What if My Family Is Poor?
Gregory, a youth in Eastern Europe, can’t afford the clothes or electronic goods some Western youths can. He’s so frustrated with his living conditions that he’s about to move to Austria. Do you think Gregory is poor?
□ Yes □ No
Thousands of miles away lives Loyiso, a youth from a rural village in southern Africa. Dwelling in a small hut with his family, Loyiso envies the youths in a nearby town who enjoy marvelous “luxuries”—running water and electricity. Would you say that Loyiso is poor?
□ Yes □ No
CLEARLY, “poor” is a relative term, meaning different things in various lands. For example, Gregory may have thought of himself as poverty-stricken, but compared with Loyiso he lives in luxury. It’s sobering to realize that no matter how poor you may be, others are likely worse off than you are. Still, when you don’t have decent clothes to wear to school or when you lack such basics as running water, it may give you little comfort to be told that others have less.
Some youths who grow up poor feel worthless and inferior, and they try to dull their senses with alcohol or drugs. However, efforts to escape from reality only make matters worse. Those who abuse alcohol discover that “it bites just like a serpent, and it secretes poison just like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:32) Maria, a girl from a poor single-parent family in South Africa, says, “Trying to escape reality causes more problems than it solves.”
You may not turn to drinking or drugs, but you may see little hope of ever improving your lot in life. Where can you turn? The Bible’s wise counsel can be like a key that frees you from the shackles of despair, enabling you to cultivate a healthy attitude. Let’s see how.
Examine Your Assets
One positive step you can take is to focus, not on the things you lack, but on the things you have. Assets such as a home and a loving family certainly are more valuable than money! A Bible proverb says: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.” (Proverbs 15:17) Christian youths have an especially valuable asset—the support of “the whole association of brothers.”—1 Peter 2:17.
Perhaps you can also try viewing your material possessions in a more positive light. Granted, you may live in a simple, perhaps even primitive, home. You may wear old, worn, or patched clothing. And you may long for a more varied diet. But do you need stylish clothes or an elaborate home to please God? Do you need fancy meals to stay alive and in good health? Not really. The apostle Paul learned a valuable lesson in this regard. He experienced both riches and poverty. (Philippians 4:12) His conclusion? “If we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us.”—1 Timothy 6:8, Today’s English Version.
Eldred, a South African man who grew up in a family of little means, says: “We just accepted that the family was living on a tight budget and that we could not get all we wanted.” Eldred recalls that when his school trousers became threadbare, his mother simply patched them up—again and again and again! “I had to endure a bit of teasing,” admits Eldred. “But the main thing was that our clothes were clean and functional.”
James, 11, lived with his mother and his sister in a squatter camp near Johannesburg, South Africa. Materially, they owned almost nothing. However, James still had valuable assets—time and energy—and he enjoyed using these to help others. Each weekend, James volunteered his services to assist in building a local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This work not only absorbed time that would have otherwise hung heavy on his hands but also gave him a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of self-respect. “After a day of hall building, I have this deep feeling of contentment inside!” he says.
Another productive activity is the door-to-door Bible education work. (Matthew 24:14) Youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in that work on a regular basis. By doing so they give others hope of a better life in the future, and they also increase their own feelings of self-respect and dignity. True, they don’t make money from doing such work. But recall the message Jesus gave to Christians in the ancient congregation of Smyrna. They were quite poor materially. Nevertheless, because of their deep spirituality, Jesus could say to them: “I know your tribulation and poverty—but you are rich.” Ultimately, because of their actively exercising faith in Jesus’ shed blood, they would become supremely rich, receiving the crown of immortal life.—Revelation 2:9, 10.
You can develop a close relationship with Jehovah whether you are rich or poor. The Bible states: “The rich one and the one of little means have met each other. The Maker of them all is Jehovah.” (Proverbs 22:2) That fact has helped thousands of young Witnesses of Jehovah to cope with poverty. They appreciate that happiness depends, not on owning material things, but on making friends with Jehovah God, who welcomes all who want to serve him. God offers the hope of life in a future new world that will be free of grinding poverty.—2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
In the meantime, use your resources wisely. Look to the future. Lay up spiritual treasures. (Matthew 6:19-21) View poverty as a challenge that you can cope with!
“Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
Shun gambling, smoking, and the abuse of alcoholic beverages. If other family members have these habits, set an example for them by your conduct.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
My assets are ․․․․․
I will use these assets to help others by ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why is “poor” a relative term?
● Why is it unwise to use drugs, alcohol, or other substances to escape from reality?
● What practical steps can you take to cope with poverty?
[Blurb on page 168]
“Although I felt trapped by poverty, I realized that joining a gang or stealing for a living would not help at all. Today, many of those from my age group who did those things are either hopeless dropouts, slaves to drink and drugs, or in jail.”—George
[Box/Pictures on page 164]
Should I Live Abroad?
Some youths want to live abroad to earn money either for themselves or to support their family. Others move to learn a foreign language, to further their education, or to run away from problems at home. Some Christian youths have moved to lands where there’s a need for evangelizers. The decision to move to a foreign land is a big one and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, if you’re thinking of living abroad, read and meditate on the scriptures listed below. Ask yourself the questions, and write your answers on a sheet of paper. Then prayerfully make your decision.
□ What legal requirements are involved?—Romans 13:1.
□ What will be the total financial cost of moving abroad?—Luke 14:28.
□ What am I doing now that proves that I would be able to care for my own physical needs when abroad?—Proverbs 13:4.
□ What advice have I received from mature people who have lived abroad?—Proverbs 1:5.
□ What do my parents think of the idea?—Proverbs 23:22.
□ What’s my motive for wanting to move abroad?—Galatians 6:7, 8.
□ If I’m going to live with others, will they encourage me to maintain good spiritual habits?—Proverbs 13:20.
□ Realistically, what benefits do I expect to gain from living abroad?—Proverbs 14:15.
[Picture on page 167]
The Bible’s advice can be like a key that frees you from the shackles of despair