Economics 101

Hope & the Path to Flourishing

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While Christians are called to bring hope to a fallen world, this is not always easy to do. The economic, social, and other problems we see today are significant and consistently threaten to steal this hope.

In the first article of this blog series, we examined the current climate of negativity as well as God’s command for us to bring hope and flourishing to society. Now, we will turn our focus to hope itself.

While problems do exist, it is important for us to take a step back, closely examine the hope we have in God, and understand how he wants us to share it with others. With this in mind, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

“What is this hope, and what impact does it have on us and the world?”

“How is hope tied to flourishing?”

“Where has there been evidence of flourishing in today’s world?”

“How can we bring about flourishing to an even greater degree?”

The Reason for Hope: Jesus & Eternal Contributions

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) is an excellent verse to meditate on:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

It is important for us as Christians to remember why we have hope, as well as the impact that hope has on the culture around us. Faith, hope, and assurance are interrelated.

Faith exists in the present and is rooted in the assurance of Jesus’ provision in the past while our hope focuses on the future. These concepts are all tied directly to our journey on this earth, in which we can—and will—make eternal contributions.

As Christians called to be salt and light to the rest of the world, we have a unique opportunity to not only encourage flourishing through our faith and our work, but also to share our hope with others. We can be the light, and we can provide glimpses of flourishing. Those glimpses can transform lives, both materially and spiritually.

Scripture is clear that God’s good intentions for us are relevant here and now. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Evidence of Hope: Poverty Reduction & the Global Landscape

We should not place our ultimate confidence in material things of this world. However, material amenities afforded by long-term wealth creation provide hope for a dark world. The recent drop in poverty rates in the developing world should give rise to a new rhetoric of hope.

Worldwide, we see glimpses of flourishing that were unthinkable even three short decades ago. Yet we are so focused on negativity that we ignore positive news and changes in our midst. In 2011 YaleGlobal reported:

It is customary to bemoan the intractability of global poverty and the lack of progress against the Millennium Development Goals. But the stunning fact is that, gone unnoticed, the goal to halve global poverty was probably reached three years ago. We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen.

The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people–the population of Turkey or Thailand–out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented yet remain almost universally unacknowledged.

Hope in Action: Creativity & the Free Markets

There is a reason for hope, and Christians should be part of the reason. We have the power and responsibility to show how the kingdom is coming in this world, to show people how things could be, and to bring about flourishing.

Did you know that if you are reading this on a computer, you are one of the richest people ever to have lived in the history of the human race? Kings and queens of the past could not have even dreamed of the things that you and I take for granted each and every day.

This is the power of our God-given creativity harnessed through markets. Instead of living consumed by worry and fear about the possibility of what might happen to us, what if we instead focused on what we have?

It is astounding, and even miraculous, that humans—Christian and non-Christian alike—have come together to give us computers on which to read and produce. Are we not in total and complete awe that we can jump into a seat on an airplane and hurl through the sky and land safely somewhere that would take us days or weeks to get to on our own? We even get Wi-Fi on some of these flights.

It is simply amazing that when I am cold or hot, I walk over to a small computer attached to my wall, the thermostat, which changes the temperature of my house to my liking. Though these are considered luxury perks, we have made the same remarkable advances in reducing disease and increasing life expectancy.

For example, we no longer have to worry about polio. Most humans before us have feared paralysis or death from polio endemics, which were particularly common among children. Humans had not even identified the condition until 1840. Due, in part, to the contributions of individuals like John Rodman Paul, we eventually developed a vaccine to guard against it years later in 1952. The Center for Disease Control reports that since 1988, polio incidence has dropped more than ninety-nine percent.

Hope for All: Social Advancements in the Modern World

Two hundred years ago in the Western world, women had few opportunities outside the home, and children began working at very young ages. Today, we have virtually eliminated child labor in the developed world, and women have opportunities to run companies and even countries. Our children are educated and often attend college before they do a day of work. This luxury was unheard of throughout most of human history.

In the next article, we will continue to explore the role of free markets,  discovering how they generate hope and flourishing in the modern world.

Editor’s Note: This series is adapted from the IFWE research paper, The Market Process and the Path to Flourishing, by Dr. Anne Bradley. Read the full paper here.

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