We’ve all seen the pictures and videos. We can’t escape the billboards or avoid the television commercials. Without realizing it, we’ve been conditioned to accept that the picture of poverty is of the teary-eyed, starving African child with arms outstretched , desperately hoping to get something to eat. It’s true that this type of poverty exists in the world. It’s very real, very painful and should never be ignored. In fact, it’s for this type of problem that organizations like the UN have established observances like the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Poverty is so much more, though.
There are so many ways to define poverty. It can be defined simply or in very deep and philosophical terms. One specific definition stands out for me and it is the one I’d like to use for the purposes of this post. Simply put, poverty is “the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount”. Based on this, the net widens to include so much more than the starving African child.
Have you ever wondered why the celebrity with more than a million followers on Twitter overdoses on lethal drugs? Or why the wealthy business mogul who seems to have it all fails to sleep at night? Why are stats for teenage suicides in Japan – supposedly one of the most advanced and prosperous countries in the world – so high? It’s because, whether we have all the money in the world or none at all, our lives are defined by something more significant than the size of our bank accounts and the possessions we have. There is an emptiness we all feel and a void that longs to be filled. In some way, we’re all poor.
Please don’t get me wrong: this is not an attack on wealth and the wealthy nor is it a downplaying of the tragedy of abject poverty. We must target the sort of destitution that leaves children cold, hungry and unclothed. It will be a beautiful day when we no longer have to watch TV ads pleading with the world to take a moment to ‘consider’ the hungry children of the world. Poverty must be eradicated.
But may we never forget that a human life is as much spirit and soul as it is flesh and bones. There are deeper levels of poverty in this world than what we are led to believe. That poverty too must be eradicated.
It is this deeper, intangible level of poverty and inner hunger that Jesus Christ seeks to address with these words: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Do you sometimes feel like there is something like a void in you that needs to be filled? What do you do about it?