Economics 101

What Are the Best Ways for Christians to Help the Poor Break the Cycle of Poverty?

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The Christian economists and professors IFWE works with have been studying the best ways to improve the economy and alleviate poverty for years. Who better to ask about what works when it comes to restoring dignity and breaking the cycle of poverty for the poor? Here’s what they had to say.

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

Promote the Best Work Alternatives for the Poor. Don’t Block Them. 

The market is a network of voluntary exchange. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not the arbiter of truth and beauty, but it is a marvelous institution nonetheless, because the market price system allows for the coordination of a vast, complex market division of labor that increases the productivity, income, wealth, and standard of living of everyone who participates.

Of course Christ calls us to be responsible market participants. However, responsibility includes not harming others in the name of good intentions. We do not help the most vulnerable of our society by taking away their best alternatives.

– Shawn Ritenour, professor of economics at Grove City College

Create Opportunities

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

Create Opportunities for Dignified Mobility

The Bible makes it clear that we as Christians are to care for the poor (e.g. Acts 20:35; Proverbs 22:9; Isaiah 58:10). Many in the church assume that entering formal ministry or following a social gospel are the only paths towards fulfilling God’s calling to help the poor,

When individuals are given the freedom to faithfully pursue a vocation of choice that best utilizes their God-given talents, and do so with the understanding that this is their calling, they create value for society and serve others in the process. This enables individuals to flourish and creates widespread opportunities for dignified economic mobility and the alleviation of absolute poverty.

– Daniel Bennett, associate professor of economics at Patrick Henry College

Get more insights about the best ways to fight poverty with IFWE’s latest booklet, Love Your Neighbor: Restoring Dignity, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.

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