Category Archives: Economic Justice

Four Out of Five Christians Take Action on Poverty

by Ruth Valerio, originally published on her blog.

It’s a pretty scary thing asking an external body to do some research for you and having absolutely no control over the findings. What if you don’t like what they come back with?!

So it was with some nervousness that we decided at Tearfund to team up with the research firm Barna Group to look into connections between caring for people in poverty and spiritual growth.

In particular, we wanted to look at what we call a ‘whole life response’ to poverty. Tearfund is absolutely committed to helping Christians, in the UK and around the world, respond to poverty in a ‘whole life’ way: through prayer, giving, advocacy, lifestyle, and other actions such as volunteering. We summarise that as Pray, Act, Give.

In the research we wanted to explore this whole-life response and see how that features for Christians in the UK (and in the US too – a US version is soon to be released). The research came back with a huge amount of fascinating findings – too many to go into in detail here! But three things in particular stood out for me: Continue reading Four Out of Five Christians Take Action on Poverty

Jesus was Homeless: A Kingdom Approach to Anti-Homeless Legislation

Originally posted at the Vineyard Justice Network. Check out their website for loads of inspiration on how we can promote social justice as charismatic Christians!

What is a Kingdom approach to thinking about anti-homeless legislation? How should we navigate the ethics of state and/or city laws that make feeding the homeless or sleeping in your car illegal? Should the fact that we worship a homeless man on Sundays make any difference?

Evan B. Howard is a spiritual director, professor of Christian Spirituality, and former Vineyard church planter. He shares his helpful Kingdom perspective on these questions, as well as why he’s advocating for Colorado to pass the Right to Rest bill on March 14.

HOMELESS RIGHTS: A CHRISTIAN CASE FOR THE SUPPORT OF COLORADO’S RIGHT TO REST

BY EVAN B. HOWARD

Every night, people–many people in Colorado–try to sleep outside. Homelessness is a simple fact, not only nationally, but also locally. Let’s take Denver, for example. No matter how you do the math–counting homeless persons and shelter beds available–there are at least a thousand people every night who must sleep outside in Denver.1

imageMost of us do not really notice many of our simple acts of physical survival. We pull up the covers when it gets cold. We get up and relieve ourselves in our bathrooms, rooms which we also use for hygiene purposes. We prepare our meals in kitchens and eat them in dining rooms. We store our possessions in houses or apartments. But what if we do not have access to these rooms, these “private” places? If private places are unavailable, we are obliged to perform these basic acts of survival in “public” places. We sleep on streets or under bridges or in a vehicle, near to light if possible to ensure safety. If commercial establishments allow only customers access to restrooms, we are obliged to relieve ourselves in alleys. We store (hide) our possessions in a small thicket of bushes in a city park. We gratefully receive food given to us wherever it may be offered. We do what we must to survive.

Continue reading Jesus was Homeless: A Kingdom Approach to Anti-Homeless Legislation

So You Want to Close the Borders?

So you want to close the borders?

What do you even mean by that?

Are you tired of being able to travel almost anywhere in the entire world? You don’t want open doors and red carpets wherever you travel? Are you tired of Mexican beaches or job opportunities in Johannesburg? Do you want to sink Caribbean cruise ships and blow up airports? Is it closed borders for your own people you want?

Or is it for someone else? Continue reading So You Want to Close the Borders?

A Faith That Rings Hollow

Isaiah 58:1-12

Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Often in my childhood growing up in a Pentecostal and Charismatic setting I heard teachings that connected faith with prosperity.  Somehow, if I had the right amount of faith and I never really knew how much was really enough, well then I could obtain health or wealth.  Having enough faith also included having one’s relatives saved.  And I see where these ideas come from in the scripture as the Bible often uses the words faith in connection with healing and the supplying of our needs.  But something always seemed a bit off for me.  Continue reading A Faith That Rings Hollow

Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Wealth for Yourself as a Christian

Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.

In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”

The moral argument for why wealth is wrong, on the other hand, is brilliantly summarized by the apostle John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17). As I explained in my article about a Christian World Vision, Jesus-followers should without doubt apply the same moral standpoint on non-believers as well. Continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Wealth for Yourself as a Christian

Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK

When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.

The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.

The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. Continue reading Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK

Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work

Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory.

In this blog post I want to address another argument rich people use when defending their wealth, namely that all consumption is good for the economy and in the end also beneficial for the poor; there is really no need to point out consumption of superfluities as something bad, since the money one pays eventually trickles down to the poor.

Continue reading Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work