If the poor will always be with us, as Jesus says in Mark 4:7, will our poverty relief efforts do any good?
How are Christians to think through this question from a sound biblical and economic perspective?
How do we define who the poor are in the first place?
These are some of the questions that we’ve been examining as we’ve been working on the publication of our new book, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, which is being released today.
There are no easy answers to these questions. But as we worked on this book, here are some things that we learned:
There Are Many Different Causes of Poverty.
On one level, the factors that cause poverty are nuanced and complicated; they include factors like oppression, warfare, laziness, or natural calamity.
But on another level, we understand that the root of all of these factors is the fact that we live in a fallen, imperfect world.
The Bible Calls Christians to Help the Poor.
Passages such as Psalm 140:12 demonstrate that God cares about the deprivation, hardship, and injustice that the poor suffer:
I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,
and will execute justice for the needy.
Because of this concern, God commands us, his disciples to also demonstrate care for the poor.
For example, in Luke 14:13-14, Jesus says,
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
We can do this in a few ways:
- We can give directly by supporting charity and non-profit work.
- We can give indirectly by promoting human flourishing as we create wealth through our work.
While we tend to overlook this second option as a means of serving others, it is one of the most important ways that we as individuals can make a difference.
If We Are Not Careful, Our Efforts to Help Others Could Have Unintended Consequences.
Simply giving money to the poor is necessary – but not enough. In fact, well-intentioned charity efforts can destroy local business and industry, creating a cycle of dependency that impoverished individuals and communities simply cannot break out of. Peter Greer recently wrote about how this happened to a church in Ukraine.
To best help the poor, we need to get to know them on a local level to best understand their needs—something that individuals and local institutions are generally best equipped to do.
An Impoverished Individual Can Break out of the Cycle of Poverty Through Access to Dignifying Work.
Providing both short-term aid and enabling long-term job creation on a local level is crucial to effectively reducing poverty here and now.
Effective poverty reduction combines a biblical understanding of human nature and God’s redemptive plan with the economic principles that enable individuals and societies to flourish.
Complicated Topics Require In-Depth, Careful Answers.
How to best help the poor from a biblical and economic perspective is not an easy topic. It’s not an issue that we can simplify or address in just one blog post.
But the exciting thing is that we can learn from Scripture and from economics about the potential each one of us has to make a difference on this topic in and through our vocation – a potential many of us never realized.
For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty seeks to add more depth and definition to the discussion in exploring the answers that the Bible and the study of economics can provide.
It’s our hope that you might be moved to think deeply about the problem of poverty through a biblical lens.
We hope that reading this book leads you to pray about how you respond to this concern. Each person has a different calling.
- Some may be called to work full-time addressing these issues.
- Others may be motivated to give money and resources.
- Still others may be moved to set up businesses that employ people in need.
What will your response be?