by Francis Tsui
It is now three years since the Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation and subsequent publications. Over the coming weeks we will have a series of articles on wealth creation, reflecting on the eleven affirmations in the Wealth Creation Manifesto, which now exists in 17 languages.
Affirmations 5 and 6 of the Wealth Creation Manifesto addresses the contrast between wealth creating and wealth sharing, and the power of wealth to alleviate poverty:
5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
In a January 2020 report, Oxfam International revealed that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population. It further pointed out that the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
The Covid-19 pandemic is ravaging the world’s economy and millions of people have lost their jobs, while millions more are living precariously. Since the beginning of the pandemic, billionaires in the U.S., such as Jeff Bezos (of Amazon), Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft) and Elon Musk (Tesla & SpaceX) and a few of their peers, have together increased their total net worth $637 billion so far. This is a classic case of the few rich ones got richer, while the millions sink to the bottom of the heap. Even some of those who used to be part of the middle class in many countries find themselves caught in the downward spiral. This wealth polarization happens in spite of the pandemic. Yet, the pandemic has just exacerbated the situation through economic shutdowns and restrictions, as well as uneven government economic aid to different industries. Ethical wealth creation should go hand in hand with fairness in wealth distribution.
Minding the Gap
Those who operate in the free market system show the efficacy and potency of their power in wealth creation and accumulation, especially those who manage to harness the power of technological advancement to increase productivity and efficiency. However, the increasing wealth disparity in the world has signaled something is seriously wrong. Wealth hoarding is definitely wrong, and wealth sharing needs to be encouraged. The Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness Frank Clemente once said, “The orgy of wealth shows how fundamentally flawed our economic system is.” Wealth creation without effective wealth distribution is fundamentally defective and unethical. When more people are sinking into financial oblivion, the result is the demeaning of humanity, and the robbing of human dignity.
As the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens, and increasing number of the world’s population are sinking into poverty, the call for generosity is getting louder. Every year, charities are looking for more support and more donation. Unfortunately, many charities have hit a major road block as the pandemic lingers on.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals reports that more than half of charitable organizations in the United States are expecting to raise less funds in 2020 than they did in 2019. Further, many believe that the same will occur in 2021. The picture is very disturbing. While the need for more generosity is required, the reality many charities confront is that funds are drying up. Many who are already living in poverty and hunger remain there, and there seems to have no light at the end of the tunnel.
Created to Create
Wealth creation and poverty alleviation should go hand in hand in our Christian witness. While ordinary Christians may not be in a position to alter the balance of wealth distribution on a global scale, and may not be in the capacity to bring about policy change for secondary distribution on government level, there are plenty of opportunities for us to be an active participant in both wealth creation and poverty alleviation ministry.
Our God is a creative, entrepreneurial, enterprising God as seen through His Creation. He is also a God of abundance and provision. Wealth creation is consistent to the character of God. Likewise, poverty alleviation is also a key attribute of God as on numerous occasions in the Bible He came through for the poor, the widowed, and those who was abandoned by their community.
We need people who share the compassionate heart of God and who are gifted in creating wealth through their entrepreneurial ventures and investment skills to be enlisted in the harvest fields to bring about job opportunities and sustainable economic growth to create wealth for communities and individuals.
Godly and ethical business practice lives out the Christian witness among the peers. Jobs bring livelihood and dignity to individuals. Economic well-being builds community. The Incarnate Jesus is present when the Good News prevails in the local community and people would have the foretaste and a glimpse of Kingdom on earth. The transformative power of the Gospel is alive and vibrant in the local community.
The Book of Ecclesiastes states, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (8:15) Further, in the Proverbs, it also reminds us that “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (22:9) and that “the righteous give without sparing.” (21:26)
A Business Story
About 10 years ago, a successful Laotian Canadian Christian banker quit his job and went back to his birthplace, a place he had fled from as a child, along with his family, running away from war and poverty. He took out a long lease with the Laotian government on a plot of land at the Bolaven Plateau and started a coffee farm there. Bolaven Farms’ mission is to redeem the soil and nurture sustainable ecosystems promoting healthy and productive agrarian community developments.
At Bolaven Farms, in their own words, they “believe in sowing the seeds of hope.” By training resident farmers their Integrated Organic System free of charge and making credit available to qualifying graduates, farmers are empowered to break the cycle of poverty, one family at a time. Many of the skilled technicians they are bringing in for the technology transfer are followers of Christ. What they are bringing into this creative access country are their faithful witness in addition to the technical skills. They are convinced that what the poor need is not aid, but jobs – real jobs, not subsidized ones. This is the dignity and self-reliance we are equally created for. The Bolaven Farm resident farmers become proud land owners with productive family farms. Over the years, on the Bolaven Plateau, families are blessed with improved livelihood, and the community transforms, holistically.
Wealth creation could definitely be an instrument of grace and a vehicle to bring forth blessings and giftedness. Increasingly both in overseas mission fields as well as in local communities, BAM businesses such as Bolaven Farm are making an impact in places historically insulated from Christian encounters, earning respect and able to be a witness for Christ. When wealth creation and poverty alleviation go in tandem, they claim more territories for the Kingdom.
As wealth is created, believers may choose to live in abundance or in the virtue of contentment or even material simplicity with no coercion, but simply as a personal lifestyle choice. One way or the other, our God is the God of abundance and grace, ready to bless and happy to invite His good and faithful servants into sharing His joy.
More in this series:
Wealth Creation Manifesto: Affirming the Role of Business People in God’s Plan for the World
Shaping Our Views on Wealth, Wealth Creation and Wealth Creators
Creating Wealth for God’s Glory and the Common Good
Business Is a Holy Calling That Should Be Affirmed by the Church
Francis K. Tsui is from Hong Kong and has been active in Asian mission in the last two decades serving as faculty, mentor, and Board member with Asian Access and AsiaCMS. He holds multiple higher degrees in modern Chinese history, business administration, as well as mission and leadership studies. Currently, he is working on a DMin at Fuller Seminary.
Watch the Wealth Creation Classroom Series
The Lausanne Global Classroom on Wealth Creation is a series of short 2-5 minute videos based on the work of the Wealth Creation Consultation