development of the concept of relative poverty. Relative poverty defines poverty in relation to the economic status of other members of the society: people are poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living in a given societal context.
Last week I asked if the church is doing a good job of helping the poor and spreading the gospel.
In my own experience, many churches are at least trying to help the needy and unchurched in their own cities. (Their effectiveness at this is a subject for another day.) But what about the poor and unreached in more remote areas?
It is easier—and perhaps more appropriate—to send money in this case. (I’ll talk more about why I believe that’s true next month.)
As believers, we give to our local churches. A certain percentage of the offering is then designated for “benevolence” or “missions.” (I’ve seen “missions” mean anything from packaging dried soup mix, to helping the Hispanic church down the street, to “adopting” an unreached people group.) We trust the church leaders to spend our money wisely and responsibly.
“Well, that’s the last paycheck for now!”
My husband handed me the deposit paperwork and smiled at me. “I’m excited. I wonder what God is going to do this time!”
Yup, and actually, I am too. If I’ve learned anything over the last many years, it’s that God is faithful.
Being in full-time ministry, we have a very concrete understanding of the term, “non-profit.” If people ask, we usually say we’re “home-based missionaries on support.” Actually, our ministry pays Pete a salary… but only if there’s money in the account. Right now, the account is empty. Again.