|A Cruciform Press book|
I am Mexican. My country is a country of contrasts, a country in which you can find the richest man on earth, as well as people living in extreme poverty not so far from the richest neighborhoods in the most important cities.
I drive to my parents' home once a week to have lunch with them, and every week, in the same corner, I see a poor family selling candy or some times just reaching their hand to beg for some money. The mom is always holding a baby in her "rebozo", while the "big kids" (around seven years old) are most of the time selling gum to the car drivers when the stop light is on. But my eyes always look for the little one, a toddler. He is always in a corner playing happily with empty milk cartons, or old toys. Every week, my heart aches. Many times we have brought food for them, or clothes, but there are always these questions in my heart, how can we really help those in need when you see them every where? Is there a real solution to all this poverty around me? Whom do we help? The family on the street, the friends that are going through hard (real hard) times, the children in a far away land with no drinking water? What is the Christian response to poverty?
Aaron Armstrong has written a book, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, The New Creation and The End of Poverty, that has spoken directly to my heart. He has in few pages, answered many of these questions.
"Resources and awareness and policies are important, but poverty is not fundamentally about any of these things. The root of poverty is sin." (p.9)
The author understands the gospel's message well. He knows that the bad news always precede the good, so he keeps on saying,
"¨[O]ur good faith efforts to address legitimate questions of poverty and injustice must never lose sight of the fact that poverty will persist as long as the heart of man is ruled by sin.". (p.10)
This book is one that reminds us of the hope that should keep us pursuing biblical solutions to poverty. Armstrong says,
"our only hope for an ultimate solution to poverty is in the return of Christ, when he will put an end once and for all to sin, suffering and death, and bring out the New Creation." (p.11)
And that is when I take a deep breath and keep on reading. Armstrong takes us back to Genesis, the Paradise, the Fall, and the curse that came as a result of it.
"Whereas the curse upon Eve is primarily about interpersonal relationships, Adam's curse spreads outward to all economic life... Prosperity will always be challenging and elusive. The very materials and processes we work with to try to create prosperity will resist us. And it will continue like this until the day we die." (p.18)
But physical poverty, as terrible as it is, is not the ultimate poverty. Armstrong says,
"A fallen world inhabited exclusively by sinners; that is the essence of poverty. Sin, and the effects of sin throughout creation, is the Poverty from which all other poverty flows" (p.23)
This is the heart of the book, this is what makes this book so important; Awaiting a Savior goes to the root of the problem of poverty that surrounds us.
This is a book that I greatly recommend as a tool to train the young people who want to come and do missions to poor countries. In Latin America, sadly to say, we receive many missionaries, many youth groups that come every summer to help build churches, and paint walls, and sing children's songs in poor areas; but we need to go deeper, we need to go to the root of poverty: sin in the heart man.
Armstrong deals, then, with the root of poverty, but also with the root of our inability to respond in a God-glorifying way towards poverty.
"Sin thus not only causes poverty but also poisons our attitude toward those suffering within it."We try to help, but very often we loose sight of our real aim:
"Ultimately, poverty can only be addressed at the heart level, one person at a time, s salvation through the shed blood of Christ pushes back against the fall of man. The ultimate answer to poverty is circumcised hearts that know the God who forms and keeps covenant with poor and undeserving sinners." (p.47)Chapter Five, was probably my favorite. Armstrong reminds us of the Sermon of the Mountain and how "The gifts of love always precede the demands of love". Oh yes, Grace, amazing Grace that reaches to the poor effectively.
"That is what is so devastating about the Sermon on the Mount. It starts with grace..."
And as the paragraph continued, it brought me to my knees in prayer, conviction and thanksgiving. Grace is the starting point; it was there where Jesus found me. It is there where we should start if we want to effectively help the poor among us until the day we see Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus!
*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by the author for the purpose of this review. I was asked to write an honest review.