Wess Speaks (Part IV)

We recently gave you the opportunity ask our president, Wess, any questions you like. We’re publishing his transcribed answers one day at a time.

  • What do you think is the largest challenge in eradicating poverty on the earth? (Allan)

The biggest challenge of eradicating poverty in the world isn’t finding enough money to throw at it. We often think that poverty is a lack of money. That’s a big piece of it, but it’s not the whole of it, or even the most critical part of it. If it was, I think we could probably organize our world to throw enough money at it to make it go away.

But poverty is much more complicated than that — it’s not about the kind of house that you live in or whether a sewer runs in front of your house. It’s not about the amount of calories you take in or the amount of money you have. Those are only the symptoms of poverty. That’s not real poverty. Real poverty is much more complicated than that and it doesn’t just happen overnight. It rolls down through the generations.

At Compassion we realize that the biggest challenge of poverty is a mindset — a lie that says to a child:

Look around you, nothing works, nothing is pretty nothing smells good — you don’t matter. Look at you. It’s all garbage and so are you. So give up. There’s nobody coming to your rescue. Nobody cares about you, just give up.

We must go into the midst of that abject poverty and breathe hope and love and life. We can meet the critical needs, but there’s no end of that. Scripture says, “So what does a man profit if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

What I think is the hardest thing is mobilizing God’s people around the world to not only send their money but to send their hearts and enter into the hurt of a little child and breathe hope:

Don’t give up. I’m watching you grow. I got your report card. I got your picture. I pray for you every night. I think you’re wonderful. Don’t give up.

If we could get enough people in the western world — this rich world that you talk about, Allan — to do that, we could absolutely end poverty on our planet. It’s not going to end with more effort. It’s not going to end with more money. It’s going to end with more heart.

Those of us who have been blessed have been blessed for one reason and one reason only, and that is to be a blessing. Anything God gives you beyond enough ought to be given away to lift someone else up to enough.

7 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Chris Giovagnoni June 2, 2008


    Is it really possible to end poverty on Earth if could get enough people to care and “send their hearts”?

    Sure! Anything is possible with God.

    Is it probable that enough people would send their hearts or get involved? I don’t think so, for the very reason you said; Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.

    In your life, what do you value most? What brings you a longer-lasting joy? Presence or presents?

    Without contributions there is no Compassion, but without involvement, without “sent hearts” how does a child know love?

    What I took away from Wess’ reply is not that he thinks we’ll rid the world of poverty but that the most effective way of making as large an impact as possible is by caring – actively loving as Jesus loves (i.e., sending our hearts).

  2. Juli Jarvis June 2, 2008

    P.S. We know that God is talking to His People about helping the poor; the scriptures are full it. My prayer as an Advocate is that God will lead me to those whose hearts He has already prepared. It is His work and He will lead us to the right churches and people that He is already speaking to. After one Compassion Sunday, a woman came up to sponsor a child and said God had awakened her in the night and told her to sponsor a child (she had no idea I was speaking that day). God IS working and will do bigger works than we can imagine, if we rest in Him and follow His lead rather than trying to make it happen.

  3. Juli Jarvis June 2, 2008

    How do you define poverty? Is it those who are poor in worldly goods or those who are poor in spiritual goods? I find the children & adults I’ve met in the Compassion projects to be far wealthier than I am — in the things that matter, such as joy, peace, contentment. Wess is right when he says we need the “poor” as much as they need us. But which of us is more needy?

  4. Compassion dave June 1, 2008

    Bottom line, the ‘spritual ideal’ exists where poverty could be elimnated (and when He returns, it will be), but until His time has come He can say with all authority poverty will always be with us because He knows our disobeient heart and our selfish nature.

    So, should you and I not do anything about poverty? I think not. We KNOW what please God and we (He) would be well-served to do it.


  5. Ryan Iafigliola May 31, 2008

    I really appreciated Wess’ thoughts on this, and I just wanted to share my thoughts to Andrzej’s application of Jesus’ words about the poor “always” being with us (a common use of that verse, so I’m not trying to pick on you here, Andrzej). It was a verse that had troubled me, too, for a long time. Now I am convinced, though, that perhaps no other verse is more misused in all of Scripture. And it’s a real shame, because that kind or reading of it has led many people to think that God had decreed we will have poor people and that there is nothing we can really do about it. If we can’t win, people say, “why try?”

    I work at The Fuller Center for Housing in Americus, Georgia, where Millard Fuller led the effort to eliminate poverty housing during the 1990’s with Habitat for Humanity, even though so many thought it could never be done. Millard always says that one of the greatest moments of his life was when he stood in front of the 500th house – Victory house – and led the crowd in singing “Victory in Jesus”! What a moment! Continued efforts of course are needed, but the goal was reached. As Wess pointed out, we have the resources, we simply need the heart, will, and motivation to make it happen.

    To understand Jesus’ words in the situation mentioned in the post above (Mark 14:7), consider these points:
    – Jesus literally would not be with them much longer, and so this was a one-time preparation of his body for his burial, and a beautiful thing she was doing for him. His disciples’ response of rebuking her is almost unbelievable. Jesus’ rebuke was telling the disciples not to judge this woman for the wonderful thing she was doing for him.

    – Despite the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000, the Disciples didn’t understand the economics of Jesus yet. The economics of the world is one of scarcity; the economics of Jesus is one of plenty – when we give to the service of God and others, we find we have enough and more than enough. We do not need to choose between serving Jesus and serving others.

    – And the clincher: Jesus was referring to Deuteronomy 15:11. The chapter is part of a larger set of social laws to help the poor, and in fact it actually says that we need have no poor among us in verses 4-5.

    “However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”

    So the message of that chapter that Jesus was referring to is very clear: God has given us everything we need to have no poverty, it’s up to us whether we will respond – individually and socially – in ways that will allow everyone to share in the prosperity God gives. So Jesus’ verse was not a prophecy dooming our works to failure, but rather a reference to the Deuteronomy verses imploring us to do more for the poor (but not as a replacement for serving Jesus).

    So that’s the conclusions I’ve come to with that verse. Anyone else have any thoughts on it?

  6. Andrzej Gandecki May 31, 2008

    Dear Wess,

    Jesus said: “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them…” Mark 14:7

    Is it really possible to end poverty on Earth if could get enough people to care and “send their hearts”?

    I always thought that fighting poverty is much like fighting sin in my personal life – I must resist with all my power and all the power I have from God, knowing that I will never be able to see the end of the fight on this side of Heaven.

    Do I misunderstand the words of Jesus? Is it really possible to absolutely end poverty on Earth?

  7. Compassion dave May 31, 2008

    Wess always ‘nails’ it! When I grow up I want to be like Wess.

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