Economics 101

Combining Creativity, Purpose, and Freedom to Help the Poor

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If you are a regular IFWE blog reader, you know we hope to educate and inspire Christians to live out a biblical theology that integrates faith, work, and economics. Creativity, purpose, and freedom are foundational principles for this endeavor.

These principles are woven into the very fabric of our creation. They are essential for true flourishing.

  • Creativity: We are all born with special gifts and talents that can serve the common good.
  • Purpose: We are called by Christ to use our gifts through our work to contribute to flourishing.
  • Freedom: We need an opportunity-rich society where the least among us can flourish and experience long-term thriving.

The first two principles are necessary but not sufficient conditions for human flourishing. We are special, gifted, and matchless. Each of us has not only the capacity to innovate, but the call from Christ to unleash our ingenuity on the world.

We were created by God to do special things. We are more fully alive in Christ when we are actively, obediently using the gifts he gave us. Creativity and purpose are important for fulfillment. They’re also important for helping the poor. We want the poorest among us to experience the long-term dignity that comes from their ability to showcase each of their gifts to the world.

Combining Creativity, Purpose, and Freedom to Help the Poor

We need freedom in addition to creativity and purpose. To get freedom, to get flourishing, and improve the lot of the poorest among us, we must understand markets, which harness the power of human potential.

What Adam Smith understood in his insights as a moral philosopher was that human potential is limitless. When we put our innovative spirit to work, there is no telling what we can get. We know that human ingenuity has lifted billions out of poverty over the last two hundred years.

The best long-term solution to poverty is providing the poor with opportunities through markets to provide for themselves and serve others. According to author John Schneider, twenty-five countries in the last twenty years have virtually eliminated poverty within their borders in this fashion.

A central reason for helping the poor is that they are made in the image of God. We should desire that each person not only survive, but thrive and flourish in every area. This means:

  • Providing food for the starving.
  • Creating opportunities for education.
  • Developing gifts and talents.
  • Equipping people with the resources to start small businesses, which will enable them to provide for their families and eventually create jobs for others.

A society that supports work, innovation, and ingenuity; allows people to keep what they earn; and doesn’t overburden them with state interference is one in which the poor have a chance to prosper.

Christians are in a unique position to help the poor break the cycle of poverty. We need to use our gifts with integrity and purpose. We need to support the market-based freedoms for the poorest among us that allow them to utilize their creativity and loosen the chains of dependency and poverty. Furthermore, we need to embrace the biblical narrative of work and its value for personal fulfillment, honoring Christ, and creating value through service to others.

Learn more about the best long-term solutions for helping the poor in IFWE’s latest booklet, Love Your Neighbor: Restoring Dignity, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty. 

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  • Reagan Doyal

    I appreciate the thought that was laid out in this post. Is this a Market Based vs. Philanthropic support argument, or do you believe it would be wise for Christians to utilize both? On a side note, does Adam
    Smith’s idea that “human potential is limitless,” allow us to put too much faith in humanity instead of our creator? Is it possible that our reliance on market solutions could become an idol that lets us compartmentalize God? I would be interested in more posts about wrestling with that conflict. Thank you again for your insight!

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