Desperate Poverty

Several years ago, I read Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. Amazing book, and a free one at that. Currently, I’m reading Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider. Both books include the following: an itemized list of the “luxuries” most of us would have to give up if we were to live the life of the world’s desperately poor.

The following was written by prominent economist, Robert L. Heilbroner: 

“We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television set, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his “wardrobe” his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.

We will move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards…The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar, and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be hastily rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions, and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.


Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the toolshed…


Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books—not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio…


Now government services must go. No more postman, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms…There are, of course no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided that the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely…


Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of $5.00. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94, which he mistakenly thought he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.”

Order a free copy of Revolution in World Missions today, and be inspired at the vision that God gave K.P. Yohannan, the founder of Gospel for Asia. Yohannan is unique in his approach to missions, believing rightly, that though money, medicine and food are needed and a blessing to the world’s poor, what they truly need is the message of Christ. For instance, if India turned to God, their “sacred” cattle and grain would no longer be consumed at the altar of Hinduism.

Sider’s Rich Christians book, on the other hand, is full of scripture on how dear to the Lord’s heart are the world’s poor, and that it’s a responsibility many of us ignore. Despite Sider’s liberal stand on world population, he makes many good points. I’ll leave you with one.

“The clearest statement about Jesus’ identification with the poor is in Matthew 25:35-36, 40: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…I was naked and you gave me clothing…Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’

What does it mean to feed and clothe the Creator of all things? We cannot know. We can only look on the poor and oppressed with new eyes and resolve to heal their hurts and help end their oppression.

If Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:40 is startling, its parallel is terrifying. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me’ (v. 45)

What does that mean in a world where millions die each year while rich Christians live in affluence?

What does it mean to see the Lord of the universe lying by the roadside starving and walk by on the other side? We cannot know. We can only pledge, in fear and trembling, not to kill him again.”