Darrow Miller and Friends

Why We Should Use the Bible to Fight Poverty

I get the feeling that if people aren’t ‘Christian – believers in Jesus’ they won’t fit into the Palau plan.”

Thus did the director of an “Interfaith Shelter Network for families with children” object to the Season of Service program sponsored by the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (LPEA).

The criticism seems unfair—LPEA’s website references “national acclaim” for the Season of Service program from USA Today, Reader’s Digest and PBS—but I want to address what the writer went on to say.

Families with children struggle the most because without jobs that pay family wages, day care (which often costs as much as rent), transportation, and access to quality dental and health care – they can’t afford a home. And being Christian isn’t going to change that fact of life!

She prefers her own organization’s approach to serving homeless people:

We don’t care what religion they are – or who they call God because belief in God doesn’t have anything to do with whether you are rich or poor.

Does God love rich and poor without distinction? Yes. Should everyone be treated with dignity and love? Yes! Do we misrepresent the gospel when we preach a “health and wealth” message? Yes, again. (No one is accusing LPEA of that, by the way.)

Is belief in the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ irrelevant to poverty? No.

Poverty results from a way of thinking, the consequence of a set of ideas, and on the market of ideas, the Author of Life has a fairly robust corner. (Yes, natural disasters impoverish communities, but to claim that poverty results from earthquakes, for example, is reductionist, as Scott Allen demonstrates in a blog about Haiti.)

The Bible comprises the most powerful poverty-fighting document ever created. God’s Word is a spiritual guide and a body of sound doctrine, yes. But it’s more. The Bible is the message from the Creator to the stewards of that creation. He intended that we should know it and by its truth, be set free. To suggest that well-being and health derive equally from any rival source—to say that “belief in God doesn’t have anything to do with whether you are rich or poor”—is to sound noble and inclusive but miss the point, with wretched consequences.

All of life, including serving homeless families, must be informed by a biblical worldview. Understanding God’s view of the world includes understanding what Darrow Miller calls the “development ethic.” This is part of Christian ministry, part of what it means to make disciples. Darrow captures this principle in his book Discipling Nations:

As Christians who care about people who are poor and hungry, our task is to articulate the development ethic and share its values and ideals with our fellow human beings who are trapped in the cycle of poverty. …Ultimately, development is a process of discipling people and cultures, founded on the creative and redemptive work of God and based on His story.

– Gary Brumbelow

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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.