Aiding the Poor Through Spending

Article / Produced by TOW Project
We are to use our wealth for the aid of those in poverty

It may seem odd to suggest that spending is potentially a way to aid those in poverty. We often associate spending with excessive consumption. Many Christians hold a frugality mentality that regards spending as vaguely ungodly. This may be true if spending means not buying things we don’t need. But it often comes out instead as a desire to buy things cheaply, whether we need them or not. Somehow getting a bargain assuages our misgivings about buying things. But the result may be that we contribute to the pricing pressures that lead manufacturers to pay workers too little to support themselves and their families.

In some cases, spending more for the items we consume may improve the lives of those who make and sell them. In the present global economy, many workers are paid too little to provide for their daily needs. Meanwhile, those who purchase the goods and services they provide could easily afford to pay a higher price for the items. If there were a way for consumers to pay more—and for that increase to go to the workers who need it—spending could actually help aid poor people.

Over the past few decades, a whole movement has grown in the developed world to seek to pay fair prices for products made in the developing world. “Fair trade” looks to compensate small coffee, cocoa, cotton growers, craft makers, and other small industries, equitably for their work.

Spending money is also commended in the Bible when the money is spent in generosity to others. God commends spending lavishly on a dinner party for your neighbors, provided you are not looking for anything in return (Luke 14:12-14). It is only lavish spending on your own pleasures that the Bible forbids (James 4:3). So if our question is, “what should I do with the money I have?” then “spend lavishly on wonderful things for others when you expect nothing in return,” would be a good answer. However, this moves beyond the present topic of spending to aid the poor, so we will end this discussion here.