Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series on biblical principles that are essential to poverty-fighting efforts.
Each of us is made with unique and specific gifts and talents, and we are called to steward those gifts for God’s glory. We should use our gifts and talents to come alongside the poor, empowering them to further use their gifts and talents to live out their callings to work, family, community, and church.
It All Starts with Purpose
In Genesis 1:28 we read,
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’
This verse is called the cultural mandate. It is the charge God has given his people to live for his glory, having been made in his image. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” refers to evangelism, discipleship, and childbearing. It is a call to bring about fruitful relationships that glorify God and spread the truth of the gospel.
“Subdue (the earth), and have dominion over (it)” calls us to create and innovate. This command compels us to work. It urges us to create cultures and civilizations for God’s glory.
The cultural mandate exhorts us to glorify God by sharing the gospel and participating in meaningful work.
Our Gifts Are Connected to Our Purpose
In All Things New, Hugh Whelchel highlights that God has given us gifts and talents in order to faithfully fulfill the cultural mandate. He writes,
God has blessed his people with resources, gifts, and talents. Our job on earth is to steward and manage those resources to his glory…God gives us these resources so that we can fulfill the cultural mandate… While we cannot perfectly maximize all our resources, we can still use them to the best of our ability in a way that honors God. This is good stewardship.
Where do we see in the Bible that we have been given these gifts?
In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes,
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (ESV).
Paul shows us that we have been given gifts to use for God’s glory and to fulfill our role in the body of Christ. These talents and abilities have been given to us to serve the Lord and our community. Our goal is to steward them well. Each one of us has a role to play, and God has equipped us to fulfill that role.
How should we use these gifts and talents for God’s glory?
Our primary calling to please and glorify God should always lead to a number of secondary callings; our call to the church, family, community, and vocation. We discern the difference between our primary calling “to be” and our secondary callings “to do” when we fully integrate God’s call into all areas of life. For followers of Christ, these secondary callings should lead us to our unique life purpose, to use our gifts and abilities to bring about flourishing for God’s glory.
Whelchel encourages us to “use our gifts and abilities to bring about flourishing for God’s glory.”
We have been given gifts, let’s use them! It is imperative that we use them in every sphere of our lives—church, family, community, and vocation. But, for the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on using our gifts and talents to serve the poor, empower the poor to fulfill their callings, and bring about flourishing in our churches and communities.
Consider Gifts and Talents As You Serve the Poor
Regarding gifts and talents, as we strive to help others flourish, we should have two aims.
First, we must use our own gifts and talents, so that our efforts are effective. It is important for us to realize that these gifts are, in fact, gifts from God. We are to remain humble, knowing that our abilities “differ according to the grace given to us,” as Paul states in Romans. However, it is important to recognize our gifts and humbly use them to serve our church and community, helping to fight poverty. We will be most effective when utilizing our gifts.
Second, we must cultivate the gifts and talents of those we are serving, so that our efforts are sustainable and respect the dignity of the poor. Both our gifts and the gifts of those we are coming alongside are important. Corbett and Fikkert reiterate that we must tailor our poverty-alleviation efforts to the gifts and talents of the poor.
In When Helping Hurts, the authors write:
The goal [of fighting poverty] is to see people restored to being what God created them to be: people who understand that they are created in the image of God with the gifts, abilities, and capacity to make decisions to effect change in the world around them; and people who steward their lives, communities, resources, and relationships in order to bring glory to God.
Approaching poverty alleviation in a way that cultivates the gifts of others will, first and foremost, respect the dignity of the poor. It will help the poor feel fulfilled and valuable as they use their gifts and talents to realize their callings. And, it will provide sustainability as the poor recognize their gifts and cultivate new abilities.
Being created in God’s image and the responsibility of carrying out the cultural mandate give us purpose and direction for our lives. We must remember this truth and apply it to our poverty-fighting practice. Based on this biblical truth, we must respect, utilize, and grow the gifts and talents of the poor. We should utilize our own gifts and talents in doing so.
Editor’s Note: Read more about the core biblical principles for poverty-fighting programs in Kathryn’s booklet, Love Your Neighbor: Restoring Dignity, Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.
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