“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 a good start, but ultimately inadequate. We must do more than just feed the poor and teach them how to put food on the table. We must walk with the impoverished 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.
We must do more than teach the man to fish—we must fish with him for a while to see what the fishing is like. And then, we must ensure that the fish will always be around. This means connecting people to a larger pool of fish. It means considering not just local economies but the global economy.
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. We should be asking questions like: How can I help someone not just build a business but be connected to a global marketplace?
So we could say the proverb should be revised to:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a lifetime.”
But what if the fishing is ruined by the environment or what if people steal the man's fish? How can we fix those types of problems? Our proverb may need even further revision.
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. It's not good enough to have fish to eat if I don't have clean water to drink or a medic clinic where that can care for my wounds.
Also, if you teach a person to fish but don’t help bring ethical standards to their community, their society will eventually fall apart. The good work will be undone.
There are deep rooted problems in society and these problems are ultimately spiritual. Corruption can destroy any good work. That's where ethics and thus healthy churches come in. We have to change the environment we live in if we want to see lives changed. We have to change the society.
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. Jesus' earliest disciples were fishermen and look what he said to them:
"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:18–19 NKJV).
Perhaps, then, we need to revise the proverb once more:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a time. Join a man in lifting his society out of spiritual and physical poverty and he will never be hungry again."
Although, often the "man" you find will turn out to be woman, whom we should never hesitate to empower. She can lift her entire family out of poverty. Thus the proverb is just as accurate when it reads as follows:
“Give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish and connect her with the best fishing holes and you feed her for a time. Join a woman in lifting her society out of spiritual and physical poverty and she will never be hungry again."
We need to do everything we 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. This is what creating a new, spiritual and physical economy for those who need it most is all about. This is what creating Jesus' economy is about.
I hope this article 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. In the process, I am betting that you will find—as I have—that it alleviates some of your own spiritual poverty.*
*This article is based in part on my previous article, "Moving Beyond 'Teach a Man to Fish'."
It’s the Christmas season! It’s time to snuggle under a blanket with loved ones, with a cup of hot cocoa, a roaring fire, and all things peppermint. Along with the warmth and cheer of the season, it is also a time of reflection and generosity. Many seek out ways to bless others. After all, there are so many blessings to celebrate. Searching for the best ways to spread Christmas cheer, meet real needs, and honor Christ can be surprisingly difficult.
In our desire to be generous, one of those difficulties comes from weighing the many opportunities available. Some organizations have done wonderful jobs of marketing their opportunities and making them accessible. I think of the bell ringers for Salvation Army, shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, toy donations through Toys for Tots, donating animals and sponsoring children through Compassion International, and sponsoring children for Christmas through Angel Tree. And these are just a few off the top of my head.
With all of the available options, do we share our time and money locally or internationally? What organizations, people, or ministries do we want to focus on? An added factor for parents is finding opportunities that provide tangible and visual examples that children will remember. Our desire is to help instill the tradition of generosity in our children’s hearts. In a culture that screams “more!” we want our children’s hearts to instead sing “give!” This alone can be hard enough to sort through.
Another difficulty that has gained more attention lately is gifts or donations not meeting real needs. This is not a new problem, but one that donors are thankfully becoming more aware of. Although impoverished families may appreciate the temporary joy brought by small toys, toothbrushes, clothing, or even gifts of food, their underlying problems are not addressed. If their children are still dying from water-borne illnesses and their parents from medical conditions, then toys, warm blankets, or even food, will not save their lives. From an economic standpoint, providing temporary aid can create dependency and lower self-esteem. Recipients may become depressed and unmotivated.
Providing aid for impoverished countries can unfortunately be met with corruption within locals and their governments. Tejvan Pettinger, an Economics teacher in Oxford, writes a blog about economics, the developing world, and how aid can disrupt local governments.
“Aid is often subject to vested interests and fails to make real improvements in living standards,” he said in a post titled “Trade not Aid.”
He said that aid can interfere with democracy and referenced Milton Friedman’s Collection of Essays in Public Policy, “Foreign Economic Aid: Means and Objectives,” where Friedman said “many proponents of foreign aid recognize that its long-run political effects are adverse to freedom and democracy.”
In the same post, Pettinger gives an example of how foreign aid can be detrimental for a developing country rather than helpful.
“If aid finances public health care, governments in developing economies may feel they don’t need to set up efficient tax collection and spend money - as they can rely on foreign aid. This is damaging for the long-term,” he said in the post.
The last difficulty I would like to focus on is the lack of financial transparency within organizations like nonprofits and charitable organizations. It can be nerve-wracking to donate money both overseas and domestically, especially if you aren’t sure exactly where your money is going or how it will be used. Some organizations face corruption within the countries they are serving. Far too often, when donations arrive on site, they can be taken by criminals, and governments or people in need may be forced to pay high fees to get the aid meant for them.
Another thing we are wary of is high overhead costs. When an organization’s donations go to highly paid staff members or extravagant fundraisers, donors can be discouraged, and people may not receive the help they need. Websites like charitynavigator.org exist to keep charitable organizations accountable and to make consumers aware of exactly where their donations are going.
With all of these things to consider, I would like to share why my family is choosing to serve through Jesus’ Economy. Jesus’ Economy takes a holistic approach to community development. We provide a platform for artisans in impoverished countries to showcase their handmade goods. 100 percent of the proceeds are reinvested in the artisans’ communities.
The artisans are provided with jobs, hope, better futures, and self-esteem. Jesus’ Economy partners with local organizations to meet basic needs and support church planters in the impoverished communities that the artisans live. We offer microloans, ethical business training, and we are the guaranteed buyer of products produced. We meet basic needs by identifying with local community leaders the most pressing issues and help solve them. We have successfully dug seven water wells in Bihar, India providing access to clean water for thousands of people.
You may be wondering how an organization can reinvest 100 percent of their proceeds. The answer is simple. Jesus’ Economy is 100 percent volunteer run. Even the founder and CEO, John Barry, and his wife Kalene, who serves as the CPO, volunteer full time. They sold their home and most of their stuff to start Jesus’ Economy, and live incredibly sacrificial lives to run it. I have volunteered with Jesus’ Economy for five years, and I have the utmost respect for our team. I can attest to the fact that every dollar donated goes directly to the designated destination. Donors can indicate which specific aspect of the ministry they would like to give to.
If you are a parent, you may be wondering how this opportunity translates into a hands-on giving project to include your children. I offer two suggestions.
As a family, we began purchasing items from the Fair Trade Shop. My children got to pick presents for aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, and teachers. When they arrived, we wrapped and delivered them. Rather than giving trinkets from the store, we provided jobs. We talked about the items, marveled at the intricacy, and prayed for the artisan families that would be blessed by our purchases. We also prayed that the recipients would be blessed and perhaps challenged to consider making similar choices.
A second suggestion is picking a specific aspect of the ministry, and asking that your loved ones donate to that cause in your name. Last Christmas, our family asked that loved ones donate in our names toward a water well in Bihar, India. We made a chart and cheered together when donations came in. We also did several water related science experiments and crafts to drive home the focus on clean water in their minds. We were thrilled that it was fully funded! We made charts and celebrated each time a donation was received.
Essentially it comes down to conversation and involving your kids in every aspect. If you walk them through it and let them be intricately involved, they’ll grasp the importance of helping others and see the results. They’ll also get the chance to be excited about being generous which can be hard for kids at Christmas time when everything is geared toward them and their Christmas wish lists.
There are many other organizations with similar models, and I encourage you to look into them. Leslie Verner, author of the blog Scraping Raisins, has compiled a wonderful list of ethical companies. I highly encourage you to look into some of them. In the meantime, perhaps you can think about some of the difficulties I presented when you choose where you volunteer your time, efforts, and money this season. Maybe it’ll help you to better figure out where your donation will help the most, leaving you with full confidence that your dollar went where you want it to.
I hope you have a blessed season in which you embrace the old adage, “It is more blessed to give than to receive!”
On the cross, Jesus felt the agony of the entire world, including those who feel voiceless in the developing world. He died for us, all of us, so that freedom from sin and all of its consequences could be accomplished; so that we may live in relationship with God once again. All we must do is choose him back (John 3:16), to cry out to Jesus.
"Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him; he afflicted [him] (with sickness). If she [Zion/Jerusalem] places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh in his hand will succeed. From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide to him [a portion] among the many, and with [the] strong ones he shall divide bounty, because he exposed his life to death and was counted with transgressors, and he carried [the] sin of many and will intercede for transgressors" (Isaiah 53:10-12, my translation).
500 years before Jesus, these words were prophesied. And in them is resurrection, for all of us. There is resurrection for the suffering in the developing world, who have placed their hands in my hands asking for prayer for relief from the pain. There is resurrection for the homeless man who I watched cry out "Jesus Christ my Lord," asking for salvation from his addictions. There is resurrection for me, the sinner who is only saved because of Jesus. There is resurrection for all of us.
Here, in the gospel according to the prophet Isaiah, I see a suffering servant dying as a "guilt offering" at the hands of his own people, Zion (or Jerusalem). I see a servant who does things that can only happen in life, after his death has already occurred: He sees offspring, prolongs days, and sees light. In these things he is satisfied, for he has accomplished the will of God.
I see resurrection here for all of us.
Jesus accomplished all the things in this prophesy. He is the suffering servant. In Jesus, I see hope for the entire world, including hope to overcome the pain being experienced by those in poverty in the developing world.
It is in Jesus that all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). In Jesus, one day, all things will be made new (Revelation 21). It is Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses and intercede on our behalf. It is Jesus who has overcome all.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews states it best:
"Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he also in like manner shared in these same things, in order that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus has come to set us free. And we are given the opportunity to set others free, from spiritual and physical poverty. Let us live that message this day. Let us feel it. Let it be like the joy of Easter Sunday, the resurrection day, when we embrace the spiritual resurrection Jesus offers now and the resurrection of the dead when he one day returns. Let us live the resurrected life now.
(The views on Isaiah 53 in this post are based on my book The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, published by InterVarsity Press, 2010.)
This article was previously published under the title, "Resurrection for All People, from All Pain, in Jesus."
John Barry here, CEO of Jesus' Economy. Thank you to everyone who supported Jesus' Economy on #GivingTuesday. And thank you to all of you who shopped fair trade during Black Friday through Cyber Monday (and even into Giving Tuesday). We're creating a new global, spiritual and physical economy for those that need it most. Here's what we're accomplishing together.
For all of you who shop fair trade on JesusEconomy.org, your shopping counts for transforming lives. You're looking consumerism in the face and saying, "We can do better than this. I can bless people with great and thoughtful gifts, while blessing those from extreme poverty situations."
Thanks to you, we're creating or sustaining hundreds of jobs this year. Without you shopping fair trade at JesusEconomy.org, this wouldn't be possible. We're helping artisans lift themselves out of poverty, simply by how we shop. So thank you!
In one of the most impoverished places in the world, Jesus' Economy is planting churches and meeting basic needs. And later, once enough funds are raised, we will launch an economic development initiative in the same region.
And right now, we're giving clean water to the thirsty. And we're bringing the living water of Jesus to those who have never heard his name. All in the same communities! We're combining meeting basics needs with church planting. (This work is so impactful that Red Letter Christians recently featured it as a case study.)
What does this look like? Jesus' economy in action. Together, we're doing this. So thank you!
Every time you give and shop with Jesus' Economy, you're being part of the solution to the problems our world is facing. You're making our world a better place. And that inspires me. Together, we're showing the world what it means to live Jesus' economy. So thank you!
Simply, thanks for living Jesus' economy with us. We're grateful to be part of this movement with you.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is November 25, two days after Americans give thanks for a multitude of blessings. Many women in both developed and developing countries will just be giving thanks that they live to see another day.
Violence against women persists throughout the world and takes on many forms. While many people tend to see it as an issue that only exists in oppressed countries where women aren't viewed as equals, it's a problem that runs rampant even in developed countries like the United States. Oftentimes, it takes the form of domestic violence and sexual assault but it can also be genital mutilation and random attacks in the street.
The UN reports that in 87 countries from 2005 to 2016, 19 percent of women ages 15 to 49 said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the previous 12 months.
This typically translates into 1 in 3 women experiencing violence against them at some point in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. That means that if you are a woman and have two female friends, one of you has experienced assault in some form because of your gender. If you're a man and you have three female friends, one of them has experienced someone being physically violent toward them.
This is why the UN established days like the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Awareness is key and it can lead to action. That's where we've stepped in to help women in poverty.
Many of our artisan co-operatives are comprised of women who are sewing and creating products by hand to support themselves and their children. This means they can afford to send their kids to school, buy food for their table, and shoes for their feet. When children are educated, human rights issues such as gender inequality aren't as prominent. The children learn right from wrong, fair from unfair, and how to treat others no matter their gender or skin color.
In addition to our female artisans, as part of our Renew Bihar program we have created an empowering women program. When the program is fully launched, we will be able to train women on how to develop and create quality products. We'll also show them how to run a business, hire employees, and practice ethical business standards. We will walk alongside them as they slowly build a small business and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Here at Jesus' Economy, we are in the business of empowering women. When women are empowered, the cycle of poverty breaks which helps the community in which they live. As a result, more people in the community are able to have access to education. When communities see this increase in education, the violence against women decreases.
When International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women arrives this Saturday the 25, talk about it with your friends and family, spread awareness, pray about how you can help end violence against women across the globe, and then take action.
On today's Live Your Belief Podcast, Kalene Barry, Chief Projects Officer for Jesus' Economy talks with Victor Momoh, founder of the Sierra Leone branch of Global Missions Africa. His ministry goal is to bring the truth of Jesus to a predominantly Muslim nation and to unleash Africa's potential through the work of the Gospel. Find out how Victor and his team are doing this work. Let the Spirit bless you through their story. Listen below.
Global Missions Africa wants to ensure that Africa is for Jesus. Their pan-African missional efforts aim to reclaim Africa as an inheritance of God's purpose until the Word reaches every nation on the continent. They are currently working in Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar -- ministering the Word, planting churches, training pastors, meeting basic needs, and providing entrepreneurship opportunities. To find out how you can support this great effort, write to Victor at globalmissionsafricasierraleone[at]gmail[dot]com.
Or by mail, write to:
Global Missions Africa, Sierra Leone
7 New Signal Hill Road, Congo Cross
Like our podcasts and blog posts? Never miss a post: Subscribe.
In a remote village in Bihar, India, there is a group of people who lack access to the basics and are living in extreme poverty. This situation is repeated in village after village, but this year, we had an opportunity to do something about it. Thanks to one generous donor, a village of 500 people now have access to clean water.
On October 4, 2014, in partnership with a local organization, we drilled a 180-foot bore well in Bihar. This well provides clean water, year-round, to the 500 residents of the village. Prior to this well being drilled, the people of this village were often forced to drink out of an open well that was contaminated. The village's poor water and sanitation situation was brought to the attention of our partner in Bihar and thus brought to our attention. Now, this group of impoverished people has access to clean water.
It only costs $1,000 to give a village clean water. In this instance, that cost breaks down to $2 per person; that's the price of the joy of clean water. And that's a price all of us can afford.
A Little Girl Drinks from the New Well
Two Women Draw Water from the New Well for Their Households
Every last dollar you donate to Jesus' Economy goes exactly where you designate. That means that if you give $100 to a water well in India, we only spend your $100 in India drilling a water well.
Consider contributing to another well project in Bihar.
On today's Live Your Beliefs Podcast, Kalene talks with Hayley Donor (Development and Communications Associate) and Brittany Barb (Sales and Branding Associate) of Indego Africa, a non-profit dedicated to women's empowerment in Rwanda.
Indego Africa is a New York and Rwanda based non-profit whose mission is to break intergenerational cycles of poverty by providing female artisans with the tools and support to reclaim their own futures, flourish as independent business women, and drive development in their communities.
Like our podcasts and blog posts? Never miss a post: Subscribe.
On today's Live Your Beliefs podcast, Kalene Barry and Kathy Brooks, co-founder and director of 2nd Story Goods, talk about the changes she has witnessed God bringing in Jubilee, Haiti. Through partnership with local entrepreneurs and a healthy reliance on God's faithfulness, Kathy and her fellow Kingdom workers have witnessed miracle after miracle of community driven change. "[Haiti] is ready for a different reality," Kathy says. You won't want to miss her stories of the positive steps Jubilee residents are taking towards that new reality.
2nd Story Goods is dedicated to helping Haitians harness their natural skills and talents to create sustainable economies for their communities. They train and purchase goods from dozens of skilled craftspeople, which you can get in our fair trade shop. Find out how you can get involved with 2nd Story Goods on their website.
Like our podcasts and blog posts? Never miss a post: Subscribe.
Sounding a little surprised that I didn’t understand why such a large crowd had come out that day, my friend Biju said: “They came to be healed.” Placing his hand on my shoulder, Biju then looked at me and said: “When Jesus comes to town people are healed.”
With fervor and conviction in his tone, it was as if Biju was saying, “You Mr. M.A. in Biblical Studies, who has edited a study Bible, do you actually know what the Bible says?”
You can live your entire life studying the Bible and not know what it actually means. Right there, in that moment, in Bihar, India, I realized that I knew the gospel but did not understand it.
It wasn’t the first time I had seen people healed, but it had never dawned on me that healings are meant to be a major part of ministry—that freeing people not just from spiritual oppression, but also from physical oppression, is a central part of Jesus’ message. It is something all of us should pursue and believe in.
Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming that freedom for the oppressed is his message. In a synagogue, Jesus read an Isaiah scroll—at Isaiah 61:1–2 and 58:6—saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19 ESV).
Jesus, as the fulfillment of Scripture, chooses these lines to articulate what he is all about. It is this message that John the Baptist makes the way for (Mark 1:1–8). And it is this message that ultimately confirms for John who Jesus is. When Jesus is asked by John’s disciples if is indeed the one John had been waiting for, Jesus responds:
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear; the dead are raised, the poor have good news announced to them” (Luke 7:22).
The gospel is all about Jesus coming to town and changing lives. It is about the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having good news announced to them.
Life transformation should be our expectation when spreading the good news about Jesus. Jesus is not just a message to be preached; through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is at work in our very lives and those who we meet. Jesus is transforming lives here and now—and he wants to do so. The gospel unlocks the very power of God to change and transform humanity.
Think of all the times the gospel describes crowds surrounding Jesus and his disciples (e.g., Mark 3:7; Matthew 5:1; Luke 14:25). And think of how this continues straight into the time of the apostles (e.g., Acts 2:5–41). Why should it not go on today?
The blind deserve to see. The lame deserve to walk. The deaf deserve to hear. If people desire, they should have their demons cast out. Jesus wants to free people now. Let’s unleash the power of Christ for all who are impoverished—the spiritual and physically impoverished.
The good news of Jesus is good news for the poor. When Jesus comes to town, people are healed. When Jesus comes to town lives are renewed—restored, as they should be.
Our faith and our actions should be inseparable. Let’s act like we actually believe in the Jesus of the Bible, for he is resurrected and alive today.
Learn about our project to Renew Bihar, India: we're offering access to the gospel of Jesus to thousands who have never heard his name.