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March 8, 2015

Daisy in the wind, Photo by Alias 0591 (CC Attribution, 2.0 Gen)

They are like straw before the wind, and like chaff that a storm carries away” (Job 21: 18).

Often, those of us not raised in dire poverty fail to understand the chaos of that environment.

The electricity is turned off, and homework is not done.  The ceiling falls in, literally.  The grocery bag rips, the eggs smash, and there is no dinner.  Children sleep in the bathtub as their only defense against drive-by shootings.  An intoxicated neighbor sets the house on fire.  An argument over sneakers escalates into a shooting.  Police arrest a parent, and the children go into foster care.

No Safety Nets

There are no safety nets.  There are no margins for error.  What to the rest of us might be an inconvenience, at worst a minor hardship, can be devastating to the poor.  Progress is impossible.  A youthful indiscretion may cost a life.

Is there any wonder that long range consequences are imperfectly understood?  These children have not been in a position to predict from one hour to the next what may befall them.

Disappointed and Discouraged

Children in poverty face constant disappointment, and daily discouragement from the adults around them.  Promises must be broken again and again.  Some of the criticism may actually be an attempt by adults to protect their children against the bias they are expected to face. Underachievement is perceived as “safer” than success.

Not all such criticism is intended, however, to be benign.  Many adults – themselves defeated by poverty – view the potential achievements of others as an indictment, a reflection on their own efforts.

This repeated exposure to unexpected trauma, this constant barrage of negative feedback, results not only in insecurity, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. There is no one to rely on, and no escape.

Stress on Families

Poverty places enormous stress on families which are already vulnerable. This is not meant to imply that the poor are incapable of feeling.

Parents living in poverty desire the same advantages for their children they see enjoyed by others.  This can, itself, lead to bad decisions.  What little money there is available may be expended on computer equipment or other electronics, while the family struggles to keep food on the table.

Moreover, the problems of parents are passed onto and replicated by their children.  A mother, whose own credit has been exhausted, may take out credit cards in the names of her minor children, thereby saddling the children with a marred credit history before they are old enough to read.

The future is sacrificed to the present.

Chaff in the Wind

While they may be chaff in the wind, children in poverty are not in some way “deficient” or undeserving.  Whatever mistakes their parents may have made, these children come into the world with hopes as bright and shining as those of any child.

Poverty has many causes; it must be attacked on many fronts.  No matter how well intended, government programs alone cannot eradicate poverty.  Poverty can, however, be impacted by government.  That is the lesson from President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Unless and until we commit to its eradication, as individuals and as a nation, children raised in poverty will continue to be victims of chaos.


  1. absolutely agree!

  2. Thank you for this wonderful article! I like President Johnson’s ideas. Blessings to you.

    • Thank you, Nicodemas. The issue of poverty is urgent. I cannot understand why Christians are not at the forefront of it.

      • Yes, if Jesus was walking the earth He would rebuke us I’m sure of it. I think there are several reasons though. First I think our culture is so individualistic, and so material based it influences us to not see properly. It is like we are walking in a fog. Secondly alot of it has to do with bad theology. The health and wealth theology would be an extreme example, but there are others. We have forgotten the second greatest commandment. And one more problem is fear. We are afraid of people, and problems they may have. We need to love instead. Perfect love casts out fear.
        I love your articles. PLease keep writing.

      • I cannot tell you how much your encouragement means to me, Nicodemas. Your observations are very perceptive. Many people have difficulty believing poverty even exists in this country. As for bad theology, I have encountered Christians who seem to view poverty as a judgment by God. I am not certain whether this derives from Calvinism or Social Darwinism. As you say, we are commanded by Christ to love our neighbor. I fear we are failing. Thank you, again.

      • Anna you are certainly welcome. I am blessed by your articles. As for Calvinism I can see that. I’ve have never been a Calvinist due to reasons like this. The prosperity message has grown so rapidly in out nation, it is astounding. It has in many ways redefined what being a Christian is all about, and people have a difficult time seeing the truth because of it.
        Blessings to you.

      • And to you, Nicodemas.

  3. jacqui permalink

    Anna I have lived in poverty and as a single mum where I had only enough money to feed us for four days out of the three. My daughter went to her friends, even having a bath there. I had windows broken and wrapped up in the day time a duvet to keep warm. I had the landlord fiddle the electric meter so I was paying more than I should and this I found out by my daughter breaking into the meter because we ran out of heating and it was winter and so cold and needed to cook. I felt such shame when I got caught out but then found out what the landlord had been doing. Basically I was ripped off paying double. So God rectified it and put the record straight. I could tell you stories of the poor Anna where I live that would break your heart and in truth no-one cares a damn least of all the church. I thank God cares for he says ‘blessed are the poor’. God Bless xx

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