Human (christian?) response to poverty

Hugs just important as a food parcel. December 2013

When I started thinking about this blog, I thought that I would call it the Christian response to poverty. I was thinking from my own frame of reference and that it would be important to approach it from that angle. The idea of the content of this particular blog was inspired by a meeting my wife had with two old school friends. The friends were talking about cats and dogs and children and then complaining bitterly about their lack of money. Education is frightfully expensive, you know and their kids are in the phase of higher education at the moment. Now we all know that lack of money is relevant. When my wife brought the perspective of a small house of ten people where only one of two worked as an example of lack of money, there was not a spontaneous acceptance of bigger need there. No the response was rather: it is their own fault that they are in the position that they are in. 

So whose fault is it that there is poverty? Who is responsible for that and how should we react to poverty as human beings (or as christians)?

There are certain myths that we need to address when we talk about poverty.

a) Poor people are poor because they are lazy or stupid

I am sure that you will also find lazy people, but read the following observation from Mark Lutz, “Poor people work incredibly hard, under harsh conditions, frequently seven days a week. With no welfare programs and no social networks, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. That’s reality.”

b) Poor people want handouts. 

When you receive a handout your dignity is likely to get a further dent. It is better to work for an income and then to use that to buy whatever you need. Certain human beings (and christians in particular) will keep on giving handouts and this makes for greater dependence. The poor should start to refuse handouts and the givers should stop handouts and rather focus on getting employement and opportunities to those in need. Of course that is far more challenging than just a handout.

It is different when a person is hungry and cannot survie without food or is it? Is it better to give the few rands or dollars worth of food or is it better to offer the person a little job to earn that money?

In the Bible the instruction to farmers is not to harvest everything, but to leave some on the fields for the poor to go an collect. They still had to do something to collect the proceeds. Today in our society there are not as many farmers left as the day when the Bible was written. We need to find a new system where a portion of the “harvest” could be left for the poor to collect. This is an area where a cyber entrepreneur could give a solution like getting .1% (or whatever figure) of money flowing into a bank account to a fund that could fund “responsible” loans.

There are over 4000 children dying from hunger every day and more than 20 000 people. There is enough food available in the world for these people. the challenge is to get the food where it is needed.

c) We should first care for the poor in our country.

In America 95% of money for poverty relief was spent in America and only 5% outside (2009) America. I understand that governments need to focus on the areas where their voters are. The truth though is that the christians (and human beings) in those governments need to push for more need elsewhere. The lack in other areas of the world makes it easy for people to say that the “christians” (used in the widest sense here) do not care for the poor. In a sense the 911 bombing in the USA may well be the result of this approach world wide. The poverty and in some cases abject poverty is preparing the ground for extremists to indoctrinate young, clever (but poor) minds to attempt to restore the balance in the world by terrorism like what happened in 911. So for some instances we could argue self preservation to be able to get more aid outside my own country.

d) Jesus said that we will always have extreme poverty around (Mark 14:7)

“You will always have poor people with you, and any time you want to, you can help them. But you will not always have me”, does not talk about extreme poverty. Jesus talks here about the fact that He will not be around always and that there would be many more opportunities for the inner crowd to do good unto them (the criticism was leveled against the lady who used an expensive perfume for Jesus that could have been sold and the money given to the poor).

It is possible to eradicate extreme poverty and to make a huge dent in poverty if not completely eradicate it. Of course we need to define what poverty is, but the point is that we need to address it and that we cannot take one verse quoted out of context to say that we should do nothing about poverty.

e) Jesus was concerned about spiritual poverty only.

You cannot make sure that a person follows Jesus and then not have any concern if he goes to be hungry at night. No person should go to bed hungry, especially not children. If you look at the history and actions of Jesus as reflected in the Bible it is clear that this is not the case. Spiritual poverty is a huge concern , but it does not stop there. Poverty must be addressed and Jesus and in fact the whole bible points to that. There are unfortunately rich christians who are spiritually poor (or arrogant!).

I heard a classical story how a person equated the lives and actions of some christians to the following practical example. Two christians sit at a table enjoying a meal and the one is blind. He is looking (!) for the salt, but does not know where it is as his friend has used it and did not return it to the centre of the table where it was when they started with the meal. So he asks his friend, “please pass me the salt”. The friend is quiet for a few seconds and then he responds, “my brother, I will pray for you”, and he does not pass him the salt. All of us will view this person as cruel and not a brother at all, but we often do this in the real world out there. Now I do not say that we should give anything to anybody that asks us, but what I do say is that we as christians should be open enough to hear God speak to us about the situation of our brothers. Then if there is need of food for now, we should provide, but more than that … we need to find a solution to get rid of poverty.

f) It is the government’s responsibility so I do not have to do anything.

Yes, governments need to address the problem of poverty and we should use our influence as much as possible to see this happen in our community, country, continent and the world at large. As a human being we need to address this issue wherever we get confronted with that on a personal level.

g) All people have equal opportunities to move from poverty to prosperity

There are cerain systems or laws in place that prevent people from escaping from the poverty trap. In certain cases it is not possible for a person to get a loan to acquire e.g. a low cost property. The sad aspect is that the rental of three low cost properties could in fact repay the loans on four low cost properties and provide a pension for the “poor’ investor when the loans have been repaid. In the first instanc ethe person needs the knowledge of this priciniple, but then of course also access to the finance. Now the legislation preventing this is purely unjust. While we fight the legislation (In South Africa for example)  a christian who could get access to finance may step forward to help put this structure in place for a certain individual. Of course it is not easy and there are more risks associated with this, but is this not what a christian brother should and could do.

Then of course if you have middle class or rich parents it does make it easier for you to get better education with hopefully better opportunities to generate an income. As christians we need to find a way to assist each other. It does not help if the divide between rich and poor grows every year.

So now that we have looked at some of the myths, what is the human response to poverty?

1. Address unjust or illegal systems or legislation.

2. Look at the other causes of poverty and address that

3. Find creative solutions to get provision to the poor

4. Lend a hand (or a loan) where you can (but give in such a way that you make a person independent and not dependent).

5. Give food or provisions where this is needed

6. Give to organisations making a difference

7. Give to education (but link this to a person if you can) or assit with education

8. As a christian you need to be open to experience the Father’s heart for the poor and to listen the the guidance of the Holy Spirit

So poverty is an opportunity to make God’s heart and love visible. To be part of this is to experience God in a totally different way. You do not want to deprive yourself of this on this earth.



Food parcels … one aspect



Wishing, goal setting and action

for-sale beetleWe have expectations of the New Year in the beginning of the year.

This year is going to be my best year ever. This year I am going to get rich, thin, fat, famous, popular or independent. It is great to start dreaming again. We often dream as children. We can fly, we can change the world, and we can do the impossible. When we grow older, we see that it is not so easy to achieve what we thought would be relatively easy to achieve. So we tend to stop dreaming and we go to that survival mode where we just live from day to day and make sure that we have enough energy for tomorrow to just live day to day again. So it is good to start the year dreaming or wishing. These dreams may lead to goals and the goals may change your life forever. These goals and our attempt to reach them may force us to make changes that will help us act and behave differently.

So, let us say that your dream is to have enough money to quit your current job that you may have more time to follow your passion. You do have a job that is sapping your energy and you are busy with your life. When the reality of the rat race sets in, it is easy to let that dream slip again. The rate race  is a term used to describe a frustrating, hard-to-break financial lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is lived by countless people. That means that you are so busy every day that you do not reflect on where you are and where you are going. To reach any goal you need to think about what you want to achieve and what price you are willing to pay for it. To define your goal, you need to go through a number of questions so that you have enough clarity for you to only focus on three things. You need to ask yourself three questions more than once a day and get answers to that. You need to learn how to ask “how?”, “does this support my goal?” (answer “yes” or “no”) and also “what next?”


Let us take a closer look at this. Your wish is to have enough money to quit your current job. So how do we make that wish a goal? There are many ways to describe a goal, but the main difference between a goal and a wish is that it is measurable opposed to vague, precise instead of flexible or loose. So the first question would be: how much money would this be on a monthly basis? Let us take $3000 as the example here. The second question will be: how much time are you willing to sacrifice to achieve this goal? The answer to this question is very important to determine what route you should take to reach your goal. There are quite a number of other questions that you need to go through to make sure that you have a clear goal and a clear allocation of time to reach the goal and to maintain the goal in particular.


So, let us restate the wish to make it a goal: In ten months from now I see myself earning $3000 per month to enable me to be master of my own time by doing ….

Now you need to start asking the question HOW? The goal is set and it is precise. Ten months from now $3000 per month> How am I going to get it?

There are different answers to this for different people. Let us assume that you are going to sell second hand cars and that your profit per car is $300 on average. That means that you need to sell ten cars per month. If you are selling a product where the profit is $10 per sale, you need to sell 300 units per month to get to your goal. If you do internet marketing and your profit is $1 per product, you need to sell 3000 units of your product to get there. You could reason that you are not so much into sales. That means that you need to find something else where you can add value to people’s lives where you would receive a benefit to get to your desired income.

So once you have the HOW in place, you may start asking the two questions: “What next?” and “does this support my goal now?”

So let us say that you have decided to sell second hand vehicles. This is going to be your plan to get the money in. You have also chosen to devote ten hours per week to this (five over weekends and five during the week). Now you need to ask the question: “what next?”. As you have no idea on how to do this, you may want to google “selling cars” to determine what is next. If you know some-one who is in the business you may want to go to him or her to gain knowledge or to be trained. Once you have the knowledge you may still need to acquire the skills for this. That will be the next step, but you may combine this with selling. So you learn as you go!

To illustrate the other question, consider the following. You have set aside two hours tonight to spend time researching the prices of second hand vehicles in your area. Your friends phone you to watch a game with them and to have a great time. So the question is “does this support my goal now?” Of course the answer is “no”. If you do go, however, you have to make up for the two hours of lost research.

So, to wish is easy. It is but a fleeting expression of a desire that is deep down somewhere. To turn that desire into a goal requires passion and discipline. So your first goal may in fact be to acquire passion and discipline before you tackle that audacious goal.

anxious hands grabbed into my heart for sweets

Waiting for sweets

Waiting for sweets

On 16 December of most years I run a 10 km race in a place called Gugulethu close to
Cape Town, South Africa. It is not really a race for me as I normally go to enjoy the people. you get runners there from all over Cape Town and then also some people on  holiday from other places of Africa or the world. You will see quite a number of Santas around running with big bags full of sweets. They then dish this out to kids along the road.

There are places in Guglethu where you get better houses, but then you also get areas where there are cheaper almost makeshift houses or shacks. Normally when you hit this portion of the race you find many kids lining the streets. They are looking for gifts, well actually sweets. Now I know that we should not give sweets to kids. The sugar content is far too high etc etc, but we were giving out sweets.

So I gave a few sweets to a number of people and everything seemed to be fine in the beginning. About five minutes later I had these kids running alongside asking, please some sweets, please some sweets. They would run 50 or 100 meters or so in the hope that they would get something. Many of them had plastic bags with them to gather the sweets.

Then about eight minutes later I stopped to give some sweets from a bag that I was carrying. Within 30 seconds I was surrounded by about 10 to 15 kids each one trying to get to the front to get a sweet. The hands were stretched out and many of them tried to open the bag to get to their sweet. Some tried to get a second sweet. It seemed that they were impatient and anxious to get to the sweets, to their helping.

When I was young I was taught to wait, to not grab and not to be first in line. I was often told, “be patient, there is enough for everyone”. I know I was extremely fortunate when I grew up. We did not always have cake or sweet things around, but I remember on Sundays and Wednesdays. There was always enough to eat. The rules here seemed different. You have to be first in line, you have to race to get it, you have to by all means get into the bag, to get your portion as there may not be enough for everyone.

I was emotionally deeply disturbed emotionally by this. I could not quite understand why I was so upset at that time. They were all anxious to get something. The bigger kids pushed the hands of the smaller ones down. I was anxious as I was running out of sweeets to give and as I was deeply embarrased about what was happening in this fight for survival. About 500 meters or so from there a similar thing happened and I gave the balance of the sweets to one of the bigger kids asking them to share. I am not sure if the sharing happened, but after that I started running again, a bit more free now to just run. It is easy to run and just close my eyes and ears to the anxious hands.

The image of hese hands, however, did not stop when I was not confronted by individuals anymore. It lingered on and found a way to reach into my heart. They are in there looking for an answer to their needs. We must find a way to turn this around.

Now reflecting about what happened there, I wish I was able to buy sweets for everyone in that area. Well not really sweets! I wish I could give everyone a tool so that they could grow up and change their thinking. One way to think is to say: there is enough for everybody, there is abundance. The tool does exist of course and that is education.
What often is absent is a father or mother or adult that could help them and motivate them.

Education is much more than teaching mathematics or science or languages, but education is needed.

If you want to make a contribution in time, energy, ideas or skills, please let me know so that we can tackle this challenge in Africa and worldwide!




Testing lifetick software

Hansie and Anita with  Dolphins ... front cover of book

Hansie and Anita with Dolphins … front cover of book

If you are like me, you get excited about big goals. At one stage I wanted to raise R3m rand by running 160 kilometers and getting people to sponsor the run for every kilometer completed. I did not quite work out the details of the plan and in the end it did not materialise.

I have found this great software that I can use to help you reach some goals. You will find it at where you can test it for free. I have started working with the coaching module of this software where I can assist you to set some goals and to get tasks related to that goal.

So I am inviting you to test this with me for 21 working days for free. I am only working with a few volunteers at a time, so you may have to wait for your session. The beauty is that you can set any goal here. So if you are keen to do that, send me an email now here

It will take you about 15 minutes every day. You are going to set at least two goals and then start planning aroung this. If I did have this system and an accountability coach when I did set that big goal, the outcome might have been totally different.

I will guide you through the process.

As a gift and to thank you for your participation, I will send you a free copy of our book, Healthy, Wealthy and Happy.

Please let me know soonest and see to what extent this can make a difference to your life.

Phone number: (27) 081 2711 570