Moving Beyond “Teach a Man to Fish”

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

This proverb is inadequate. We must do more than teach the man to fish—we must fish with him for a while. And then, we must ensure that the fish will always be around.

We must do more than just feed the poor and teach them how to put food on the table. We must walk with them through the process of coming out of poverty—as their friends. And then, we must connect them to the right resources, so that their livelihoods are sustainable.

When we consider how to best help those who are hurting, we have to think through not just the immediate problems but also the long-term difficulties.

In addition, life is about much more than “learning how to fish.” If you teach a person to fish, but don’t meet their other basic needs, they will continue to struggle. Also, if you teach a person to fish but don’t help bring ethical standards to their community, their society will eventually fall apart.

And let’s also not forget what Jesus taught us about fishing in general: We are to do more than meet needs—we must lead people into God’s kingdom and the lifestyle that kingdom demands.

As I reflect upon how I’ve helped people over the years, I realize how often I have focused on people’s immediate needs instead of long-term solutions. It makes me sad, because I now realize how much more of a difference I could have made in people’s lives by simply focusing on the right things. Today, I am doing everything I can to look at the entire picture: the spiritual and physical problems affecting people. I believe this is how we empower people to overcome poverty.

I hope this post inspires you to do more than teach a man to fish. I hope you decide to really love someone today. Walk with people on their way out of poverty and work with them towards sustainability. Help instill biblical ethics into their community to ensure stability. In the process, I am betting that you will find—as I have—that it alleviates some of your own spiritual poverty.




John Barry
John Barry

Author

CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.



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