What is the Poverty Mentality?

When we study the countries that we would call poverty stricken, it’s usually not because its citizens lack intelligence or the lack of natural resources in the land. I don’t believe God should be blamed, for He blessed the people with creative potential between their years and their land with wealth. Then what’s holding them back? It may be a poverty mentality. 

That is why a handoutis not always the simple solution or the best answer. I once heard someone say that all the churches should just sell their buildings and give the money to feed starving children ham and cheese sandwiches. Let’s say we all did that, then in a few years after we run out of sandwiches, the impoverished nation is in the same condition and church real estate has become bars and condos. 

In their book When Helping Hurts, the authors communicated that we Westerners often think of poverty as material lack; however, real poverty is a broken relationship with God, others, resources, and self. They were confirming that free handouts do not encourage entrepreneurship, stewardship, and does not break the poverty mentality. 

The poverty mentality thinks like a pauper, rather than a prince or princess.  A pauperis a very poor person who depends on charity. The pauper is not looking to give, he is looking to take. The pauper is not liking to produce, but to look for pity. The pauper is not looking to learn, he is looking to leech. The pauper is not looking for ministry, rather sympathy. On the other hand, a prince is a very wealthy person who has value, standards, power, and a future. 

When you study the Scriptures, you discover that:

  • You have insane value.
  • You are called to excellent standards.
  • You have power beyond personal power
  • You have a hope and glorious future.

When the Peter and John engaged the pauper by the gate who was begging, this is how they related to him: 

Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:6-8) 

The reason they didn’t give him money was not because they didn’t have a way to get him money. We see that the church was already a center of generosity (as recorded in the Acts 2). Yet, what this man needed was more than a donation. He needed help changing his position and his disposition.

Now this was a great miracle, but let’s not miss the message behind the miracle. He changed his position from stagnant to movement; his disposition from a beggar to a worshipper. 

Peter and John’s vision for this man was not that he just get some silver coins that would last him a week. Rather, they wanted him to see his life turned around. So now he could work instead of beg. He could be a giver not just a taker. He would be a praiser instead of complainer. Instead of seeking sympathy, he can be seeking to find his ministry! 

Our goal shouldn’t just be to give people a handout. Our goal should be to see people delivered of the poverty mentality and poverty lifestyle. 

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor … .” (Luke 4:18) 

The gospel that Jesus preached was designed to attack and demolish the poverty mentality.

Published by Daniel H. Park

A Pastor in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Leading Jesuscenter.com

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