American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics recently hosted an event about the themes of the new IFWE book For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, which Senior Fellow Jay Richards contributed to.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Richards tied up the panel discussion with central insights for Christians and other religious people who are interested in combating poverty. He gave this goal: “integrate the descriptive truths and theoretical insights of economics with the normative principles of ethics and relevant truths of theology.”
That is–we don’t need to separate Biblical teachings from practical economics when seeking to understand poverty intellectually. Dr. Richards gives two examples of key economic insights given in Biblical text:
“The Bible is chock full of economic wisdom. The idea of private property, which almost all economists agree is one of the key conditions for wealth creation–two of the Ten Commands presuppose something like the right to private property–‘thou shall not steal’, ‘thou shall not covet’ implies that some people, at least sometimes, have a right to their possessions.”
“The idea of humans not as mere animals, not as mere consumers, but as unique creatures made in the image of the creative God–that’s a profound theological truth. I happen to think that’s also a profound economic truth–and if you don’t understand it, you’ll tend to advocate economic policies that are not appropriate to the human person. But if you know that human beings, though fallen, are also created in the image of the creative God, then you’re going to want policies that enable that–that allow human beings to exercise their creative ingenuity.”
At the same time, you’re obviously not going to find anything about the Gini coefficient, comparative advantage, the price function, or supply and demand in the Bible. These economic principles are relatively new tools that human civilization didn’t use to have; they’re tools that we are morally obligated to understand and use to help the impoverished among us.
I highly recommend that you watch the event in its entirety (posted below) to get a feel for the book. (You can also read about it at The Washington Times or The Christian Post.)
If you want to purchase For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, you can do so at the IFWE website.