Why development?

Recently, someone close to me told me that they’ve found a lot of scripture to support caring for the poor but nothing really says we need to focus on development work. My answer was something similar to:

  1. Caring for the poor should not be taken out of context from the rest of the Bible. We are still called to disciple, to teach, and to empower regardless of a person’s materially wealth. Thus, we should care for the poor in a way that honors the rest of scripture. That means we should value everyone as stewards of resources, not helpless victims.
  2. Development works better than relief in truly serving the materially poor. God gave us brains to come up with good strategies for dealing with things and we should implement those strategies when they work.
  3. Jesus treated the material poor with dignity and when we don’t we aren’t honoring them as God’s children, equal to us.
  4. A sign of a true disciple is someone who gives and helps others. If we aren’t careful, we could be robbing a local of the joy that comes from giving and serving. Short-term mission trips are especially guilty of this.
  5. There’s clear support for caring for the poor throughout scripture. When we use our brains and take the entirety of the Gospel into consideration, it’s clear that development is the best way to truly care for the poor.
  6. Does God hand us everything we want or does he provide us opportunities to grow and fail and succeed and struggle and celebrate? Why should we take those opportunities away from other people?
  7. God’s overarching purpose is not that no one goes hungry but that everyone is redeemed and given the opportunities to be what they were originally created to be. Relief work only does part of that, development is all about that redemption process.
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