In their influential book When Helping Hurts on poverty alleviation, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert speak of the "god complex" or "savior complex" that so many exercise - especially in the West - in ministering to the poor. They define the god complex as "a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which they believe that they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts and that they have been anointed to decide what is best for low-income people, whom they view as inferior to themselves."
As Corbett and Fikkert explain well, many view themselves as a messiah who will save the poor. They ride to the rescue, providing the clothing, food, toys, etc., they think the poor need. Yet they end up hurting the recipients rather than helping them. These approaches focus on temporary relief rather than longer term rehabilitation.
This messiah mindset has permeated other parts of our culture. Indeed, the whole of it. For everywhere we look, people have appointed themselves as the savior of others. They offer their immediate solutions to the ills that trouble.
Offended by a view on the internet? Let my social media blast bully that view into silence and call on the tech giants to cancel it into oblivion.
Racial tensions? Follow me as I promote a new worldview of true race theory.
A worldwide epidemic? Let my scientific knowledge dictate every detail of your lives and develop a vaccine that will save all of you from it.
A teenager with self-identity issues? Listen to my YouTube videos on how you are trapped in the wrong body, then let me recommend places for you to go for puberty blockers and gender-realignment surgery.
Economic woes? Support me as I pass legislation in the capital that will take tomorrow's money and make it yours.
On and on the list goes. Yet as false messiahs and idols always do, they falter, fall down, and fail us. The social media warrior slips up and all of a sudden he is the new target of the mob's ire. The rising civil rights leader ends up showing his own racial prejudice and hypocrisy. The virus fluctuates, mutates, and frustrates in ways that no man can predict. The poor teenager who tries to change gender identity realizes later the true impossibility of such. Each successive leader in Washington gives daily evidence that none of them are true messiahs.
What freedom and joy there is knowing the only One anointed by heaven to save! The One whom the world crucified, God the Father has made both Lord and Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand (Acts 2:34-36). His truth is everlasting and cannot be cancelled (John 17:7). He is no respecter of persons for His kingdom has room for all peoples (Jam. 2:1; Rev. 7:9-10). When sought in prayer, He heals diseases and even lands (Ps. 33:12; 103:1-5). He teaches us that paradox truth that we find our identity when we first lose it (Matt. 10:39). Those who follow Him learn why they should not put trust in princes, for they have the King of kings and the Lord of lords as their only Messiah (Ps. 146:1-4; Rev 17:14).
How ironic it is that in this messianic age too few see the One that heaven has already provided. What is the key to seeing Him? The same key in doing poverty ministry correctly. Before ministering to the poor, you must see your own poverty of soul. As Fikkert said, “The primary strategy at the core [of relational ministry] is our repentance of a sense of pride and superiority.” Before seeking your own messiah or, worse yet, trying to become one, why not first repent of the pride and superiority that makes you think you know best? Why not ask yourself this question. "Who would be better at choosing my messiah - God or me?"