As a child of the ’80s I grew up hearing stories of suffering taking place throughout the continent of Africa. During those years, celebrities sang about starving children and apartheid. Events like Band Aid (you could NOT pull me away from MTV) were influential in how I started to understand the importance of global awareness, charity and advocacy.
As I have gotten older, that teenage understanding of global awareness, charity and advocacy has thankfully matured beyond MTV and has been shaped by my faith in Jesus and a love for others.
Recently, I saw an interview with Ghana’s former president, John Kufuor, in which he stated,
“We fight poverty with wealth creation. Otherwise it’s charity, and that’s not what we came into government for.”
Part of what makes up the American dream is the idea that everyone has the opportunity to accumulate wealth. Many people have come to this nation with the hope that they can overcome poverty and have opportunities that were not afforded them in their own country.
The thing is, wealth creation, overcoming poverty, and having freedom and opportunities to overcome poverty should not be exclusive to only certain nations. Ghana’s former president John Kufuor has proven that.
In fact, President Kufuor made tremendous strides in Ghana. In his eight years as president, the nation’s gross domestic product quadrupled.
Ghana is currently one of the largest producers of cocoa and gold and is now also involved in oil production. They are becoming a prosperous nation and the world is taking notice. This story is a far cry from those 1980s news reports, isn’t it?
When it comes to money and wealth, I often hear people quoting 1 Timothy 6:10:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (NIV)
Sure, the love of money can be the root of evil, but so can the love of anything that takes us away from our first love, Jesus.
But when used properly, money can bring life, empowering people to buy food for their families, pay for doctors’ visits, and educate their children. Even taking your children on a family vacation is not burdensome when you have money.
When I first heard President Kufuor’s quote about wealth creation and charity, it was as if he was saying that Ghana is not bound to the poverty we saw in the Africa of the ’80s. Ghanaians are an intelligent and resourceful people who refuse to be victims of poverty any longer.
The Bible talks a lot about the abundance God wants to give His people: abundant peace, security, food, water, clothing and shelter. It is that abundance that allows us to do what we can to assist the poor — to help those who don’t have the opportunities President Kufuor has extended to the people of Ghana.
My prayer is that more leaders around the world will do what President Kufuor has done to break the cycle of poverty at a national level.
Do you struggle with thinking about money and wealth creation as evil? Do you agree or disagree with President Kufuor’s philosophy that wealth creation and not charity is what fights poverty?
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Thank you Jacquie for this hopeful message. Christians need to remember that the kindest most loving thing we can do for people in need is not to keep them trapped in poverty by giving hand outs but, to give hand ups and really helping them have better lives. The faith based non profit where I work (Oasis Compassion Agency) in Greenacres, Florida truly believes in helping people by identifying the roadblocks to their success and then devising a plan to overcome them. This includes their spiritual success too. Of course there will always be a need for hand outs for people (elderly, sick, disabled…) who are not able to help themselves but, people who are able to work and support themselves need the opportunity to do so. Like the saying goes “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” Christians need to be out there teaching people how to fish and telling them about God’s love and plan for their lives. Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?
Thank you Kay!
Not everyone shares your view that wealth creation is defined exclusively by “finite resources.” There are plenty of Christians currently and historically who believe that wealth is not a zero-sum game.
I would refer you to the Acton Institute for a principled perspective of this alternate viewpoint (acton.org).
The problem with wealth creation is that it’s not ‘creation’. Someone gets richer and someone gets poorer. Look at money exchange in this world and that’s the way it works. With nations or groups or businesses or individuals. Unless we, in the West, are willing to compromise on the finite resources we use on this planet, poverty will be with us. We need a fairer distribution of wealth.
That’s just factually wrong. If someone taxes someone and confiscates their money to give to someone else, that is not wealth creation, but if you grow carrots that creates (God did the creating) something of value that you can exchange for money,so that someone else can have nutrition. That in it’s simplest, is wealth creation, If no product or service of value is produced for which another is willing to pay, (e.g, people sitting in the town square waiting for someone to hire them) then there is no wealth creation.
Now, if you are defining “wealth” as anything more than food and clothes and shelter, then that is materialism. The Lord teaches us (we try to learn) to be content with those things we need to stay alive, and go about our lives. Nothing wrong with working for more, by “wealth creation”, just so long as that is not what one is living for.
For whom is the wealth generated? Who are the beneficiaries? Is the wealth being generated to make the wealthy wealthier or to help those impoverished?
I’ll take charity in any form I can get it! I love free lunch!!! Maybe that is one of the things I like the most about Jesus, HE paid the PRICE for me 😉 I couldn’t pay it anyways, but the FREE gift is much appreciated!!!!!!!!
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
the world doesn’t need money, it needs righteousness. money will follow. watch this video to see what i mean http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA
Great post Jacquie! Ghana’s growth is inspiring and we can learn from it. When we create, we reflect the creative nature of God. It is what we were designed to do. And the marketplace allows others to value what we have produced just as we, in exchange, value what others have created. Currency (money) enables that exchange in the market. So, in a way, the market and money allow us to care for one another by valuing each other’s creative capacities. To protect the fairness of the market (promote justice) is critical. At the same time, those who have prospered in the market are called upon to reflect another part of our God-given design. That of stewards.
Is there another sustainable option?
Don’t everyone speak at once>
I agree. A hand up, not a hand out. Wealth has been demonized here lately but wealth creates jobs, wealth spends money which stimulates the economy, and wealth gives to charity.
I would love to hear more discussions along these lines. I think it’s fruitful for Christians to be debating the means in which we reach out to the world.
Greg, I would love to hear more specifics about the practices of prior Christians. Any suggestions for reading material?
False dichotomy. Charity doesn’t help if it undermines markets (such as dumping clothing, which destroys local clothing jobs). Wealth creation dosen’t help of it involves socially unjust or unsustainable practices (ex; gangnusting coffee exports from Central American plantations run in a Dickensian fashion). Prior generations o Christians were able to recognize the latter as sin. That was before Rand.
Only if its wealth creation without exploitation.