Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

“The contrast between the world of wealth the stadium represents and the deplorable conditions in which its neighbors live is barely one of the social sequels of the partnership between the county and the Marlins.  That partnership is among the worse deals for the public that has ever been struck in an American city, sealed without government officials even examining the Marlins’ allegations of poverty.”

Read More: Two Miamis clash on one street – Daniel Shoer Roth – MiamiHerald.com.

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For many years as the Christmas holidays are approaching, I have often had the privilege and opportunity to speak with groups of young people involved in a youth outreach or in youth groups.  With the increasing commercialization of Christmas, it is a welcomed occasion to remind and discuss the “reason for the season” as we like to say.

It is a researched fact that the average attention span of teenagers is to be right about 12.5 minutes (for adults it is 15-20 minutes).  With that fact in mind, I have always known it to be important to grab attention, spark curiosity and be as relevant as possible within that short timeframe.

Young people often like to “rep” where they are from geographically in their cities so as I researched where the promised Messiah was born, I learned that Bethlehem was a small village five miles south of Jerusalem.  My friends in Chicago especially appreciate the title I created, “South side Messiah.”  Now that you have read this far, I share a few thoughts about this Messiah.

This miraculous child anointed by God to save human-kind is to establish a throne as the King and the Messiah.  The wise men who were seeking to worship the King went to Jerusalem first thinking it would be the city where the new kingdom would be established.  Think about it… if that were to be the case, the magi would have been the only ones who could have visited and worshiped the newborn King.  The shepherds and the lowly would have been forbidden to enter the gates of the palace and not allowed to see the Son of God.  

It had to be this way because the Good News was being delivered to everybodyeverywhere.  What an incredible moment it must have been!  All of the heavens celebrate to see God’s plan of love and salvation unfolding in this south side village of Bethlehem.   The new born King was not born in a palace, but in a stable; laid not in a crib for royalty, but a manger; dressed not in fine, princely clothing, but in swaddling rags.

The manger illustrates God’s affinity for the poor and the lowly.  The King of Kings was born into a condition that many of our young people and their families identify with today.  A condition of poverty and it could not have been any other way.  This poor and ordinary birth was an indication of the spiritual poverty required within the hearts of Christ followers to come.

It is those who know their own internal poverty who are the closest to God’s heart.  It is the religious, the self-important and puffed up that are most resistant to Christ… most resistant to a “South side Messiah”.  Jesus told us it is the simple, the childlike, and the weak who are closest to the kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:46-48).

The Messiah came to knock down barriers to God not raise them. The mystery of the King of Kings born in a lowly manger is simple yet profound. Out of a humble manger in the little town of Bethlehem came the greatest love man has ever known.  The Messiah born in that indistinct setting still touches and changes people 2,000 years later.

“For all of the charitable institutions that we’ve seen in the last century, these things do not account for the rise out of poverty of the poorest of the poor… what accounts for this is enterprise – the application of human intelligence, of human action, of human will, of ingenuity into the economic sphere.”  -Rev. Robert Sirico

Enterprise and Wealth Creation

The experience of the last 200 years demonstrates that living standards can be raised even as population density rapidly increases. Innovation and entrepreneurship can and do create new wealth for both the rich and the poor. There are, in other words, enterprise solutions to poverty.

Enterprise can spur wealth creation in several ways. Perhaps the most obvious is through invention, as with the invention and dissemination of the steam engine, or when someone discovers a new use for a natural resource. Oil was little more than a sticky annoyance until inventors figured out how to use it to fuel engines. Telecommunication lines required expensive copper until inventors figured out how to use cheap and abundant sand to produce fiber optic lines.

A less obvious way that business enterprise boosts the rate of wealth creation is through division of labor. At its best, this process frees individuals to focus on jobs that they are especially suited and trained for.

In Mad About Trade, Daniel Griswold uses World Bank figures to summarize the extraordinary progress that the world has made against poverty. For all of human history until 1800, the vast majority of the world’s population lived on a subsistence income. As gains from invention, the division of labor and global trade increased, the proportion of the world’s population living in dire poverty halved by 1950. Between 1980 and 2005, the proportion of the world’s population living in dire poverty halved again. That these improvements came during periods of significant population growth indicates that the world’s workers had become rapidly more productive.

Wealth Creation in Developing Nations

Development economists increasingly are focusing on encouraging wealth-generating enterprise as the most sustainable method for countries to move from poverty to prosperity. Such efforts are moving forward along several paths, including microfinance, angel investing in small-to-medium size enterprises; and efforts to reform government and lower trade barriers. Churches are also playing a role in such work by supporting microfinance efforts and through efforts at moral formation and cultural transformation, which in turn helps entrepreneurs in the developing world realize their full potential.

Business Enterprise as a Worthy Calling

Many view business enterprise as greed-based, an attitude that prevents many people from supporting and encouraging enterprise solutions to poverty. In an effort to remove this obstacle, champions of enterprise solutions to poverty note that greed exists in every profession, and that entrepreneurs need not be greedy in order to start and run a successful business. An entrepreneur might be motivated by greed; but she also may be motivated simply by a desire to make a better product, or to provide better opportunities for his or family and community. Labor directed toward the production of something that benefits other people is a worthwhile endeavor. Through such work, people find fulfillment and contribute to the common good.

The Role of Government in Enterprise

The idea that government is the primary source of wealth is mistaken.   The experience of Communist economies in the twentieth century demonstrated that, while a domineering state could accelerate industrial development in some cases, it could do so only at immense human cost and at an immense cost to long-term development.

At the same time, government does have a crucial role in the process of wealth creation. Establishing the consistent rule of law where property is protected and contracts enforced is a necessary condition for thriving businesses and the economic growth they bring. When government is riddled with corruption, enacts excessive levels of taxation, or imposes excessive regulatory requirements, business enterprise is stifled and the creative potential of a nation’s citizens remains largely untapped. In sum, governments promote wealth creation by promoting justice and protecting economic freedom.

See: http://www.povertycure.org – Advancing Entrepreneurial Solutions to Poverty

Because a Large Population of People Live There

Our inner-cities are a diverse, active and exciting part of modern society.  Some things about the city are easy to celebrate and enjoy – the cultural, educational and social opportunities.  But at the same time, our cities are also permeated with their share of difficulties such as poverty, hopelessness, crime, drug abuse, illiteracy and other tragedies.  Those that inhabit our inner-cities have in many cases fallen victim to years of urban decay, neglect, oppression and limited opportunities.

In most of the large cities in the United States approximately one half of the geographic area in those cities is now considered urban. This is typical in most of our larger cities; New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles and even in many medium size cities.

Note: the word “urban” can carry with it a great deal of baggage.  The reference here is not intended to identify various groups of people, whether by income level or by racial or ethnic background, but to only identify the neglected and oppressed areas of our cities that are often diverse and multicultural.

A disproportionate percentage of our country’s ethnic minorities live in urban areas.  Overall, 29 percent of U.S. families live in the city.  Yet, 58 percent of African-American families and 54 percent of Hispanic families live in the inner-city.  As you can see, ethnic minorities are really ethnic majorities in many of our cities.

We are talking about a large percentage of the population in the United States.  On an international scale we are talking about a large percentage of the world’s population.  It was Jesus who said to “go into all the world” with the Gospel.  Since our inner-cities are a large part of that world, Christians should be deeply concerned for reaching the inner-city as well as other parts of the world.

Because the People There are Poor

Most U.S. ministry resources target our middle to upper middle class population.  In contrast, the resources of Jesus (His time and energy) prioritized going to the poor.  Jesus preached to the poor, (Luke 4:18).  The scriptures prove this over and over.  Just look in a concordance for all the references to the poor.

You will see that God truly emphasizes going to the poor and ministering to the oppressed.  Obviously, a majority of poor people today are found in our inner-cities.  Therefore, from what we see in the scriptures, these areas are very precious to the heart of God and a top priority in His view of things.  And they should also be a priority in the view of Godly Christians who are following His Word.

Because There’s an Open Door.

In I Corinthians 16:9, the Bible talks about an open door.  This indicates that we should look around to observe where God is already at work and has already opened doors for our ministries to serve Him.  There is no place where the doors are more open than in the inner-city.  People are looking for help; they will accept help from spiritual sources.  There are no problems getting building permits or occupancy permits for ministries or churches.  The government, businesses, neighbors; everyone is happy for you to do anything that will help people in need.  There are very few restrictions.  We should not take this for granted.  For now the door is open, let us walk through it while we can.

God emphasizes by means of His instruction and example – that ministry to the poor and oppressed are high on His priority list.  A majority of poor people today are found in the urban areas of our cities.  Ray Bakke has said, “We must keep the urban poor high in our priorities.  The poor are no less sinners than the rich are, but they have also been sinned against.  They are the victims of other people’s sins and injustices.  Our ministries must be accompanied by a struggle for justice and righteousness.  Many Christians are missing the point that social action is not done in order to communicate the gospel, but as a sign or evidence that the gospel has already been received and acted upon.”

In looking at these three simple answers to the question, “Why Go to the City,” it is easy for some of us to feel some emotions of conviction and guilt.  That is not the intention here at all, however do not ignore those feelings either.  Ask God to help you see where they come from and what it is He would like to teach you, or have you do about those feelings.

Renewing the City with Hope, Compassion and Justice