The Problem of Poverty


Some time ago I read “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis. It led me to quite a bit of introspection and contemplation, which resulted in me publishing a blog post on my personal blog.  This post is a revisit to the idea.

While “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis doesn’t exactly say these words, one of the concepts that I gained from reading it is that while God may or may not directly inflict pain on us, he knows that experiencing pain is necessary for us to grow, and so allows painful things to happen, by default.  The times when he intervenes to prevent pain are the rare exception.  Some people use this reality as the justification for either disbelieving in God, or resenting God.  Some use it to grow and overcome.

Pain is nature’s way of sending us a message that something is not working as it should. When we experience any kind of pain, we are often tempted to seek to get rid of the pain simply for the sake of getting rid of the pain, and in the quickest way possible.  This is almost always the worst thing we can do in the long run. The best thing for us to do when we are experiencing pain in our lives, is to evaluate the cause of the pain and seek to fix the cause.

Thinking about this concept, it occurred to me that poverty could be described as economic pain.  The existence of poverty in one’s life is an indication that something is not working correctly in the area of finances.

As I see it, there are two prevailing problematic approaches to poverty.

  1. “It’s not my fault” – People wanting to eliminate poverty for the sake of eliminating poverty
  2. “It’s not my problem” – Those not currently experiencing poverty casting judgment and refraining from giving assistance.

“It’s not my Fault”

Some people attempt to address the source of economic pain by shifting responsibility to everyone except the one experiencing poverty.  They blame corporate CEO’s, their boss, legislators, “rich people,” or their parents.

I recently read an article on the Ziglar blog titled, “It’s OK to be Negative.”  It points out that blaming other people for true effects is an effective way of dealing with the past, but only if the individual takes responsibility for how to respond to their present condition.

Unless the individual experiencing poverty is empowered to make changes, the poverty will persist. Money is a receipt of the value you have created.  Poverty is a result of the past.  It may or may not be someone else’s fault, but it is a result either way.

Poverty is also not a permanent condition, unless one chooses to take on the responsibility of changing it.

“It’s Not my Problem”

Another mistake that is often made with pain, is to assume that because it is an important part of growth that we should avoid trying to relieve pain.   I think everyone can understand this line of thinking.

It is important for individuals to grow through solving their own problems and overcoming their own pain. Having been the recipient of too much help, to the point where I was dependent on a resource other than myself to solve my economic pain, I can attest to the importance of self-reliance.

Most decent people have a sense of compassion on those suffering pain in some way. It is human nature to feel empathy. There must be a balance between seeking to eliminate all pain thus depriving others of the opportunity to grow which comes from eliminating their own pain, and damaging our relationships by being insensitive to the pain of others, and failing to help when we have the opportunity.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus Christ tells us that what we have done to the least of his brethren is the same as doing it to him. In Mosiah 2:19, King Benjamin teaches that because all of us are dependent on the Lord for everything, down to the air we breathe, that all of us are beggars and thus should impart freely of our substance to those who are in need of help. In other words, we are to help alleviate the economic pain of others.

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