Public Square

Our Responsibility to the Poor

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Who exactly is responsible to help the poor? Since the poor are everywhere, where should we focus our attempts at poverty alleviation?

Rev. Dwight Longenecker reminds readers of some important principles that can help us answer these questions.

In light of Pope Francis’ recent comments about economics, capitalism, and poverty, Longenecker says,

I am not even an armchair economist, but it does seem that market based systems do end up benefiting the poor more than collectivist solutions…The stereotyped economic debate still seems to be centered around certain naive assumptions: that capitalists are always money grubbing, greedy villains and that collectivists are always high minded, idealistic brothers and sisters of the poor.

How can we avoid the “evil capitalist” stereotype? Longenecker then brings up two important principles that can help us understand how we are to understand our responsibility to the poor by following biblical principles in a market system.

  • Solidarity teaches that we are responsible for others, not just ourselves.
  • Subsidiarity teaches that every problem should be solved on as local a level as possible. Rather than let distant agents like government and large philanthropists care for the poor in our communities, we need to take responsibility ourselves. Longenecker says,

When solidarity and subsidiarity go hand in hand we are also reminded of the responsibility of each individual to be involved. It is not just that the government or the philanthropist should be their brother’s keeper. I am required to be my brother’s keeper. If solidarity is true he is my brother. If subsidiarity is true, he is both my burden and my brother. I cannot remain uninvolved.

We do not live as isolated individuals. We have the responsibility to improve the lives of the poor in society through the work of our hands and through what we do outside of the workplace.

What does this look like in a market environment? Read Longenecker’s entire article here.

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