If we are to be truly Christian, we cannot let Christianity be merely an idea.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:18, 26 ESV).
Christianity is about our life values changing—from our beliefs to our actions; from how we think about our money to how we spend it; from how we think about time to how we use it.
We cannot look at the suffering of our world and do nothing about it, and still call ourselves Christians. The way we view our faith should change absolutely everything about how we live—from our giving to our shopping, from our faith to our deeds. Being Christian should change the very way we view the world.
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. The opportunity to end extreme poverty is greater than it has ever been—meaning we’re more likely to do so. But for that to happen, Christians have to step up and live the values of our faith.
Christianity must be a movement based on self-sacrifice. And the time is ticking for us to make that a true statement. Because there are people already exploiting our interconnected world: Think of the 2012 factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh; child labor being used to make products; and many other horrific atrocities that have resulted from manufacturing clothing alone. We don’t often think about it, but our purchase choices—when we buy cheap stuff, made cheaply—are contributing to global inequality. And this is just one example among many of where Christians should be setting a better example.
We need to be better informed; we need to make better purchasing decisions. And we need to have more fair trade purchasing options—options that involve the fair treatment and payment of workers. We also need to empower the impoverished in the process.
Our world has already recognized the value of the interconnected globe, and the potential of developing economies, but Christians are struggling to catch up.
We saw how connected our world was on the day that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 Billion dollars. Think about that: $19 Billion. When Facebook made the purchase of the messaging system WhatsApp for this staggering figure, one of the main reasons cited by analysts was that WhatsApp customers represented an emerging market. And many of these customers were in the developing world! The emerging market that analysts had in mind were developing world customers. Wall Street is now calling the developing world an emerging market.
Our world is interconnected. The question is whether we, as Christians, will leverage these connections for the betterment of the impoverished or allow the impoverished to be exploited?
We can leverage the connections in our world for the betterment of everyone. One idea: provide online commerce opportunities to the impoverished. Give them direct-to-customer access. At Jesus’ Economy, we’ve pictured this as an online Fair Trade Shop.
And lest anyone say that this won’t fix the problem. Think of this anecdotal evidence: Amazon.com is already valued at over $900 per share and many estimate it will cross $1,000 per share. Its wealth alone is much greater than many developing countries. That’s how much economic power there is in commerce. I think capitalism can be redeemed—for the good of everyone. Capitalism can help us create global equality.
Imagine if online fair trade opportunities were also connected into a global network of experts who could train the impoverished on hard business skills (such as accounting); moving through a product development cycle; and ethical business practices. And then imagine, if the impoverished who received this training had access to microfinance (small loans) to grow their businesses—to purchase tools or hire staff.
We must look at the world differently. By and large, the world has been looking at microfinance as something limited to a local economy. In current microfinance models, we have one poor tomato farmer selling to one poor cattle farmer—and dollars within the economy are just exchanging hands. One person may become wealthier but the overall economy is still impoverished. We need a new microfinance model.
What we need is money coming into an impoverished community from the outside. This is where global ecommerce comes into play. In our interconnected world, I can manufacture Jesus’ Economy branded t-shirts in Kampala, Uganda and bring money into the local economy simply through the purchasing power of U.S. buyers. In return, I can create jobs for a group of impoverished young people.
I can help not just with my giving but also with my shopping. My dollars say what I believe in.
This would mean a new economy. It would mean renewal. Money would sweep in from the developed world into the developing world and lift entire families out of poverty. This is the type of thing that Christians can do together—to end extreme poverty. This is one way we can show people that Christianity is more than an idea. This is one way for us to create a more just and equitable world.