Fatalism Kills

Written by Plant With Purpose on February 15, 2012 in General

by Scott Sabin

Years ago, as a young naval officer, I heard a story from a friend of mine who had been assigned to train sailors from a foreign navy that was buying an older US warship.

This crew suffered from a fatalism that was crippling. According to his story, the ship was fitted out with the latest firefighting and damage control equipment.  However, as the ship was being transferred to its new homeport, a fire broke out and the new crew, believing the fire was God’s will, abandoned ship rather than fight the fire.  The handful of US trainers successfully fought the fire and then maneuvered the ship to pick up the new crew in their lifeboats.   Later, the transfer completed, another fire broke out and this time without the US trainers on board, the new crew let the ship burn.

I don’t know if this story is true or not, but to me it illustrates how fatalism can be deadly.

In development work we often find people who are resigned to the fact that they are poor.  Their parents were poor, they are poor and their children will be poor.  It is God’s will that they are poor.  The poor face many obstacles, but often times this attitude is one of the most debilitating.  They can be given all sorts of material things, shoes, clothes, food, etc. but until they begin to see that poverty is not ordained by God they will remain poor.

Thus one of our roles in fighting extreme poverty is in helping people to realize their God-given talents to change their own situation, and make a difference in their own communities.  That is one of the reasons that the village savings banks that Peter Greer describes in How Saving Ten Cents Became The Catalyst For Church Ministry are so important.  Ten cents, when combined with ten cents from others, allows people to break free of the lie that they have nothing and can do nothing about their situation.

But it is not just other cultures that suffer from fatalism.  In our own culture we have a very fatalistic approach to poverty eradication.  It can’t be done.  After all Jesus said the poor you will always have with you.  It can’t be done, despite the fact that God has equipped us with some very effective poverty-fighting tools and know-how.  It can’t be done, despite the fact that we have actually been making considerable progress against extreme poverty.  The poor we will always have with us…

One of the things that excites me about being a part of 58 is the fact that we are beginning to break out of this fatalism.  We are beginning to throw off our complacency and remove our blinders.  God has told us that with him all things are possible so it is with expectancy and hope that we move forward.

This post was originally written for 58’s Blog.  To learn more about 58 and our alliance with like minded organizations with the goal to end extreme poverty, visit    

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