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A Review of For the Least of These    

By Nicole Nobbs
Business Management and Marketing Major
Reviewed Sept. 15,2016

 

        What is poverty? Who are the poor? As Christians, how do we alleviate poverty in a biblical way that grows a country’s economy instead of tearing it apart? These questions and more comprise the pages of For the Least of These edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley. In this accumulation of articles varying from who the poor are to how markets and justice work together, Bradley and Lindsley attempt to create a biblical understanding of how to handle those who have fallen below the poverty line. They discuss the issues at the core of poverty and how, through ethical business practices, people can alleviate these problems.

        The first thing the authors address is what lies at the core of poverty. Most people would think poverty comes by way of natural disasters, undeveloped governments, sickness, or overall helplessness, but those are only symptoms of the real problem, sin. In Genesis, Adam and Eve experienced joy and abundant food until they ate of the fruit forbidden to them. From that point on sin plagued them with hunger and want. However, the answer to this problem is the combination of material abundance and hearts purified of sin. In the same way that a blind man is healed with sight, an impoverished man is saved through the good news of Jesus Christ. Poverty can only be truly taken care of when Jesus is present. The gospel transforms people who were once selfish into generous stewards. Jesus changes the heart and therefore should be at the center of any group seeking to rid the world of poverty.

        According to these articles, poverty alleviating groups should have certain characteristics. They should be financially accountable, grounded, deal in wisdom and compassion, and always keep the gospel at the center of their mission. They must understand as well that just giving money to those in need will not help the poor but hurt them. They are not creating an initiative that the people can use to get out of their current situation, but instead create  an entitlement. Why work for something that is given to you for free? Well-meaning groups must realize that the only way people’s lives will improve is through personal interaction and teaching. “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” People want to be invested in. The authors argue that poverty programs work best when people are personable and are willing to teach how to be ethical business people, meaning they create goods and services rather than taking money from others through means of extortion.

        For the Least of These accomplishes some excellent things. First, it excels in describing exactly who the poor are, what poverty truly is, how to deal with wealth and riches, and how to take action. Next, it provides an excellent strategy to accumulating material wealth through the use of the markets, thus counteracting the symptoms of poverty in a self-sustaining way. This is where economic freedom comes into play. Economic freedom is described as seeking to be a pivotal asset in increasing opportunity and improving the quality of life in a society. It is the freedom to choose how to produce, sell, and use your own resources, while expecting others’ rights to do the same.  Since the poor are in need of the material, working ethically through the market system with the help of economic freedom can provide for those needs and pull people out of poverty. Lastly, it uses biblical principles such as, “he who does not work shall not eat,” to create self-reliant societies that will set up and run their economies instead of relying on foreign aid and developing an entitlement mindset. Not only is this book biblically based, but it also supports and partners with the ideas of economic freedom and gives ways in which to create this freedom in impoverished countries.

        I would highly recommend this book for not only its excellent understanding of sin as the reason for poverty, but for the reasonable, practical, and ​compassionate poverty alleviation practices. The book’s main point is that Jesus is the answer, and it does an excellent job keeping him at the center of all its arguments. Even non-Christians can’t deny the solutions proposed in this book work. We are all called to help the poor, and For the Least of These equips us with the knowledge to do it well.