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How much more money will it take to alleviate poverty on the continent of Africa? Despite having received trillions of dollars in aid for the purpose of development, the problem of poverty persists in this part of the world.

Zambia remains one of the poorest countries in Africa and several studies estimate that close to 60% of its population live beneath the national poverty line ($1.90/day). Zambia’s per capita income is around $1300, and its Gross Domestic Product is approximately 20 billion dollars. These facts can be the cause of despondency and may lead to an embrace of fatalism regarding the future of this country. However, hope is not lost in light of what God reveals about the key to flourishing. 

The solution to the problem of poverty is not a secret. As humanity lives out the cultural mandate to subdue and dominate the earth, God expects us to be fruitful, to multiply and to fill the earth. All human beings are made in the image of God and possess the capacity to fulfill this mandate with no exemptions on economic, national or ethnic lines. The blueprint that gives rise to flourishing is a universal truth with universal applications. The blueprint that built the western world is the same blueprint that will lift poor countries out of poverty. This blueprint is the inerrant and all sufficient Word of God which has been and continues to be the foundation of all flourishing and development over the course of history.

Contrary to popular belief, foreign aid, debt forgiveness, social equity and fair-trade coffee do little to impact long lasting and sustainable development in third-world countries. However, what has been proven to make a difference are Biblical values that transform people, who in turn transform everything around them. These values are summarized under seven points; each holding the key to true and lasting prosperity. This is not an exhaustive list but certainly one that makes mention of the fundamental pillars for establishing prosperous nations.

The Gospel

The apostle Paul, in the first chapter of the book of Romans, asserts that the Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation. This verse implies two things: firstly, that humanity is in desperate need of salvation, and secondly, that there is a way to experience this redemption. The greatest problem in this world is the sinful nature of all human beings from whom stem all the evils and atrocities this world knows. As a result of sin, men naturally hate God and consequently hate one another. In order for humanity to realize its potential and fulfill its God-given mandate, it must be reconciled to God and have a right relationship with Him. The only way this is possible is through the efficacious person and work of Jesus Christ. Societies are transformed through the transformed hearts of those who live in them and those that desire to see a long-lasting change in poor communities must be prepared to proclaim the Gospel; this is what people need most.

A Christian Worldview

The influential Dutch theologian, statesman, and journalist, Abraham Kuyper, famously iterated, “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” 

This thought wonderfully captures the essence of what it means to possess a Christian Worldview and to see the whole of life through the lenses of the Bible. When humanity acknowledges Christ as Lord and King over every aspect of life, there is fruitfulness and flourishing that is built on the blessings of truth, redemption, and morality. 

Only in Christianity are life’s biggest questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny, answered with consistency and coherence. This makes all the difference in how life ought to be lived. A Christian Worldview is a fundamental and key element in being able to live as we were designed and purposed to. Those plagued by the scourge of poverty can find hope and strength with a paradigm shift that crowns Christ as Lord and King of their lives.

A Good Education

It has been said that everyone receives an education, but few receive a good one. Schooling is becoming an increasingly popular idea on the continent of Africa, although there is still a lot of work to do in promoting its importance and developing the right kinds of curricula that will make a positive and long-lasting impact. 

A good education is one that engages and transforms the holistic faculties of a person’s being: their hearts, minds, and souls. Those who possess it are equipped to fulfill the cultural mandate, to create value and wealth, to be productive and fruitful, to build good relationships with others, to uphold a sense of ethics and morality, to assume responsibility and ownership of private property, and to glorify God in all things.

Strong Families

It is impossible to rightfully address solutions to poverty without speaking of the importance of having strong families in every community. According to the Bible, The Family unit is God’s ministry of health, education, and welfare and the cornerstone of society’s establishment. The family is crucial for the fulfillment of the cultural mandate and an institution that mirrors the relational attributes of God’s being. When strong families are absent or compromised, society inevitably crumbles.

There are several common characteristics that explain why impoverished communities around the world exist, but one that is often overlooked is the problem of fatherlessness. For a variety of reasons, fathers are not present in their homes to provide, protect and improve their families’ physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing. In order to create sustainable development for third-world countries, cultural deficiencies like fatherlessness must be addressed. Without present fathers, strong families can’t exist and without strong families, poverty will persist.

Healthy Churches

Human beings were created to glorify God and live lives of worship for His honor and praise. One of the ways God expects human beings to worship Him is to be a part of a church that gathers together to hear proclamations of the Truth, to remind themselves of God’s goodness and grace, and to respond with adoration and praise. The church is God’s ministry of word and sacrament and is referred to as the bride of Christ. It plays a critical role in society by being the pillar of God’s truth and the outworking of His redemptive covenant and love toward humanity. Without the church, many are left to worship their own idolatrous constructs on their own subjective terms rather than God’s. The absence of the church in society leaves many chained to the slavery of deceit and without a sense of hope and light. 

Ownership of the Means of Production

The cultural mandate is impossible to fulfill without acknowledging the God-given right to take complete ownership of the resources He blesses humanity with. The idea of responsibility cannot be divorced from the idea of ownership. It’s impossible for people to assume responsibility for things that do not rightfully belong to them. It’s also hard to be productive and fruitful without the freedom to own private property.

A significant problem in the developing world is how essential resources like land and precious metals are claimed by the State, tribal chiefs, and multinational corporations. This leaves communities with almost nothing to take ownership of; leaving them at the mercy of those who drive the economy. When people take ownership of natural resources, they are in a better place to create wealth for themselves and their families.

Freedom (Independence)

When most people think of freedom, they rightfully imagine emancipation from the tyranny of another. However, very seldom is a wider perspective considered regarding the enslavement of a warped worldview, the enslavement of victimhood, and the enslavement of perpetual dependence on aid and benefits. In these modern times, dependency appears to have more of a stranglehold on developing countries than anything else. The inhabitants in these nations have bought the pernicious lie that they are incapable of assuming responsibility for their own problems because they are victims of their relatively dire circumstances. This way of thinking excuses laziness and doesn’t encourage innovation and personal development.

In third-world countries, it is a common practice for civil governments to overtax their citizens, limit freedom of speech, openly practice corruption, and violently exterminate any opposition. This type of tyrannical rule is propagated by fear which is used as a weapon by authoritarian states to gain and retain power. It is detrimental to people in need of God-given freedoms that will allow them to flourish.

Attempts to alleviate poverty must be primarily concerned with helping people attain the freedoms they need to restore their dignity and enable their competence. This might mean addressing worldviews that are opposed to fruitfulness, helping people escape a mindset of victimhood, not imposing a perpetual reliance on foreign aid, and enabling people to stand up to the tyranny of civil governments. True freedom can’t be understood apart from God and His Word, and as the Gospel is proclaimed and believed by its hearers, the shackles of sin will dissipate as Christ reigns as Lord and King in the hearts of men.

The solutions to poverty are not a secret and are clearly found in God’s Holy Word. If we care to see poor nations flourish and enjoy God’s blessings, we must be faithful to know God’s Word, proclaim God’s Word, and live in humble obedience to it. True and lasting transformation is possible but only on God’s terms.

Essay by Lennox Kalifungwa

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