In considering our responsibility to take care of the truly needy, we cannot do so without also thinking about the broader issues of economics and stewardship. We cannot take care of the poor if our own budgetary houses, so to speak, are out of order and we have nothing to give. Economic issues are Christian living issues.
When it comes to economics, we frequently hear in our culture the idea that wealth creation is a zero-sum game. That is, many people believe that wealthy people become wealthy only at the expense of others. Politicians frequently repeat the myth that large profits mean the exploitation of the poor and the middle class.
Certainly, it is possible for the wealthy to mistreat those of lesser means. Truthfully, however, in our modern economy it is often the rich who through their own pursuit of profit help raise the standard of living for those who have less wealth. For an example of this, we can look to a figure such as Henry Ford, the famous car manufacturer who introduced the assembly line to the automobile industry. Before Ford enabled the mass production of cars, very few Americans could own an automobile because the cost was much higher than the average family could afford. Ford’s use of the assembly line drove down the cost of manufacturing cars, making it possible for everyday citizens to buy a car. In so doing, Ford became incredibly wealthy, but the economic benefits to all society were profound. Travel became easier and new industries full of jobs sprang up to support car manufacturing and the new leisure options made possible by by the mass ownership of automobiles.
Ford was successful because he increased production, but what we must not overlook is that production is also a spiritual issue. We understand this well enough when it comes to spiritual fruit, as we know our duty to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). But we cannot divorce spiritual good from material production. As we have a duty to care for the truly needy, pursuing increased material production and the wealth that comes with it enables us to help more and more people. The more we produce, the more people we can feed, clothe, and shelter. The more wealth that is created, the more missionaries and church plants can be supported. We have been saved to bear fruit for God (Rom. 7:4), and through increased production the resources necessary to fund kingdom work and take care of the Lord’s people are created.