Flourishing: The Antithesis of Poverty
For too long the supposed cures for poverty in America have been prescriptions (some simple and some complex) to relieve symptoms. Food stamps, housing vouchers, and income tax credits have all been great symptom relief tools. The only problem is that the disease of poverty is not cured through these treatments. Instead of looking at the problem of poverty as simply a lack of material resources, we must begin to view poverty in light of its root cause, the innate brokenness of humanity caused by sin.
Before we can discuss what poverty is or isn’t, it seems that the best way to start is to look at what God’s design for humanity was. What is the anthesis, or opposite, of poverty? Is it wealth? It is stability? Is it the ability to pay my bills? We believe that true flourishing, the contrast to poverty, is when a person is functioning as God designed them; in right relationship with God, self, others, and creation–all to the glory of God and our enjoyment of Him.
Four Fundamental Relationships
When God created humanity in the very beginning, He created them in His image. Existing from eternity past as the Triune God, He has always existed in relationship. There in the happy land of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit enjoyed one another in perfect love and submission. As the image-bearers of God we are inherently relational beings, just as He is. So, when God created humanity, He created us with four fundamental and foundational relationships. These four relationships are drawn straight from God’s Word in Genesis 1:27–28:
Relationship with God: “So God created man in his own image.” This is the relationship par excellence. Human beings were created to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We were designed by our Creator to know Him, serve Him, and worship Him. As we walk with Him and pursue relationship with Him, we live in His joyous presence. In other words, we flourish.
Relationship with Self: “In the image of God he created him.” Humans are unique above all of the rest of creation (including the angels) because we are created in the image of God. While we are not, and can never be, God, we are the closest representation of who He is because He designed us to reflect who He is. Knowing that I am made in God’s image teaches me that I am God’s prize possession and that I am valuable, worthy, and dignified…no matter what I have done or what has happened to me. This knowledge of self in light of knowledge of God gives me confidence in who I am and allows me to live in the freedom that I am lovely in God’s sight.
Relationship with Others: “Male and female he created them.” God’s design for us doesn’t stop at relationship with Him and with ourselves. If we are truly to bear God’s relational imprint in our lives, there must be something of a similar essence as us to be in relationship with. This is why God declares Man alone in the Garden “not good.” Adam needed someone like him to live in relationship with, in order to fully bear the image of God. Together in relationship with one another, we bear the image of God who has existed eternally in relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But relationship with others is even more rich. See how God’s fundamental design for us works to flourish even our communities. As an image-bearer of God I am lovely and a prized possession in God’s sight. Being a human, you too are an image-bearer of God. Therefore, you are worthy of the same dignity, value, and worth that I am because we are both God’s image-bearers who are His prized possessions and lovely in His sight. This leads me to treat you with all the love and grace that God treats me with and vice-versa. This is why, for nearly 2000 years, the Church has defended the rights of the unborn and those who have no voice for themselves. We believe that they are images-bearers of the Most High God, just as we are, and thus are equally worthy of every right that we have.
Relationship with Creation: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ”Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth.“ These verses are known as the "Cultural Mandate." Here we are tasked with being stewards, who understand, protect, subdue, and manage the world that God has created in order to preserve it and produce and harvest its bounty. This is the call to work and labor for the glory of God and the provision of our families.
These four relationships, when whole and working properly, lead humanity to flourish under the loving rule and reign of the King of the Universe. As we flourish, we fulfill our calling to glorify God and bask in the enjoyment of Him. This is life as God designed humanity to live. Unfortunately, we all know that this is not the rule but the exception. Sin entered into the world in mankind's rebellion against God, wrecking everything.
Look for part 2 of the series soon as we examine exactly what happened in the Fall, and why humanity fell into brokenness and poverty.