Thinking About Poverty | by Gerry Hartis

ghartis-blog

Material sufficiency, even abundance, is an important dimension of the prosperity that is the destiny of humanity. This notion is more than mere “make-me-happy” humanism.  Jesus himself tells us, “I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full. (John 10:10 – NIV). This prosperity, this God-kind-of-full-life, that Jesus came to give us has two core characteristics:

  1. Vibrant and resilient community and
  2. Satisfying and fruitful work.

To say, as many mistakenly do, that material wealth is what Jesus promises us would be silly.  But it would be equally as silly to deny that material wealth has obvious and important implications for both.

Let’s consider the first: vibrant and resilient community. Anyone who knows actual people living in actual poverty will quickly observe that the absence of community is both a cause and effect of material lack. It is, after all, not just what, but who, you know.

Well-connected people don’t look for jobs – and I’m dating myself here – in the newspaper. They simply call their friends and begin to ask after opportunities.  Eventually, their social networks yield something. But poverty is in part caused, and then reinforced, by a lack of these same social networks. If you don’t know anyone with a fruitful and satisfying job, it is unlikely that anyone will offer you one. Thus, Proverbs 19:7 reports, “The poor are shunned by all their relatives – how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found. (NIV)”

The same it true of work. Lack of work is both a cause and effect of poverty. Material resources, including cash, are important to participation in family/community and performing work.  How often has the it been said, with hands raised in vexation, “to get a job you have to have a job!”  This catch 22 forces the socially unconnected to start from scratch.  And while their peers gain valuable experience under the supervision of their parents’ friends, the poor toil to pull together a long enough work history to compete for entry level positions.  This cycle puts them at a disadvantage well into their careers.

So, I offer that when we think about how to serve people living within the limitations of material poverty, the framework of “community and work” will guide us to two at least two important questions:

  1. How might we create opportunities and provide resources for people to move toward participation in vibrant, life-giving and resilient communities?
  2. How might we create opportunities and provide resources for engagement in satisfying and fruitful work.

How do we respond? With more questions of course!

Here’s a perspective set of questions we can ask. The first questions are personal ones:

  • Who are the people with whom I am in relationship, but for one reason or another, are in danger of moving outside a community of care and positive influence?
  • How might I help those people find social or occupational opportunities and resources?

From there we ask:

  • Who can help me respond to connect these people to a life-giving community?
  • Who can help me help my neighbor find opportunity and resources for generating value within the community we share?

A third level of inquiry might be:

  • What organizations are already addressing the needs of people, like the one’s I know, who need/want community and opportunity and resources for value-generating work?
  • Are they doing their work well?
  • Do I support them?

As answers to those questions emerge we get a clearer picture of our own personal role in the fight against poverty. We see those in, or near, our own circle influence who are impoverished by isolation from community, or by lack of opportunity and resources. These are individuals with whom we can take personal responsibility and act in their favor. We can make it a point to introduce them to community. We can take economic chances on them.  We can, in short, be the beginning of the network and/or opportunity that we ourselves have enjoyed through others.

We also identify organizations and institutions that will share the weight that comes from offering such aid. By supporting those groups with time, talent and treasure, we make it easier for others to ask these same questions and engage. And once the virtuous cycle starts to spin, it only gets easier to make a difference.

Ghartis-b&w

Gerry Hartis is an experienced professional working with commercial and non-profit organizations engaged at the intersection of business, higher education, and policy. Gerry served as the Director of Business & Leadership Studies at the American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (Washington, DC). In that role he was among the first to actively explore the application of market principles to the global development enterprise through partnerships with players in the NGO and business communities. Gerry and Joanna Hartis are residents Alexandria, VA.

6 replies
  1. IdPnSD
    IdPnSD says:

    Capitalism is designed to create and maintain poverty. There are seven billion people and there are no seven billion jobs. Some people will always remain unemployed and therefore poor. Government is not allowed to create jobs. Economy is in private hands.

    If you do not have jobs more than the number of people who are looking for jobs then there is no opportunity. If I take one opportunity, I deprive another person. That is a bad design for human values. In capitalism, everybody is trying to get somebody else fired to secure his own job. We are living in an animal world.

    You cannot become rich, without making me poor. You must steal to become rich. This is how we create poverty and maintain poverty. Such a system should not exist. There is no win-win. It is always win-lose. In every win-win case you will always find a third party, who will be the loser.

    Only way to solve poverty is to remove money from the economy and create money-less economy (MLE). MLE can run the exact same economy that we have now. There is no need for money. MLE can give full democracy and any lifestyle you want. Take a look at the MLE chapter in the free book on soul theory at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    • @povertycure
      @povertycure says:

      Hello! Thank you for taking your time to comment on our blog post.

      I think a topic that is really important to understand here is that the global economy is not a fixed pie or a zero sum game. It is not “I win, therefore, you lose.” When everyone is able to contribute to the world economy through their creative abilities and talents, the economic pie gets bigger because it is not fixed! Everyone benefits from the pie becoming bigger. More companies are started and more job opportunities arise for more people.

      Click here to see a short video that we did that helps to visually explain this important reality.

      Reply
      • IdPnSD
        IdPnSD says:

        Response to @povertycure

        “the economic pie gets bigger because it is not fixed!” – How can it become bigger? Earth is fixed, therefore total material wealth is fixed. If you take some of this wealth away, then nobody else can take it. It is a zero-sum game, which is a law of nature. In physics it is called the conservation law – mass and energy cannot be created or destroyed, they can only be transformed or transferred.

        Reply
        • @povertycure
          @povertycure says:

          Hello again! Sorry for the delayed response. I really appreciate you thinking this through and asking questions. The resources within the Earth are fixed but what is not fixed or limited is the creative abilities of mankind. It has been said that the greatest resource given to man beyond the earth is himself; the creative and innovative abilities endowed to us by God enable people to take a resource and make it even more useful and productive.

          Think of fertilizer as a simple example. People have come up with amazing ways for farmers to yield more and more through the proper use of fertilizers. You could think of the field has having a fixed yield capacity but due to human innovation, the field ended up producing much more than was originally thought.

          Additionally, you can think of the iPhone when it was first introduced. This invention really created the entire smart phone market that in turn produced several sub-markets, all of which created a multitude of new jobs. This innovation made the economic pie larger and hundreds of millions of people around the world benefited and continue to do so today.

          The creative capacity of people, as long as they are allowed to exercise it, make the economic pie bigger. It is when government or other institutions snuff out creative capacity that the economic pie becomes fixed or even gets smaller.

          Reply
  2. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    If the economic pie doesn’t get bigger, then two things happen. First, as the population gets bigger, we get poorer. Because the limited resources only allow a limited amount of supply of food, clothing, etc. So we should all be poorer then when the world population was 700 million. However, by all accounts, we have more than they did years ago. Also, this would indicate that our standard of living could never really increase, only re-arrange to different people. But it has increased when you compare us to years ago. Humans have used the resources on earth to more efficiently provide our needs and wants.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*