Poverty Strongholds – Part One

We were more than halfway through our ministry trip in Uganda. We had been alongside many, many pastors, had stayed in many homes, and had been to many districts and villages and churches.

So far, we had been experiencing a bounty of thought and action, of hospitality and sufficiency. Those we were alongside knew that God was caring for them, knew that life was good albeit hard, and out of that delighted in their care of us.

But then we ran across some thinking and perspectives that glared out at us as a poverty mindset extraordinaire all rolled into one. They claimed poverty as their biggest challenge and relayed to us stories of how the enemy was confounding everyone, literally everyone, in that surrounding area.

Now, we had heard bits and pieces of this same thinking in the months prior, but somehow it all came together in stark reality — all poverty was blamed on the devil; it was ALL satan’s fault.

Now, while we know that satan’s plan is one of destruction we could not abide by the belief that everything bad and wrong was of the enemy without any responsibility from the humans involved. If this were the case, then we would all be victims forever more, the end.

And so we jotted out our observations from our times and places within Uganda, the apparent thinking about poverty alongside the practical realities we had been seeing, coupled with our previous knowledge about leadership and theology. This image is a snapshot of our doodling and initial response to the victim and poverty mindsets in our midst.

Poverty Strongholds 2

We kept demonic interference as one of the evident strongholds of poverty for our initial goal was to point out that while satan and demons do play a part, that, in fact, satan is only one voice at the table, there are many other contributing factors to poverty. For instance:

  1. Demons
  2. Poor Stewardship
  3. Lack of Knowledge (common sense)
  4. Mind Sets (faulty thinking)
  5. Lack of Holiness
  6. Agreements with the Enemy
  7. Bad Theology
  8. Blaming & Excuses

NOTE: As we continue with this conversation, we realize that we are not addressing pervasive injustice, corruption and world-wide systems that perpetuate and lock poverty into place for many nations worldwide. We understand that poverty is much more complex than what any one or two of us can do about it. Yet, within that context, our purpose is to empower the thinking of those caught by poverty and to point to practical shifts that would make a difference in their day to day lives, and that would lessen the ‘voice’ of poverty over their realities. Let’s take a look at each of these eight things.

1. Demons

To be sure there are satanic strongholds of poverty over whole areas and over individual lives. Satan hates people and has been working unto destruction of the entire human race ever since the beginning of time. To stand in the spirit realm with the authority to bring down these demonic strongholds unto poverty requires people who are ready, personally, corporately, and within a leadership role to take responsibility for these things and to usher, in place of poverty, the light of God. This is a huge job, not to be taken lightly or rushed into by any means. The authority to do this comes from the work that Jesus did on the cross and also by our personal diligence in overcoming each of the other elements of poverty strongholds. When people live the truth of God’s sufficiency in their lives and communities, demonic strongholds automatically lose their power bit by bit until one day the last tentacles of satan’s hold can be declared gone.

2. Poor Stewardship 

This is an obvious one. How many of us have been neglectful of what we have but simultaneously long and lust for more? I have. It became apparent to us, in the three places where poverty mindset was most strong, that even what people had was not being taken care of. The Bible is not speaking flippantly when it says that he who is faithful with a little will be entrusted with much — we’ve seen the other side, those who are not caring for what they already have and then wondering why they don’t have more. We must keep diligent and become focussed on caring for what we have already been entrusted with. This means that we do not despise the little that we have but that we care about these things as though they are much.

3. Lack of Knowledge

I’ve described this lack of knowledge as faith over-applied. We saw this again and again, where people are just waiting on God to do something, or they are heading forward in creating projects way beyond their means, presuming on God’s goodness to cover over their poor decisions. A lack of knowledge has us over-emphasizing faith but refusing to practice practical and wise choices. Some of this is because there is in fact a lack of knowledge — for instance, many may not know that keeping a child cold and naked when they are sick is only going to make the child sicker. Coupled alongside this is the propensity to make everything spiritual and to in fact blame the enemy for everything that goes wrong. Common sense is lost, faith is over-applied, and a lack of knowledge in many areas leaves people in poverty.

4. Faulty Thinking

There is much that can be said about faulty thinking and it’s various impacts on life. One story — we met with a woman who wanted prayer. She was a mom of six children with the youngest at two years old. She was married to a muslim who had other wives, she had no home to live in, was living with her brother. I asked a lot of questions, both of her and the pastors that we were alongside, to come to understand the thinking of this woman. We have been alongside many just like her. With a husband who is no husband at all, with continued children arriving and my question is, “Why does she keep sleeping with this man?” The explanation in response to my inquiry was that women have a lot of hope. This I understand. But I also know that this is denial and an inability to see reality for what it is. This too, contributes to habitual poverty.

5. Lack of Holiness

When we are outside of the plan of God we open ourselves to the bad fruit of our habits and thinking. If we are promiscuous we will find ourselves with ramifications that lead to death, so to speak, in our lives. If we are judgmental of others we will reap those same judgments. If we are chronic liars we will break trust in all our business dealings and ultimately go out of business. Etc. Our actions matter, our attitudes towards others matter, our choices matter. The way we choose to live, the kind of people we choose to be, makes a difference in how our lives will become. So, where we are determined to live our own way, we will end up in lifestyles and manner of being that undermine all that we really want.

6. Agreements With the Enemy

As mentioned in our diagram, poverty is merely one of the bad fruit of our agreements with the enemy. And, agreements with the enemy could be the summarizing point of all the other poverty strongholds. For basically, wherever we have bad fruit in our lives, communities, or nations, we are seeing the result of agreements with satan. All through the Bible we see evidence of this principle. Where two or more agree that thing is done. This is true of agreements with God, and this is true in terms of agreements with the enemy. One one side of us we have all that God is saying unto life, godliness, a future and a hope and more, and on the other side of us we have all that satan is saying unto death, destruction, chaos, and more. And it is us who make the second witness; we decide whom we will listen to and agree with, and in our agreement we seal future movements and life. When we have agreed to the enemies lies and condemnations we will see poverty showing up on various ways throughout our life. Freedom, then, is coming to first of all recognize the agreements we have with satan, and then, systematically and intentionally confessing, repenting, and breaking those agreements, we make new ones unto the Lord; our lives are then given a chance to become new in the Lord.

7. Bad Theology

There is, here also, many kinds of bad theology and the bad fruit that comes from them. But the one that we see most noticeably within the churches in Uganda is the manipulation and distortion of God’s principles around money and giving. We have seen again and again tithing being used to put fear and guilt onto, often the poorest, of people. Here, the church is part of the system that is keeping people in poverty. When the church eats the poor person’s meal in order to buy cars and houses for it’s pastors, there is systemic abuse. The poor themselves, are unaware that they are being abused and misused. Good theology of God’s heart around giving and tithing must be taught; the people themselves must be empowered to say no to manipulative tactics that prey on their desperations. While there are other bad theologies that contribute to strongholds of poverty, this is one of the most blatant bad theology that participates in the poverty of others.

8. Blaming & Excusing 

There is a basic principle of leadership (not just for ‘leaders’ but for anyone who wants to take hold of their lives for the better) and it is this principle of refusing to blame or excuse. In essence, we are all given one-hundred percent power for our lives; we all are capable of moving our lives forward in some way. Yet, when we blame our circumstances, the systems around us, or other people, we cut out a slice of our power pie and essentially give away our power. When we make an excuse we become the victim and we make solid our inability to do anything about our situation. Refusing, then, to blame or to make excuse puts us into position to begin to find new solutions and opportunity; we take back the power to move our lives forward bit by bit. This sounds fairly simple but the impact of simply refusing to speak blame or excuse any longer, had profound effects upon a person life.

9. In Addition

If my pie chart would easily add another piece I would add a #9. Refusing to Bless Others. It was pointed out to me by a Ugandan pastor that western nations have consistently positioned themselves to be a blessing to others and this is part of their prosperity. I have to agree with him. God is a generous God and when we follow in his lead we will also be generous. This is of course, a distinction from the bad theology that using giving as a way to get something in return. When we manipulate God’s principle of generosity we do not find good fruit because our motives are wrong. But, when we become part of God’s generosity and solutions for others, we will find ourselves open and in stream of his Kingdom in our lives.

10. Pain Upon Pain

Finally, I would add one more stronghold of poverty, and that would be pain upon pain that is buried deep in a people and passed on to generations after generations. I initially came upon this on my fourth trip to Africa in the country of Mozambique. I had been to an amazing church and people for a few days and then moved locations, a mere twenty-minute bike ride away, where the tenor of the place was profoundly different. There was an oppression over the village unlike anything I have ever experienced before. At every moment there was a child sobbing — and worse, the adults and parents either ignored or mocked these sobbing children. At first I thought it was just very bad parenting, but then the Lord revealed to me that, “No Cyndy, this is  pain upon pain.”  Of course! I know about pain upon pain and it is part of my job to remove and cut through strongholds of pain in people’s lives and communities.

What was so interesting in this place was that the homes were the same, everyone was dressed the same as elsewhere in the country, there was plenty of food, all the outward elements required for safety, shelter,and food was in place and yet, this village had a profound spirit of poverty pervading the place. The homes were dirtier, the children neglected, the teens mocked the elderly women (shocking for me to see this in Africa – it was then I knew something was very wrong in that place), and the eyes of the people carried profound sadness. It was, I recognized, the first time I had come across poverty in all my travels within Africa. And so, when we consider strongholds of poverty I cannot leave out realities of pain upon pain. This, from what I have seen, creates the most crippling poverty of all.

In Conclusion

All of these poverty strongholds are what happen when good leadership principles are ignored, when personal responsibility is given over, when theology is filtered through our own best knowledge (it just never comes out right), when greed and lust and sins of the heart are allowed unchecked, and when people as individuals and corporately agree to the lies and accusations of the enemy.

And while it may sound harsh to say to the poor, “You are part of your own problem.” it is in fact only as we acknowledge our participation that we can then do something about it all — if we have a responsibility for what has gone wrong we can then take on responsibility to begin making it right! We all have the ability to respond and live differently than we currently are. This is not a judgment or a condemnation but this is an opportunity to being changing things. It begins with us.

My next post will be Poverty Strongholds — Part Two, where I will outline more of the solutions and shifts we make within ourselves, to proactively conclude our participation with these strongholds; we can respond, even within a context of poverty, in a manner of being that will indeed lessen the ‘voice’ of poverty in our lives.