Spread the Wealth

Posted in christian thought, cultural relevance, social justice by Nathan Creitz on October 23, 2008

After learning about the global crisis of poverty in a previous post we are left with the question, “What now?” When we consider all of the problems in the world that are brought on by greed, materialism, or quests for power many of us are left despairing that we can’t do anything to help. Poverty is a problem that only big organizations or governments can handle. Let them deal with the problem. And yet, it’s my belief that when confronted with issues of social justice or the environment that it is precisely “we the people” who can make the difference and not the government. I’m not wealthy, but when it comes to sharing what I have with others, I would prefer to do that with my own hands and not through the government as intermediary.

When dealing with the issue of poverty, there are several things that each of us could do right now! Short of “selling all and giving it to the poor”, what are some things that we can do to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves? Though we may not have much, is there something we can do to help?

Show Some Respect

The first thing I would suggest is that when it comes to interacting with people less privileged than ourselves we need to show some respect. The person asking for money on the street corner may not have a college degree or a nice car like you but that doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. For some reason, we get the attitude that a person living on the street is irresponsible, wants to use my money for cigarettes, and is incapable of holding a job. That may be, but do we have to assume it to be true (unless it’s written on a sign)? Why not assume the best rather than the worst in people. Who knows, maybe they do have a college degree but they’ve gone through a tough time? Who are we to judge based on a person’s appearance?

Buy a Meal

If you still have hesitation about a person, take them to lunch and find out what sort of person they are. Don’t just make a sack lunch and give it to someone as a gesture of charity. Instead, invite them to lunch just as you would a fellow colleague. You might say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash on me right now, but my lunch break is at noon, would you like to meet me at that diner over there and I’ll buy you lunch? It would be my privilege.” We are quick to throw money at a problem when if we took a few minutes to get to know someone, we might be able to help in the context of a relationship. Pay for their lunch and spend time in meaningful conversation. Let them be the human that they are without being prejudged as incompetent.

Give A Gift of Love

There are dozens of organizations that help us realize that some people’s standard of living is so low that if we gave just $20 a month (for example), we could help feed, clothe, and educate a child in a poor region of the world. I’ve always appreciated what WorldVision is doing to get people to sponsor children but there are plenty of other organizations that you can research to find out their effectiveness. I also value the initiatives that help people “sponsor” cows, chickens, or sheep to help a family get milk or eggs or wool for themselves. Others get involved by donating money to dig a well that will give clean water to an entire village. Blood:Water Mission says, “$1 = one year of water for an African.” Check out for even more ideas.

Habitat for Humanity is one organization that I can highlight here that has a proven track record of helping people through volunteerism. To own a home through Habitat for Humanity, the home owner builds sweat equity into his or her own home but he or she is helped by dozens of others who work alongside them as a way to show their love for their neighbor. This is love and service in action. You can even take a volunteer vacation through organization like the Sierra Club or Globe Aware. I’ve been able to work with Habitat for Humanity and International World Changers (a faith based organization) on dozens of projects all around the world. Travel is fun, but travel with a purpose opens your eyes to the need of the world.

Do Something Now

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically with love, respect, and humility…and do it now! Don’t wait for the government to do something. Spread your own wealth. I love what Paul the Apostle says, “I have learned the secret of being content – whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Poverty can hit any of us at any time, so if you are in a position to meet a need, do it!

What are your thoughts on what can be done to end poverty? What are some of the experiences you would like to share as you have fought against poverty in the world?


5 Responses

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  1. General Kafka said, on October 23, 2008 at 11.18 pm

    hi Nathan,

    I was a little afraid by your post yesterday – where you seemed to look at my coffee cup and putting guilt on me for spending the money to fill it.
    As a matter of fact, coffee for me is a social event – I get together with a friend/colleague and we chat.
    PFf – I’m off this hook (?).

    Anyway, I much prefer your post on ideas on how to spread the wealth. My barista is happy about it too.

    You ride your bike around Boston, and I ride mine – and I’m sure you’d agree that if they fixed the roads, more people would cycle.

    Btw – maybe you should read this blog entry about spreading the wealth — by a (pretty conservative) Harvard prof. of economics.

    OK – here is for my reaction to your posts. (1) sending money to the 3rd world is nice, but really, I’m a little tired of that, because, I don’t see what it does and I don’t connect with whoever is benefiting from it. And (2) I’m supposed to love my neighbor, the one that is close enough to me to relate to him — not an abstract person that I can’t connect with.

    But it might take some time to get to the state of mind I write above.

    Rawls/Obama wants to spread the wealth around with my taxes (it’s a little bit like sending money far far away and I don’t see what it does– certainly they don’t fix the roads with my MA taxes) ?
    Nozcik/McCain wants everyone to spread the wealth around by their own consumption – with ‘free market’ dynamics…

    OK – you know where I’d stand.

    But, wait, the Bush legacy is actually to put taxes on my childrens’ future income (debt) to spread the wealth in Irak … ?
    (don’t worry, this all goes into the pocket of Blackwater executives and their accounts in the Cayman islands)

    Nathan: I’m with you, but things are not as simple as the Rawls/Nozcik debate.

    There’s a lot of corruption in the world.

    Our duty is to stay away from this corruption and take of orphans and widows. (James 1:27)

  2. Creitz said, on October 24, 2008 at 5.24 am

    Hey Kafka,

    Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for your Starbucks. Like I said, I like to indulge occassionally and they certainly are an ethical, free trade kind of company.

    The ideas I gave were just a few of many. My hope was to stimulate discussion about what ideas you have or what have my readers been doing to help end poverty. I gave ideas for both “third world” giving and for giving to someone you encounter on the street, etc. Lots of people are poor and in need. The idea is to start doing something now.

    I also didn’t mean to make this a super political discussion. Government plays a role in solving the problem but I wanted to focus our post here on what I can do now. If we allow ourselves to let the government or some NGO solve everything then we stop caring about the world.

  3. josephmcbee said, on October 24, 2008 at 10.34 am

    Nathan: Really like your blog. Excellent writing, open and honest discussion, Biblical worldview. All good things. I think you have found a new regular reader in me.

  4. mnphysicist said, on November 10, 2008 at 7.53 am

    I agree with do something now, and do something personal. However those are 1:1 trades of time and/or money (excluding the teaching to fish thing which scales multifold).

    In addition, Govt and NGO’s should play a major role, as money and time can be leveraged over and over again. Its the economies of scale and overhead reduction, which should (but not always of course) provide even more help than on a 1:1 basis.

    I also mirror the “think the best of someone and respect” aspect. I dont remember anywhere in scripture where help was made conditional. Ie, to person who needs help, do ABCDEFG, jump hoops JKLMNOP, and then I will help you out seems very wrong, albeit it is very very common approach. Even Jesus time and time again, helped the person, and then told them what to do, not withholding the help until they did something.

  5. The Introvert said, on June 18, 2009 at 9.14 am

    I really struggle with this because my heart truly goes out to the homeless. After all, there have been times I could’ve been in the same position but God was merciful. Unfortunately, my shyness gets in the way and I end up just wanting to throw money at the problem, of which I currently have none. I felt so convicted last weekend when I was approached by a man who was a deaf mute and I didn’t have any money and I didn’t know what to do so I sent him on his way. Matthew 25 kept beating me over the head for the rest of the day.

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