IFWE works with a lot of theologians and economics professors at colleges and universities across the country. When we talk with them, we notice that a lot of the same questions from students keep popping up, regardless of the school.
One of the most common questions asked of our professors is “How should Christians help the poor?” Here’s what a few of these economists and theologians had to say.
The best way to help the poor is to create opportunities for them to work and express their own creativity. That is where economics comes in, by providing jobs for people so they can sustain their families over the long-term. That is the optimal way to do it. Really it is up to Christians and the church and other individuals to really come in and help the poor to have the wherewithal to live their lives with dignity.
– Tremper Longman, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College
Have a Personal Involvement and Support the Right Institutions
Christians can best help the poor in two ways. One, have a personal involvement with the poor. Two, support institutions that allow the poor to flourish for themselves. There is a lot of value, happiness, and self-respect that comes from working and earning. As Christians, we need to support an institutional structure that rewards that and allows people to bring themselves out of poverty. This doesn’t mean we don’t help them; it means we help them in a way that really allows them to flourish.
– Joe Connors, associate professor of economics at the Donald R. Tapia School of Business at St. Leo University
Ask the Right Question
The question is not “How do we eliminate poverty?”, but rather “How do we promote human flourishing?”
– David Kotter, dean and professor of new testament studies, Colorado Christian University
Give Them Access
We cannot fix poverty with money. Poverty is not primarily a lack of money. It is mostly a lack of institutions, a lack of access to things like markets. They don’t have access to markets. They don’t have access to work opportunities.
– Brian Baugus, associate professor of business, leadership, and management at Regent University
Respect Their Dignity
We have to keep in mind that because we do bear God’s image, in helping the poor we respect the dignity of each individual person. We get it wrong sometimes when we go out and try to help the poor by making them dependent.
– Paul Cleveland, professor of economics and finance at Birmingham-Southern University