In “The Shift from ‘Alleviating Poverty’ to ‘Creating Prosperity,’” Michael Matheson Miller rethinks the Christian response to poverty in the developing world, suggesting that material generosity may be the wrong approach to alleviating the problem. When people in the developing world are seen as the “subjects, not objects, of charity,” they become the architects of their own development. Miller challenges Christians with a heart for the poor to support a framework of justice that enables the impoverished to create long-term, sustainable prosperity for themselves.
We see poverty in the developing world and we ask—what can I do? So we send food, water, clothes. We sponsor children, build wells, start schools and go on mission trips; we wear wristbands, we sign petitions, we advocate. But what if the question that animates our activity is the wrong one?
What if instead of asking how we can alleviate poverty, we asked, “How do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and their communities?” This sounds like a simple shift, but it can transform the way we think about poverty and the poorest among us because it takes the focus off ourselves and puts it where it belongs. People in need are not objects of our charity, they are subjects, and should be seen as the protagonists of their own development. Changing the question helps lead to an inter-subjective relationship.