Torch, Fall/Winter 2010

Fall–Winter 2010 | TORCH 25 J ust as God demonstrates compassion to us, Christians should be moved by compassion to help people who do not have adequate food, shelter, clean water, or clothing — basic economic needs. From an economic perspective, poverty exists because we lack resources to meet our needs. Often resources that could help alleviate poverty are at hand, but they exist in a less refined state. Capitalism, as an economic system, relies on human ingenuity to refine the resources we have to create more — more efficiency, more goods, more wealth. Given the millions of people worldwide living in poverty, it is clear there is a global lack of refined resources to meet needs on such a large scale. But our good intentions to provide resources must be wedded with sound methods for sharing God’s gifts with those who are less fortunate. An Economy Fueled by Creativity The root of poverty goes back to Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, one of the primary effects of their broken relationship with God was evident in the economic arena. Not only was mankind severed from fellowship with God, we were cut off from His direct provision for our material needs. Even the ground was cursed because of sin, and mankind was left to “struggle to scratch a living” from the earth (Gen. 3:17). But God did not leave us helpless. We are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), imbued with creativity. Our ability to take resources we have and fashion them into something more valuable is foundational to our created identity. Wealth creation occurs best in a free-market economy fueled by ingenuity. The economic history of the world is filled with pain and struggle. Most of recorded economic history is a story of bare subsistence and failure. We find brief glimpses of substantial wealth, although it was concentrated in the hands of the powerful. Evidence of trade and markets dates to several thousand years B.C.; however, it was not until market economies fully developed on the European continent in the last millennium that large segments of people were consistently able to enjoy the fruits and responsibilities of relative economic success. Capitalism has become a politically charged concept with friends and foes choosing sides based on an extreme point of view. It is often oversimplified as a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy that leaves impoverished people to fend for themselves. Capitalism is more accurately understood as an economic system where people are free to make choices that affect their economic well-being. An Opportunity to Create Wealth Economists study and work to develop the most effective and efficient means to create wealth, which is necessary to reduce poverty. We have discovered that wealth is effectively and efficiently created when people are empowered to pursue what they think is best for themselves. Suppose a woman starts a business as a personal organizer, helping people to operate more efficiently and simplify their lives. Through her network of friends and family, she builds her client base and grows her business with smart advertising and referrals. What began as a hobby has become a way to earn a profit that she can use however she chooses. She could spend her profit for personal gain, like a nicer apartment or a more reliable car. She could reinvest her profit in her business and hire an assistant, enabling her to take on more clients. She could give away her profit to a charity she believes in or donate free services as a ministry. In every scenario, what began as an exchange of a service for payment created something more: a more comfortable living, an opportunity for business growth, a charitable gift, or a meaningful personal connection. Because she took the risk in starting the business, she reaped the rewards