We shouldn’t just talk about how to fight poverty, but also how to fight inequality.
In September, world leaders will gather in New York to agree upon new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will succeed the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Several of the MDG:s were actually fulfilled, such as halving the proportion of poor people worldwide and increasing global health and literacy.
Now, the goals are even more ambitious, striving to eradicate poverty, hunger and illiteracy completely, along with environmental goals such as preserving ecosystems and combating climate change. A key to all this, I think, is goal number 10: to decrease inequality between and within countries.
People aren’t poor because there is a lack of resources in the world, but because they are unevenly distributed. 20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the world’s resources. And the mass consumption of the rich hurts the environment: if everyone lived like the average Swede, we would need three planets. If they lived like the average American, we would need five. In fact, World Overshoot Day, when we have consumed what the earth produces in a year, is today, August 13! This means that during the rest of 2015, we spend, consume and trash resources that we do not replace, and this date has been pushed further back almost every year in the calendar.
Christians should eagerly support SDG number 10. John the Baptist told us that those who have two of something should give to the one who has nothing (Lk 3:11). The early church made sure that nobody was rich and nobody was poor (Acts 2:44-45), and Paul wrote that the purpose of donating money to the poor is to promote economic equality (2 Cor 8:13-15).
Will we ever reach an equal world where there is no poverty? Nope, human nature is to sinful for that, but we can definitely make the world better as recent history had shown us. And there’s an enormous difference between striving for a more equal world, or defending the status quo of an increasingly unequal world. It’s easy to see which world is better.
See, some Christians will say that the Kingdom of Heaven will not be possible in all its fullness here on earth, we should abandon all dreams of eradicating poverty. Some will point to the fact that Jesus said that the poor will always be with us (Mark 14:7). But it is extremely clear in the New Testament that Jesus practised community of goods with His disciples and commanded them to do the same, which they did in the book of Acts. The church is the embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and though incomplete it is meant to improve the world in a Christ-like fashion, not leave it up to sinful status quo.