Do you ever read books thematically? I don’t usually notice until the trend has been set, but often I’ll read a series of books about a certain topic. This is usually a good indication of when a family change will occur. In 2010, I read quite a few books on responsible growing and eating practices. As a result, we planted a backyard garden and have been more intentional about buying local and organic foods.
This year, the trend is toward money and poverty. From memoirs by those who work with the poor to business books like Conscious Capitalism, I’ve been intrigued by how our systems work and can be changed to include ensuring that those in poverty have access to resources.
In Hope Rising, Scott C. Todd of Compassion International addresses important mindsets among Christians that need to change in order to alleviate the world’s extreme poor (those who live on less than $1.25 per day). He contends that it is possible to end world poverty in the next 30 years, but in order to do so, Christians need to raise their expectations toward that goal.
In a clear, concise, yet powerful manner, Todd breaks down various reasons Christians have not taken action: From misunderstanding Matthew 26:11’s “You will always have the poor among you…” to the zeal against works-based faith (pg. 35), he explains why Jesus has called Christians to actively use their resources to rid poverty. He reminds readers that the Kingdom is now and that, “We don’t do anti-poverty work and share the gospel. Sharing the gospel is anti-poverty work.”
There are quite a few things I like about this book. Todd is optimistic but breaks down poverty alleviation into practical numbers. He praises recent efforts in cutting diseases like measles by 78 percent between 2000 and 2008 (pg 53). Yet, nearly one billion people are still without clean drinking water. Providing that would cost about twenty billion dollars – half of what Americans spend on Black Friday (pg 52).
Todd also warns against using poor as a metaphor for broken relationships. He says, “using poor as a metaphor dilutes its hard meaning…” (pg 76). I am glad this was addressed. As Americans, we are wealthy. Whether or not we are as wealthy as our neighbors or wealthy enough to own our own homes dims when compared to those who are not able to buy a $5.00 mosquito net to prevent malaria. I feel that we often try to soften the disparity between our wealth and other’s lack of basic resources. Living in a country with clean, running water, access to health care, and a variety of resources to put food on our tables, we need to remember the extreme poor.
Todd also gives some practical advice for how we can help. The average American churchgoer only gives 2.9% of their income to charitable causes. Reevaluating spending and how we use our resources is an important beginning. Choosing to spend more on fewer items at stores like Ten Thousand Villages is a way to ensure a fair wage to artisans (pg 139). Sponsoring a child is a way to ensure education and access to opportunities in developing countries. Todd suggests fasting as a way to find income. Maybe it is a traditional food fast, or perhaps a fast from sports or new cars (pg 158). One year, Frank and I fasted from wine during Lent and used our budget to fund Kiva loans. If we are creative and willing, there are ways to support the poorest among us.
This book is an important look at how we are going to address the global issue of poverty. In Todd’s view, if we are focused and willing, extreme poverty will be part of history as we live a Kingdom-is-now lifestyle.
Do you think about world poverty? What are some ideas you have for helping the world’s poorest?
GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Hope Rising. To enter, leave a comment about your experience with making conscious choices to help the poor. I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, June 6, 2014. (US & Canadian addresses only.)