desert-crossI was facilitating English tutoring on Friday and the students asked my input on the economic situation of Haiti.

Trying to get at the heart of their question, I asked, “You want to know why I think Haiti suffers with poverty?”

“Yes.” They answered.

It’s a question that’s come up many times before, but the context of the conversation was an economic one (normally it is in theological dialogue that the question arises).

“Please correct me you believe I’m wrong, as I have don’t have the perspective that you have because I’m not Haitian, but I think the central reason that Haiti cannot advance economically is fear – a lack of trust. While there are certainly a variety of other contributing factors, I believe the single most determining factor is the fact that people do not trust one another,” I stated as objectively and gently as possible so as not to offend.

“I don’t understand…” Jodenel responded, looking for more unpacking.

“I believe that trust is the basis for all productivity. In order for a tree to produce, it must trust of the land. In order for you to consume the fruit of a tree, you must trust its fruit – that it will not harm you if you eat it. This reality is based off the model of the Holy Trinity – three Persons in a trust relationship together – the model for all existence.

“Sin creates a breach between relationships, as we see with clarity in Genesis 3. Because of this dynamic of sin, it has become intuitive to ask of every relationship, ‘Can I trust the other? Does the other have my well-being as a priority?’  You see, as sinners, we know that our central priority is ourselves. It is safe and quite natural to assume then that others have the same mentality (which is another sin-dynamic, ethno-centrism – the assumption that all cultures are like our own). I care about myself more than others, then others must care about themselves more than they are concerned with me. Therefore, I can trust that when push comes to shove, the other’s well-being is prioritized over my own.

“I can’t fully trust anyone.”

At this point, folks were following me, but I could see in their faces that they were missing the connection with how it impact economic stability and regeneration.

“So, how does this impact economic stability?” – my rhetorical question

“If there is a lack of trust between members of society, stable productivity can never come as a result. Research proves that when people work together, as opposed to working in insolation, there is exponential growth. For example, when Jean has his own, private garden, he can produce what’s equal to 2. His neighbor, Pierre, working in isolation, produces 2. Combine isolation then, yields 4 – this is linear growth.

“If Jean and Pierre were to put their efforts together, rather than producing 4, they produce 6.” If Jean, Pierre and Paul work together, rather than producing 6, they could potentially produce 12. This is exponential growth.

“When people do not trust one another, they must work and produce in isolation and yield limited linear growth. However, when people trust one another and synergistically work together, they yield exponential growth.

“In a place like Haiti, where poverty dominates, the probability of mutual, self-giving trust diminishes. People revert to an acute egocentric mentality when in survival mode caused by destitute poverty. This means that once arriving in destitute poverty, the poverty becomes all the more challenging to overcome because the conditions are fertile for accentuated self-interest in a survival state.”

Jodenel, our thinker, chimes in, “But isn’t it really an issue of leadership?”

“YES!” – excited as Jodenel took us where I was trying to go with the discussion.

“This is the essential message of the Cross,” I explained.

“The central sin problem of lack of trust creating a breach in relationship is restored through the Cross. As Jesus of Nazareth, innocently suffers and dies in our place, it becomes a public display to humanity of the trust-worthiness of God. As Jesus hangs on the Cross, arms spread wide, God is saying to us, ‘You can trust me…’ Through this act of love, God declares, ‘Your well-being is prioritized over my own…you are what is most important to me. I’m giving my life in the place of yours.’

“The problem with the declaration is the sinful humanity does not have the experiential point of reference to understand such a declaration. We have never truly experienced self-giving love. We need help wrapping our minds around God’s statement to us on the Cross (the theological term for this dynamic is total depravity). This is where prevenient grace steps in. God’s grace allows humanity, even with a totally depraved nature, to hear, understand and embrace the love message of the Cross. While we have a choice to embrace, that choice is activated and only made possible through God’s grace.

“With this, for those of us who understand and accept God’s message to us through the Cross (which, by the way, is the moment of justification), we’re able to follow Jesus and enter into a true, freely giving, fully trusting love relationship with God and with other believers (which is where sanctification unfolds).

“The natural and inevitable result of such a union is productivity.

“And let me warn you, this saving relationship can never be used as a means for achieving an economic end. God’s great salvation is not to be treated as a means to our end – we’re to be used as a means to His end – something only the regenerated mind can comprehend.”

“So, if we want the economic stability of Haiti to be restored, we have to simply embrace God selflessly?” – they acutely inquired.

“Yes. And if you embrace God’s salvation so that economic stability can be restored, you will annihilate yourself because in the end, the disease of selfishness remains.”

A part of me thinks that when Jesus said, “if you wish to save your life, you must be willing to loose it,” this is what he meant.


Matt Ayars

President of Wesley Biblical Seminary

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