On Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics co-sponsored a panel on IFWE’s newly released book, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty.
Josh Good, program manager for the Values and Capitalism Initiative at AEI, moderated the panel. I was joined by three other participants on the panel, all of whom also authored a chapter for the book.
- Dr. Art Lindsley, Vice President of Theological Initiatives at IFWE.
- Dr. Jay Richards, bestselling author of Infiltrated.
It was an honor not only to be on the panel but to participate in the development of this book. We feel it can change the dialogue among Christians about how we care for the poor.
The Bible unequivocally calls us to care for the poor. There is no disagreement among Christians on this point. The cause for disagreement is how we care for the poor. Jesus was the best model for how we can do this.
- He developed personal relationships with those who needed his help.
- He treated each person he encountered with dignity and respected them as image-bearers of God.
- He helped the poor within the context of a broader community.
Below are the four best insights from yesterday’s panel. These insights can help us model what Jesus did when he cared for the poor.
Each person is made in the image of God and has inherent dignity. The cultural mandate helps us understand the role that each unique person has to contribute. Our call is to create something, to bring new things into existence, and to innovate. This applies to the poor, too.
We live in one of the most exciting times in human history. We have never before been able to say that we can realistically expect to eliminate abject poverty. That is no accident. It results because we have allowed people to unleash their gifts and serve others through voluntary exchange.
Charity and poverty alleviation are first and foremost matters of the heart. We must get relationships with those we want to help. We have to realize that it’s about more than finances – we are transforming hearts.
When we talk about poverty alleviation we are talking about how to help human persons, and those persons have dignity. We are talking about how to help very specific people. It’s not just about making sure people have the “right” number of dollars in their bank account. When we think about poverty this way, we reduce human beings and overlook important moral and spiritual considerations.
As the body of Christ, we can’t afford to unintentionally hurt the poor in our efforts to help them. This requires that we start with the biblical principles for how we care about the poor and bring sound economic thinking to bear, too.
The goal in all aid or development work should be to elevate the recipients from the aid. We want to enable them to not need aid for too long. This is difficult, but we can do it.
We humbly offer the insights of this book as a new way for Christians to approach this most important topic of caring for the poor.