4 Things to Know about How Business Fights Poverty

In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. Here’s the first post with some essential points on how business fights poverty.

1. Poverty means more than just material poverty

Poverty in the biblical sense goes beyond lack of money and all its implications, although that’s part of it.

Christian development thinker Bryant Myers, in his seminal book Walking with the Poor, describes the nature of poverty as follows:

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, they are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings. [1]

He took the biblical idea of shalom as the fullness of life that God intended before the Fall, where humans are in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of Creation.

Poverty, therefore, is the outcome of sin and brokenness in these four relationships.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert built on Myer’s framework for their book When Helping Hurts and their work at the Chalmers Center. They put it this way:

The question of ‘What does it mean to be poor?’ requires more than a simple answer. We are all poor in our own way, as we grapple with the brokenness in the four key relationships in this world. Poverty is not solely about a lack of money; it encompasses a lack of intimacy with God, a lack of sensing one’s own worth, a lack of community, and a lack of stewardship over creation. – Chalmers Center

We all suffer from different types of poverty; you can be financially rich but socially poor, or financially poor but spiritually rich because you know Jesus.

To fight different kinds of poverty, we need to create different kinds of wealth.

Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual wealth. – Wealth Creation Manifesto, Affirmation #8

Business as mission enterprises have the opportunity to bring positive impact in all four areas of our broken relationships: relationship with self, relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with the rest of creation. Business as mission is a holistic mission model with the potential to create wealth and address poverty in multiple different ways.

2. Business is part of God’s design and is uniquely positioned to respond to poverty

Business is not evil, it’s not even neutral; it is part of God’s good design. [2] Of course, since the Fall when all things were corrupted by sin, business has the potential to do harm or be used for evil (intentionally or unintentionally). But, it can also glorify God and do good. That is part of God’s original purpose for business; He designed the enterprise of business to enable individuals, families, and human society to flourish.

Poverty is the outcome of sin and brokenness in our relationships.

In his paper God Revealed through the Spheres of Society, David Hamilton introduces the Sphere of Economics (Science, Technology & Business) as follows:

God’s purpose for the sphere of economics is to release provision and model stewardship. Science is the generative motor of this sphere, for it produces the research and development that allows for the creation of wealth by unlocking new products and services. It is then propelled forward by the distributive capacity of the business enterprise which produces and sells those inventions. When stewarded well, this process of creating and distributing wealth should glorify the Creator who works with humans as co-creators in the desire to multiply life-enhancing innovations.

Hamilton goes on to explain how God reveals himself as Creator, Provider, and Healer through the Sphere of Economics. [3]

Since business is inherently designed to spur innovation, create good work, and multiply financial wealth, it is especially suited to fight economic poverty.

The biggest lift out of financial poverty has happened in our generation, not through aid, but through trade, especially through small and medium-sized businesses. – Mats Tunehag [4]

Economic poverty and injustice often go hand in hand, as the materially poor are much more vulnerable to exploitation and corruption. Moreover, material poverty is often the most pressing felt-need for a community. We should follow the example of Jesus who did not neglect physical and material needs, even as he addressed spiritual needs – He ministered to the whole person.

3. Business is a holy calling, a Godly vocation that should be encouraged

Business, done well, is glorifying to God. Period. We don’t have to tack on a mission strategy to justify a company’s purpose or to make that work holy. Business professionals following Jesus in the marketplace already have a sacred vocation. [5]

A wonderful example of the vocation of business in action – i.e. creating wealth and fighting poverty – can be found in Proverbs 31:10-32. We call her ‘the godly woman of business’, although she is more often known as ‘the wife of noble character’!

The godly woman of business:

    • Works hard
    • Innovates
    • Makes savvy business decisions
    • Creates good quality products
    • Generates profit and re-invests it wisely
    • Multiplies material wealth and provides for her family
    • Creates jobs and livelihoods for her extended household
    • Can be generous to the poor from the abundance
    • Is respected and has influence in the community

The Proverbs 31 woman has dignity – and provides others with the opportunity to have dignity – through her enterprises.

The biggest lift out of financial poverty has happened in our generation, not through aid, but through trade. – Mats Tunehag

4. Business people have a unique role to play in fighting poverty, as part of God’s call to mission

God calls His Church to join in with his mission, to manifest His Kingdom on earth – in every corner of the world, to every person. That mission includes fighting injustice and poverty of all kinds. It is centred on the restoration of our relationship with God, through Jesus – and as a result, being restored in all other parts of life.

We can join in that mission as we do business!

Business is uniquely positioned as an essential and sustainable solution to ending poverty… Business by its nature is a relational activity and a potentially transformational activity. Business not only creates jobs, it is where networks and relationships are the norm, creating networks and relationships that are essential for community restoration and transformation. – BAM Global Report on Business as Mission and the End of Poverty

No, we don’t need to ‘tack on a mission strategy to sanctify business’, but we can be intentional about integrating business and mission. We can leverage the God-given potential of business for missional purposes – including fighting poverty and injustice of every kind.

We can do that – either through a new or existing company – in many ways, including:

    • Innovating with new products and services that provide solutions to injustice and poverty at the core of the business model
    • Creating stable jobs for the poor or marginalised
    • Providing safe employment for those vulnerable to exploitation or those leaving slavery / unjust working conditions
    • Introducing goods and services into communities to elevate standards of living
    • Increasing life skills and capacity through employee training
    • Developing more just supply chains
    • Fighting corruption and challenging unjust structures through community influence and business networks


Want to know more? Here are some great resources on this topic:

All BAM Review Blogs on ‘Business Fights Poverty’

Wealth Creation Manifesto and Wealth Creation Report Series

Wealth Creation Global Classroom Video Series

BAM Global Report on Business as Mission and the End of Poverty

Business as Mission is bigger than you think [English] – Mats Tunehag

(For French, German, Portuguese, Korean, Russian and Spanish versions download here)

Poverty Cure – From aid to enterprise

Freedom Business Alliance – Working to end human trafficking by addressing its economic roots

FiftyEight – Creating good work and justice in supply chains



By Jo Plummer, with thanks to Mats Tunehag and the BAM Global Communications Team.

 Jo Plummer is the Creative Director & Co-Founder of BAM Global and the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website and The BAM Review Blog. 



WATCH João Mordomo introduce this theme:


[1] Bryant L. Myers, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Maryknoll, N.Y.:Orbis Books, 1999), p86

[2] This is the premise of the book Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business by Wayne Grudem which is definitely recommended reading for all those interested in business as mission.

[3] David Joel Hamilton, “God Revealed Through the Spheres of Society” 2014, Youth With a Mission. https://ywam.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/God-Revealed-through-the-Spheres-of-Society-1.pdf

[4] Personal remark by Mats Tunehag and see also “Interview with Mats Tunehag on ‘The Wealth Creation Manifesto’” on the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics Blog: https://tifwe.org/interview-with-mats-tunehag-on-the-wealth-creation-manifesto/ 

For more on this topic, refer to the World Bank Report on the Role of Trade in Ending Poverty: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/trade/publication/the-role-of-trade-in-ending-poverty

[5] Adapted from What is BAM?


Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash