How the Millennium Development Goals reflect God's heart for the poor
Written by Amanda Jackson, Campaigns and Policy Coordinator for Micah Challenge International. www.micahchallenge.org
Every nation is responsible to do all it can to meet the Millennium Development Goals and that means government action as well as programmes run by communities.
But Christians sometimes hesitate to start speaking to governments about poverty and injustice. We may feel cynical or powerless or lacking in skills.
2,500 years ago, Nehemiah heard about a huge injustice affecting his fellow Jews who had been left behind in Jerusalem. How did he become an advocate?
Nehemiah 1:1-3 describes the situation. How were the people suffering?
Read Nehemiah 1:4-10
Nehemiah responds in several ways. Can you see the steps he takes?
- His heart is broken - we need God's compassion for those who suffer.
- He prays and fasts - we need to recognise the spiritual importance of advocacy and that we need God's power.
- He praises God for his greatness and faithfulness - a good reminder if we are caught up in the despair of poverty.
- He prays for forgiveness - we need to search our hearts as individuals, churches and organisations to acknowledge when we have failed poor families and communities.
- He asks for God's guidance and wisdom - all our words and tactics must be godly.
The rest of the story of Nehemiah is a wonderful description of effective leadership and advocacy that perseveres and overcomes opposition.
Read Chapters 2 and 3
- How does Nehemiah win over the King (who is not a believer) to his cause?
- What do verses 11-20 of Chapter 2 show us about effective development and advocacy work?
- How does Nehemiah deal with opposition? (see also Chapter 4)
- Why do you think Chapter 3 lists all the different families, clans and groups that helped rebuild the wall? What can we learn from that about getting an effective job done?
Read Chapter 5:1-13
- Why did Nehemiah decide to act on behalf of the people who were oppressed?
- What if the people had not complained?
Micah Challenge is encouraging our leaders to halve global poverty. Some may mock the aims of Micah Challenge and say they can never be achieved. But Nehemiah's story of persistent, prayerful, practical and positive action gives us a vision of what is possible.
And if we succeed, it will be because God has been faithful to our cries and has acted to soften the hearts of leaders so that they, like the wise king in Proverbs, 'protect the rights of all who are helpless - the poor and the needy' (Proverbs 31:8-9).