The Fellows had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Victor V. Claar, professor of economics at Florida Gulf Coast University. Through our learning this week, we were able to step into discussion and further insight on how to see the economy with a Christian mindset. We were taught about not only the economy, but how we can see God’s hand throughout all of it. Claar told us that every time we have a choice to make, it is an economic choice. He reminded us that because of the Cultural Mandate, God has called us to be creative, and to be good stewards of the Earth, growing it and constantly making it better. This call can be done through a good economic system.
Dr. Claar wanted us to see that although there is corruption in the economy today, this is not how God intended it to be. God calls us to help the poor and care for those in need. In Acts 20:35 we can see this laid out for us, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Saying that, how does Fair Trade play into the economy and taking care of the poor?
Fair Trade, according to Dr. Claar, is “a prominent expression of this desire to influence the world through personal economic decisions.” Popular in culture right now, Fair Trade is the purchase of consumer products at a higher cost for the purpose of benefiting those creating the product. People believe that by purchasing coffee from the poor farmers across the world for a higher price than regular coffee they are being “ethical consumers.”
Although the desire is to do good, Claar explained that Fair Trade is not actually benefitting the poor. This is because there is an excess in coffee; “if the fundamental problem with the coffee market is that prices are low because there is too much, then it would appear that the Fair Trade movement may be making matters worse rather than better because it increases the incentives to grow more coffee.” So then, how can we help the poor around the world?
Christians can help those in need in many different ways, but sometimes we should allow the local economy of the coffee countries to help the poor leave their impoverished states. The market within these countries would eventually straighten out most of their problems like China, India, and Africa have. Claar showed us that within the last half-century the countries mentioned above have allowed their economy to work with the locals and this has caused fewer and fewer to be impoverished. As Christians we want to aid the poor in as many ways as possible, in fact we are called to which we can see throughout the Bible. Deuteronomy 15:11 helps us better see this in scripture, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” If fair trade is not the answer than what is and, how can we help? A possibility for Christians is through ministries and organizations, such as, Compassion International, who help the many poor children throughout the world directly. Dr. Victor Claar has taught us so much about how to be effective care takers of those in need around us as Christians today and in the future.
If you would like to read more about Fair Trade and the Economy, you can read Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution by Dr. Victor V. Claar.