Economics 101

Is Feeling Good Enough to Fight Poverty?

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One of rock ‘n’ roll’s most outspoken activists recently made a startling statement concerning an often overlooked method of poverty alleviation.

Bono spoke in front of an audience of 200 leading technology entrepreneurs and investors at the F.ounders tech conference in Dublin last month. He expressed a humbling realization about the importance of enterprise in philanthropy:

Job creators and innovators are just the key, and aid is just a bridge… a humbling thing was to learn the role of commerce.

Bono’s ONE campaign has been fighting disease and poverty in Africa since 2002. But Bono is realizing that donations aren’t the long-term answer. There is a more useful and sustainable tool for lifting whole nations out of poverty: commerce.

In this short clip, Dignity Partner, a business ministry that partners with community leaders across the world to build community infrastructure and enterprise, shows why a job is more helpful than a handout:

Wanting to do good isn’t the same thing as doing good. It’s easy to write a check and give away old clothes, but what if we are called to do more?

What if Christians are called to think about unintended consequences, gather as much information as possible, form relationships, preserve the dignity of the poor, and empower them to use their talents and abilities?

Before Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, an expert in the law asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Luke 10 gives an account of the conversation that transpired:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Notice that the expert’s answer does not stop with heart and strength. In Money, Greed, and God, IFWE visiting scholar Jay Richards highlights what it means to love the Lord with your entire mind:

Our minds and motives aren’t isolated compartments. God gave us minds and reason, we we’re responsible for thinking through the consequences of our actions. In fact, it’s morally self-indulgent to feel good about our motives when it comes to actions that affect the world.

Christians are not only called to have good intentions to help the needy, but to actually help the needy. This can be accomplished by applying our minds in order to properly understand the economic principles of poverty relief.

If our social justice strategies aren’t the most effective or efficient, are we really exercising biblical prudence and stewardship? Are we protecting human dignity and fulfilling the Christian call to help “the least of these?”

In my next series of posts, I will address how Christians should address a variety of poverty topics from a biblical perspective.

What do you think? How can you think more holistically about poverty relief? Leave your comments here

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