Recent Christian Interpretations of Material Poverty and Inequality in the Developed World

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Assisting the poor is an important requirement of Christian belief and action. To do so, the poor need to be identified, a task that is probably easier in developing nations than in developed ones. Malnutrition, starvation, and proneness to disease are obvious signs of poverty in the developing world, but these qualities are less prevalent and are manifested less in the developed world. Disagreement has recently arisen among Christians about who the poor are in developed nations. Some Christians argue that material poverty and inequality are no longer problems because of the high degree of affluence in the West. Biblical notions of material poverty are taken to be inapplicable to the developed world. In this article, Clive Beed and Cara Beed contest these views, arguing that a biblical understanding of material poverty and extreme inequality and how to grapple with them are relevant to the developed world, that poverty still exists in these countries, and that mitigating extreme inequality is a biblical proposition producing beneficial outcomes. Clive Beed is retired from the Department of Economics at the University of Melbourne, and Cara Beed is retired from the Department of Social Science at the Australian Catholic University.

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