“The poor will always be with us, but such a sobering reality does not free us from an obligation to work to alleviate the ravages of poverty,” says Trey Dimsdale. “On the contrary, Jesus’ statement only serves to remind us that every generation will face the question of how best to fulfill our holy obligations to them.”
It is clear that many in the present generation have taken notice of the plight of the poor and are moved by genuine compassion to advocate for the poor, provide for their needs and seek to lessen the suffering caused by their circumstances.
The challenge, however, is to wed this compassion to action that works. The poor don’t need what they often receive from the affluent: secondhand clothes, free Thanksgiving meals and taxpayer-funded government aid. The poor, whether in the developed or developing world, need opportunity. They need the freedom to address their own poverty in their own context.
The poor and rich alike share in the image of God. Each person is created with inherent value because of God’s imprint on them. Being created in the image of the Creator may mean many things, but two things that accompany the unique status of “image bearer” are 1) privilege and 2) responsibility. As a child of God, each person is entitled to enjoy the goodness of the Creator’s world, but is also charged with the responsibility to cultivate it to bring forth God’s good gifts. For many poor people, the good intentions of the affluent have robbed them of the privileges that are their birthright and frustrated their attempts to take responsibility in the Father’s good creation.
Economic freedom is what the poor need. They need the social and economic infrastructure to become creators — creators of culture, business, wealth and jobs.
There is considerable debate in the public square these days about a number of issues that have significant economic components. Globalization, environmental protection, and aiding the poor are just a few. Decisions we make in our personal lives are influenced by our assumptions about economic realities as well. So how might mainstream economics connect with Christian values and principles?