“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.
"The wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent.”
Ken Stern led off his recent The Atlantic article with these shocking words. He continues later on:
“One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income.”
The explanations he suggests for this conundrum are fascinating, but even more telling is a spiritual issue that he hinted at, possibly without realizing he was doing so:
“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums.”
The poor in America primarily care about faith and practical services, while the rich mainly care about intellectual endeavors. It may be taking the data too far, but this seems to also suggest that those who are poor recognize spiritual poverty. They know that they not only need physical help; they also need spiritual nourishment. As Sterns notes, based on his questions of scholars, those with the least care about others with little, because they know what it’s like to struggle.
If the poor care about faith, shouldn’t all those who help the poor? It seems rather incredible that while attempting to help those in need people often leave out the faith component, when the faith component is something the poor themselves recognize as necessary. It's important that we all recognize how critical meeting both spiritual and physical needs are, as the poor in America, percentage wise, seem to do.
Empathy is critical to our success when helping others. Exposure to the problems at hand is likewise critical. But along with these things, we must pay attention to what those we’re helping are saying to us, both in terms of their words and actions. We must really listen to those we're helping and act accordingly. We must care about what they care about. And we must realize that the whole person is to be valued, loved, and empowered.
Poverty is as much a state of mind as it is a physical problem. We all have biases and incorrect views of God and what he wants to accomplish in our lives, and many of these are based on our experiences. The same is true for those living in poverty.
Here are nine issues often associated with living in poverty and the answers to them. This list is based on conversations I have had with seasoned charity leaders and Eng Hoe, Lim's book, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Revealing the Heart of God.
Despite how it may seem, God didn’t choose poverty for you—it’s a result of the fallen world we live in.
Actually you can—you can live ethically and mentor others to do the same. It's incredible how many positive changes this can bring.
Others can work with you to bring sanitation, water, bed nets, and healthy living training to you: It will prevent most of the illnesses you experience.
Jesus lived as a poor man and ministered to the poor. Jesus loved the poor, and God often talks about bringing justice to the poor, so it's clear that he believes in you and loves you as much as anyone else.
You only believe this to be the case because no one has walked with you in the process of taking a product to market.
Actually, all of our problems are spiritual too. Every struggle we have has some underlying spiritual element. If God can work through your entire life, often the physical problems will change in the process. Given, disease and pain will still exist because we live in a fallen world—that fell due to humanity’s choices to oppose God—but many of the issues associated with problems in the physical world are rooted in our misunderstandings of Jesus and what he wants to do among us. When we address the spiritual issues, we can begin to see things from God's perspective and begin to make wiser decisions.
There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Jesus came for all of us, every single one of us. Despite what oppressors in your society tell you, or how you feel others view you, Jesus views you as an equal.
Your sin may have resulted in some of your poverty issues—and yes, sin is the reason why poverty exists in general, because it was introduced into the world when humanity rebelled against God. But if sin directly resulted in poverty, many of the richest people in the world would be poor. And today you can have more riches than them by believing in Jesus: he offers a spiritual wealth, a fullness of life, that many who are wealthy will sadly never know.
I care. Jesus cares about you. We here at Jesus’ Economy care about you. We love you and want to walk with you on your way out of poverty.
There are answers to every single one of the problems associated with poverty.
The answers are found in loving people like Jesus did, and telling people how much Jesus loves them. We must provide an alternative to the worldviews that result in poverty—that alternative is Christ and charitable living.
If we who have wealth are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we often live as spiritually poor as those who are physically poor. We struggle with the same inherent issues: a belief that we can’t change the situation, that God cares less for us than others, or that God has brought this plight upon us.
God wants good for your life. He wants to offer you eternal life that starts now. Deny the hopelessness in favor of hope. Affirm Christ reigning in all of your life and see where it takes you. And then give that hope to someone else.
For those of us who have much, it is difficult to understand the lives of those who have little. We have trouble fully comprehending what life is like on the other side of the poverty line. But we’re closer to understanding than we might think.
Jesus is the person who brings us closer: He is the source of our empathy. My clue for this comes from passages like these:
“As they were going along the road, someone said to [Jesus], ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (Luke 9:57–58).
Jesus lived like the poor who we wish to help: he had nowhere to lay his head. There is sadness in this statement, but it’s also hopeful. It makes me sad for Jesus, but in my empathy for Christ, I am learning to have even more empathy for those who are hurting. I am growing closer to God’s heart as I think upon Jesus’ plight.
And this is much of what believing in Jesus is all about: We have an opportunity to recognize how God himself experienced the full spectrum of suffering, as Jesus, and then do as Christ did—give of ourselves freely for the betterment of others.
There is hope for those living in extreme poverty. There is love to be offered. There is empathy to be found for each and every situation. There is empathy to be felt and experienced through our relationship with Jesus.
It is in Christ, who experienced poverty, that we also find the solution to poverty. We find new life through his resurrection. We find hope in him that we can offer to others. We find order overtaking chaos. We find death itself not being able to hold back God’s work. We see an overcoming of all that tears at the fabric of what humanity was meant to be. We see a restoration of life—lived fully for the eternal God, starting now. There is power to be found in this kind of empathy.
Act today: Please pray for these things here and consider donating here.
It is easy to lose heart when there is so much work to be done in our world: so many to lead to Jesus and so many to help out of poverty. We can look at the situation and ask ourselves “What good can we actually do?” But in any of these moments, there is encouragement just around the corner.
Whenever I hear a story of someone in poverty truly being helped—meaning someone working with them to help them move towards sustainable living—I am joyous. It resonates and reverberates in my heart. I believe this is the case because it is a sign of God at work; it’s a reminder to me that he is turning over the evil, disorder, and pain in our world and replacing it with goodness and love.
I want you to think on this feeling and this idea when you consider helping people in need. Imagine what life is like for them. Consider the difference it makes when someone shows them love and the joy it brings. Place yourself for a moment in their position and picture how different you would feel after someone acted in accordance with God’s will to bring you love, goodness, and a sustainable livelihood.
But perhaps there is another way for you to visualize this. Think back upon a situation that made you feel helpless and distraught. Remember how you eventually made your way out of it. Recall the people who loved you in those dark moments and walked with you as you moved forward.
It’s this kind of hope that Jesus’ Economy desires to bring to the world. It’s this kind of shift in thinking and living—from sadness to joy, from despair to opportunity—that we desire to bring to the lives of others. We believe that Jesus can offer hope when there seems to be none to be found. We believe that Jesus has order and love to offer, and we want to make sure that others know that, feel that, and live in that.
Consider joining us today. Bring joy to others by donating here. One hundred percent of your donation will go where you designate.
All over the world there are those in need of help. We can view this as something to despair about, or we can look at it as an opportunity to bring hope and love to others. Here at Jesus’ Economy, we believe that hope and love is the answer.
Many people in the developing world simply need someone to believe in them and invest in them. They need someone to mentor them; someone to provide them with the means to succeed. This is precisely why microloans with ecommerce in mind are a game changer. When you provide someone with not just a loan—which empowers them to take control of their own future—but also with connections to buyers from around the world, you can change entire economies. You can provide jobs. You can bring hope through sustainability.
Similarly, all over the world there are incredible church planters just waiting for funding, so that they can make even more amazing things happen. Grants provide a way for that to occur. These people can bring spiritual and moral change to communities. They can introduce Jesus into people’s lives.
When entrepreneurs then enter into accountability relationships with church planters in their community, ethical standards become the norm. When fair trade becomes a way of doing business, people are provided with sustainable livelihoods. When basic needs are then also met, entire communities are transformed.
Our focus must be more than alleviating poverty; it must be changing the reason why people become impoverished. We must find what leads people to poverty and change that. And the reasons why people become impoverised are known: a lack of jobs, a lack of basic needs being met, corrupt and unstable societies, and others. The model of Jesus' Economy addresses each of these components.
We have an opportunity to bring hope to people in desperate situations. Now is the time. If not our generation, then who? Act today.
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).
Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them.
To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:
“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).
For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:
“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).
There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom.
Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.
God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ Economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.
What we do with our beliefs is as important to Jesus as what we believe. Jesus is about complete commitment to loving him and others. Jesus loves belief filled actions.
To a young rich man, Jesus says:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).
Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other.
As I reflect on the problems those in poverty face, I realize that we own their problems as much as they do. Our inactions have created many of them. We—all of us—are at fault for the state of our world. But we can also join Jesus in changing the state of our world.
If Jesus believed that belief is about action, why don’t we? Why have we not dedicated ourselves to bringing true discipleship and love to others, when it’s what Christ told us to do? What good is belief without it offering true hope?
But questions alone are not enough. We must provide answers. I believe those answers are now available. Take action today. Make us believe. Go love people, all people, but especially those who are poor.
Hope is magical; or better put, it’s miraculous. It changes our perspective and it changes lives.
The developing world is full of people with tenacity and strength who lack the resources to make their dreams reality. They need hope. Those of us with resources can offer them hope: We have the ability to completely transform lives.
The incredible thing about offering someone hope is that doing so also offers you hope. It makes you believe in what the person you’re helping is yet to see. It changes the way you feel about the state of that person’s life, and in doing so, causes you to think about what hope God has in store for you. It gives you a small glimpse at God’s eternal perspective—you briefly see the connections he does: how he has used you to help someone else, and how he will likely use someone else to help you.
When we give of our time, money, or resources, we have the opportunity to watch Jesus’ work in the world. We have a chance to see God at work.
In this early stage of Jesus’ Economy, we’re dreaming of a better world—we’re contemplating what the world could look like. We want to ignite a movement of people who are bringers of hope. We want to inspire people to empower others and to give them the outlet to do so.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
Jesus has great opportunities in store for this generation. He is the hope that Hebrews 11 speaks about. It is his work through the Spirit that we’re anticipating and desire to fully realize. It is Jesus’ second coming that we wait for. But it is his work now that we live for.
As Christians, we are convicted that Jesus was resurrected from death and is working even now. We believe in what he is yet to do, and we should do everything we can to be a part of it.
Sadly, many people wait a lifetime for the right opportunity to truly make a difference in someone else’s life. And even more disheartening, many people wait a lifetime for someone else to help them, without anyone ever coming.
I believe that God has life changing opportunities in front of us now. If we simply look around, we will see them. If we pray earnestly, we will realize how awesome God is and how much work he is doing at this very moment.
God wants to use you for great things today. Today is the day that you can bring hope to those in need. Today is the day that you can acknowledge that hope is something all people deserve. In hope, there is something magical that ignites our spirits—and it’s something we can bring to others in the name of the Jesus.
This age provides more opportunities than any before it. Technology is more developed than ever before. The spirit for positive change is unquenchable. There is a general awareness of what’s happening around the world, and a belief that whatever happens elsewhere in the world directly affects the lives of all of us. We live in an interconnected world with endless opportunities for all of humanity, if we who have much help those who have little. All over the world there are still people in need: There are people who have hopes, ambitions, and dreams that deserve the opportunity to make their visions real. And there are people who are yet to know the hope of Jesus, and all the ethics and wonderful standards he can offer to their communities, both now and in eternity. There is great work happening around the world, but much left to be done.