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For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty

How can the faithful best care “for the least of these”? During a discussion at AEI on Tuesday, contributors to a new volume on poverty, theology, and economics agreed that while the free enterprise system is by no means a panacea for all social ills, it is by far the best economic system to serve the poor.

Art Lindsley of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics reminded the audience of the scriptural view that all people are image-bearers of God, which means we all possess an inherent dignity that is best expressed through creativity and dynamism, not passivity. Lindsley’s colleague Anne Bradley provided a clear overview of income inequality, suggesting that income mobility and consumption levels are in fact better measures of whether a society is flourishing.

Peter Greer of HOPE International detailed how a recent World Bank survey elucidates that many poor people abroad view their own poverty in primarily sociological rather than economic terms: they feel ashamed, powerless, and as though they lack a respectable voice in the larger community. He stressed that this means entrepreneurship can empower people in ways that redistribution cannot.

Author Jay Richards concluded the discussion by calling on Western Christians to embolden poor countries to walk a path successfully taken by modern economies. By encouraging the rule of law, free trade, property rights, and entrepreneurship, we can actually help end extreme poverty in the world. For Christians, Richards emphasized, this is the best path for heeding the biblical call to truly care for the less fortunate.

Watch the entire discussion: