These Two Books Will Help You Understand and Alleviate Poverty
There are greater disparities of wealth within the global body of Christ than at any time in history. More than 80 percent of the “poorest of the poor” live in the so-called “10/40 Window,” the band of countries that contain the vast majority of the remaining unreached people groups. And these people represent 2.6 billion who live on less than $1 a day.
Poverty is a massive-scale problem demanding the attention of every Christian, particularly because there are commands in God’s Word to alleviate poverty that believers must obey.
Two new books aim to show you, your students, and your ministries how to understand and alleviate poverty in your country and around the world:
"For the Least of These" • Edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley
How much should and can the church do to alleviate poverty? How much is the government able to do? What can markets do to bringing about a flourishing society?
All too often...Christians turn to the secular state as the answer for poverty rather than grasping their own responsibility and realizing that the best long-term solution is to enable people to use their gifts to serve others and to exchange goods and services through market trade. (13)
For the Least of These offers you, your students, and your ministry a sturdy framework to understand and address the problem of poverty from both biblical and economic perspectives. Three sections address three aspects of poverty: A Biblical Perspective on the Poor; Markets and the Poor; and Poverty Alleviation in Practice.
The first section carefully examines the biblical passages on poverty, looking occasionally at wrong deductions and false understandings. Through examining what the Old Testament and New Testament say about the poor, biblical scholars shed light on the role of the church, government, and markets.
In the next section, we get a historical perspective on the problem of poverty. Such chapters as “Fighting Poverty through Enterprise” and “The Moral Potential of the Free Economy” explain how economic markets can be a significant part of the solution and whether such markets are moral.
Finally, this book considers practical applications of the previous sections, revealing how society and the Church can solve the problem of poverty. It outlines “A Poverty Program that Works” and gives “A Call to Compassionately Move beyond Charity.”
In the end, the editors hope “you might be stimulated to think deeply about the problem of poverty through biblical glasses,” while searching “for what your response should be to the challenge of Scripture.” (14)
"From Dependency to Dignity" • By Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask
If the previous book provided a framework for understanding poverty and its alleviation from biblical and economic perspectives, From Dependence To Dignity offers a tangible method for solving it.
Drawing on best practice research and their own pioneering work with the Chalmers Center, authors Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask show readers how to use cutting-edge microfinance ministries to restore the poor to lives of dignity in Jesus Christ.
Microfinance (“a source of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to banking and related services”)  provides “poor people with access to the financial services that they lack, services like savings, loans, insurance, and money transfers, in the hope of helping them to improve their economic situation and to get out of poverty. [It is] one of the leading strategies for alleviating poverty in the Global South.” (16)
This book’s approach is rooted in two realities:
- “the center of Christianity has shifted to the Global South so that the Great Commission is largely in the hands of churches comprised of people with very few material resources.” (25)
- “coexisting with these materially poor churches are Christians from wealthy nations, believers who possess unprecedented economic and technological resources.” (25)
Fikkert’s and Mask’s goal is to activate the wealth of the West to “enable materially poor churches to minister effectively without creating unhealthy dependencies for them or for the poor people to whom they are ministering.” (25)
A microfinance ministry, if designed and executed properly, is one such strategy “helping both materially poor churches and individuals in the Global South experience dignity rather than unhealthy dependency.” (21)
Christians have different callings when it comes to the problem of poverty: “Some may be called to work full-time addressing these issues. Others may be motivated to contribute money and resources. Still others may be moved to set up businesses that employ people in need. Search for what your response should be to the challenge of Scripture.” (Least of These, 14)
Engage For the Least of These and From Dependence To Dignity to help you, your students, and the people in your ministries understand poverty and how to tangibly alleviate it.
1: “Microfinance,” last modified May 17, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microfinance.
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