Global inequality is the root cause of much of the world's problems. If you can't feed or educate your children, you will become desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. Desperation even breeds terrorism. But we can do something about it. We have the power.

Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable to corruption and exploitation. If we could fix these ethical problems and create fair-wage jobs, we could cut off the problem at its source. We could change the world. The key to all this: technology, organization, and simple choices. We need action and we need the right plan. In this talk, I explain how we can leverage our interconnected world to fix global inequality.

I believe in these ideas so much that my wife and I gave up our former lifestyle to make it happen: selling our house, our possessions, and quitting a great job. In this talk, I explain what motivated me to make these drastic decisions; and the part I believe we all can play in transforming our world.

This talk was delivered for a special event at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center in Ithaca, NY on April 21, 2017. The talk was sponsored by Bethel Grove Bible Church.

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Happy International Women’s Day to you strong women (yes, that’s all women)!

It’s International Women’s Day, and while every day is a perfect day to honor and celebrate women, we want to recognize that right now is a great time to start a conversation about gender equality and how this impacts poverty. And hopefully the conversation and the resulting actions continue beyond today.

Historically, women have not been given the same economic opportunities as men, especially in developing countries, and while this has been changing, there is still work to be done. When women are empowered and supported so that they can provide stability for themselves and their families, poverty shrinks, hope is created, and God is glorified.

There are many ways to empower women around the world. Jesus’ Economy is working with an existing program in Bihar, India to do just this.

In Bihar, a state in extreme poverty, families are forced into a repeated cycle of poverty in which their basic needs are not met. But Jesus’ Economy is partnering with a program there that teaches women tailoring and seamstress skills; and then adding innovative business training and microfinance to these efforts. With this program, we will create sustainable jobs for the impoverished.

This is Jesus’ Economy’s Empowering Women Program.

A Program to Create Opportunity

The day Jesus’ Economy decided to launch this plan is a day CEO John D. Barry will never forget. A woman placed her hands in his and wept. She said, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?” She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.

Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can give them this chance for a hopeful future. Jesus’ Economy is offering graduates of the sewing program the chance to learn how to make products for a western market—as well as learn business basics and ethical business practices.

Our partner in Bihar has already taught women how to sew, but they need the additional business skills to become successful and sustainable.

Business Will Change the Cycle of Poverty

Our business-training program will teach 40 women how to expand their businesses. The training has two phases. First, a trainer will come in and offer a one-week training session on product development, employee management, handling accounts, and running an ethical, fair trade business.

The second phase involves hands-on product development training. This will be a two-week session that guides the women through their own product development cycle and further business ethics training. This trainer will be available for an additional 10 weeks for free consulting to the women. By the end of the training, the women will be equipped to sell high-quality products locally and on the western market. They will have moved from tailors to successful international businesswomen.

After the training, the women will be eligible for a microloan from Jesus’ Economy to purchase supplies for their expanding business. Jesus' Economy also changes the economic paradigm by becoming the guaranteed buyer of the products the women are creating. Jesus' Economy will sell these products in our fair trade shop.

Business-training ultimately fights against the cycle of poverty, and gives women hope of changing the future for generations to come.

International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating what women have accomplished. It is also about recognizing what we can still do to empower women and work to put an end to global poverty.

On this International Women’s Day, you can empower a woman in Bihar, India to lift her family out of poverty, and bring positive change to the world.  

As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I am reminded of his statement:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Here's its original context, its origins, and what Dr. King would say to us today.

At the core of this statement, you can hear the prophetic voice. Let us remember that Dr. King also had another title—Reverend. He was a preacher.

In King's time, as in ours, many people looked at the injustices and simply ignored them or demeaned them. But for a person living in a country that treats them unjustly, these issues are not something that can be ignored. It’s only convenient to ignore injustices until those same injustices inconvenience you. King regularly pointed this out and mobilized people for action.

The Context of Dr. King's Words & Implications

Dr. King said the famous, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in his work from Birmingham Jail, where he was imprisoned for advocating for equal rights of African Americans.

The context should remind us that this phrase cannot be a platitude; it must be lived. It means so much because of who said it and from the context in which it was said.

And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet. The racial and economic inequality King was fighting against still exists today. So let us not just remember, but act. We have made progress but we must keep moving forward.

Near the end of his life, King was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.

We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.

We look around our own country today and we still see racism. And this isn't only within our nation (against one another), but it also has to do with the worldview many people hold. Many people view those from other places as outsiders (or less than Americans). There is racism and xenophobia on the global stage. This is injustice.

We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The Statement's Origins: The Prophets Agree 

The prophets resonate with Dr. King’s words, with lines like:

“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).

“Thus says Yahweh, ‘Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been seized from the hand of the oppressor. And you must not oppress or treat violently the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow. And you must not shed innocent blood in this place’” (Jeremiah 22:3 LEB).

“Remove from me the noise of your songs, and I do not want to hear the melody of your harps! But let justice roll on like the water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24 LEB).

The Bible’s cry is justice, mercy, and love. There is no other way that aligns with God’s desire.

Dr. King Would Remind Us to Fight Against Fear

Much of our world's problems come out of fear. We fear acting against injustice, because of the possible ramifications. We fear those we do not understand. And fear causes us to do terrible things and to not take action when we should. We must fight fear.

Fear cannot dominate our worldview. If any of us are to call ourselves Christians, we must believe in justice for all. We must love without bounds. We must lead out of mercy. This is the Christian cry. Jesus once said:

“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40 LEB).

Dr. King Would Remind Us to Live Love

Love means placing others before ourselves—to love God is to love others. The book of James puts it this way:

“If anyone thinks he is religious, although he does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:26–27 LEB).

Love is only truly practiced by those who can manage their own words—we must all work at this. Love also requires us to prioritize the needs of the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the outsider. We must believe that is what is good for the entire world is also good for us, because it is.

But love does not mean simply loving those who are hurting—although that is certainly a major part of it. Jesus also once remarked:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43–44 LEB).

There is no us and them; we’re all simply humanity. God does not look on the world and smile upon one country over another. He loves the entire world equally. And we must do the same.

Love those you don’t understand. Love those on the other side of the aisle. Love those who protest. Love those who protest against you. Love in a way that forces you to self-examine. Love in a way that moves you out isolation and insulation. Love in a way that demands justice. Love with mercy. Simply put, truly love.

 

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This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.” It's adapted in part from my previous article by the same title and my article "4 Ways Justice Is Today's Christian Cry."

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. 

The Frequency of Violence Against Women 

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. 

Taking Action 

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. 

Empowering Women 

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. 

 

Our Bible study should inform our practices. Yet when it comes to our purchases, it rarely does. But there is a solution—and it’s biblical.

Introducing and Defining Fair Trade

The term “Fair Trade” describes an economic exchange in which laborers receive a fair living wage. And fair trade is based on Christian values.

Here in the U.S., we believe in equitable exchanges. It’s why we have a minimum wage. It’s why we request raises commensurate with our achievements. But are we really living these principles in all aspects of life? The hard truth is that we aren’t.

Fair trade matters for the sake of our world. And it matters for Christianity—here are four reasons why all Christians should support fair trade.

1. We Are Opposed to Exploited Labor

The majority of what we purchase in the U.S. is based on unjust economic exchanges. The exploitation of labor in developing nations reduces the costs we pay here in the U.S. And as such, a large portion of clothing manufactures, and producers of other items, aim to pay people the smallest amount possible. This is a practice that we as Christians should oppose—not just with our words, but also with our wallets.

While it is not possible yet to buy everything you need from a fair trade manufacturer, there are many fair trade options. One day, God willing, we will be able to buy everything we need at fair trade wages and fair trade will be the norm.

2. The Bible Advocates for Justice and Equality

Fair trade represents justice and equality. And justice and equality are key tenants of Christianity. On this point, the prophets especially come to mind. Over and over again the prophets call us to live the principles of justice, mercy, and humility (e.g., Micah 6:6–8). Near the beginning of the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah records God saying:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16–17 ESV).

We should plead the widow’s cause by buying products that empower women. We should learn to do good by understanding the implications of our purchases. We should live the principles of justice. If we desire justice, then we should make justice a priority when it comes to our purchases. If we believe in equality, then we should back that with our entire lifestyles.

3. Fair Trade Creates Jobs for the Impoverished

Work is central to who we are. It was a major part of the lives of the apostles and something they advocated for (e.g., Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But work is not an option for some—they lack the opportunity. And where work is available, it is not a fair exchange. We can change that through creating fair trade jobs.

If done right, fair trade is one way to change lives through business. Fair trade products are purchased at a price that allows for people to overcome poverty. Fair trade creates safe, sustainable, and profitable jobs. It also provides high quality products for people around the world to use and enjoy. 

4. We Can Create a Jesus Economy

If Jesus was to create an economy, it would be based on love and self-sacrifice. But fair trade isn’t even asking for self-sacrifice; it’s asking that we simply respect people—that we show them the dignity of being paid what their work is worth.

Fair trade represents life transformation for impoverished artisans. It represents a chance for their dreams to become real. It means their families having sustainable incomes and real money coming into their economies.

Jesus envisioned a world where we truly loved our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Fair trade is a way for us to show his love. It’s a way to live what we believe.


For further information on fair trade, see the Jesus’ Economy Fair Trade Standards. Also, check out the Jesus’ Economy online Fair Trade Shop, where you can purchase beautiful products made by developing world artisans. 

The artisan featured above, Benson, is a living example of why fair trade matters: Read Benson's fair trade story and learn how you can get 10% off plus free shipping on the leather bags and totes he manufactures.