Today, two billions live at a bare subsistence level! The hand- to-mouth existence of the peoples of India, Africa and Latin America is understandable. But why are so many mi ions in Britain and America poverty-stricken? Why such penury in these affluent nations? What is the real cause of this terrible curse? And how will it be eradicated from the earth?London
THERE is a reason for poverty — a cause for every effect. Why do billions live in dire poverty — or near-poverty?
Even in America, the world's richest nation, over 30,000,000 live in want! Why?
Why Poverty in America? America is in the midst of the biggest financial boom in the history of the world. Unemployment is declining. Yet some experts estimate that about 35,000,000 Americans live at the poverty level!
Why should so many be near-destitute in a nation where there are boundless job opportunities?
In the January issue we reported on the worldwide curse of poverty. The poor and indigent can't afford adequate food, decent clothes and are often unable to be properly educated. This breeds further poverty and resultant illiteracy, which spawns new generations of poor illiterates — thus perpetuating the poverty cycle!
We also saw that the Bible clearly reveals it is God's will to bless and prosper those who diligently serve Him! "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health" (III John 2), declares God through the pen of the apostle John.
God solemnly promised to bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with fantastic material wealth and prosperity! Those promises He has faithfully kept. (They are explained in Mr. Armstrong's free booklet, The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy)
Now let us examine the main causes of poverty.
What is the number-one cause of poverty? Ignorance and superstition! Lack of proper education (ignorance) and/or wrong education (superstition) is unquestionably a major cause of worldwide indigence. The countries which are most illiterate are, without exception, the most impoverished.
The overwhelming majority of the peoples of India, Communist China, Africa, Latin America and other areas of the world are poorly educated. The masses of these peoples live in poverty or dire need.
Before they will ever be lifted permanently out of their penury they must first be educated — educated so they can help themselves.
Cause of Poverty in U.S. Most of the earth's developed wealth is possessed by the peoples of Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa.
Yet the U.S. President recently declared that "32,000,000 Americans remain in poverty." "The Great Society" can never be fully established in America as long as such vast numbers live in straitened circumstances.
Of course, this "poverty" is not true poverty — as compared with the grim paupery in India, Africa or Latin America. Most of the 32,000,000 poverty-stricken Americans are able to afford automobiles, own many electrical gadgets and they usually find a way to obtain cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.
Christ said, "For ye have the poor always with you..." (Matt. 26:11).
But why should there be such dire need and squalor in the United States — in a nation literally wallowing in wealth? Why should America's big cities have their terrible slum areas? Why are so many of the "employable" unemployed at a time when job opportunities are so plentiful?
Indolence — outright laziness — is the true explanation for so much poverty in America, Britain and in most of the Western world where the free enterprise (capitalistic) system prevails.
By contrast, many of the peoples of India, Africa, Latin America and other depressed areas are born under such miserable conditions — with such degrading environment — that it is virtually impossible for them to lift themselves out of their wretched illiteracy and pauperism. Most of them are held irretrievably in the vice-grip of ignorance, superstition and resultant destitution and squalor.
But... this is not true in America, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa! In these countries and in most of the Western world, people are usually poor because they, perhaps unknowingly, have chosen to be poor — because they choose a way of life that leads to poverty.
There are plenty of job opportunities. But most poverty-stricken people are not willing to pay the price of success — of prosperity! It is easier to bog down in indolence!
Lincoln Was Poor, But... Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin. But at the time of his death, his residence was the President's mansion, the White House! Lincoln had very poor educational opportunities. But he prepared himself through his own private initiative — studying and working diligently — and he succeeded!
Many of America's millionaires and multi-millionaires made their wealth by sheer diligence — hard work. Many of them grew up in penury and didn't have the educational opportunities of today's poor-class Americans. They did not even have the educational facilities and opportunities of many of today's Negro Americans. Now libraries, inexpensive books and other reading material are readily available to virtually every American.
Negroes, Too, Can Succeed! It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of America's colored people are among the poor Americans. Many live in slums and ghettos in the big U.S. cities.
Many of them could free themselves from the self-imposed prisons of the ghettos — if they really wanted to — if they really tried hard enough!
In the December 5, 1964 issue of The Saturday Evening Post there appeared an interesting article, written by a Negro, entitled "Don't Blame the Ghetto."
Mr. David B. Lee grew up in the Negro ghetto of Harlem. But he studied diligently, worked hard — and escaped from the ghetto. According to Mr. Lee, far too many Negroes have a defeatist attitude.
"Many of these [Negroes] want to place the blame for the Negro's inability to gain full citizenship and social acceptability completely on White America. But the Negro must accept his share of the responsibility. Too many are too anxious to blame the ghetto for everything."
He adds: "The truth is that many Harlem Negroes never think of leaving the ghetto. They never try." He continues, "Many educated Negroes would not consider going into work for their people. They no longer feel that the Negro problem is their problem. Once they've achieved what they want in life, they give little thought to helping others to do the same... [Emphasis mine]. Yes, the ghetto is a prison, but there are no walls, no bars, no fences. It is a prison of the mind." (Emphasis Mr. Lee's)
Mr. Lee continues: "I believe that the most important task before today's Negro is to realize that nothing is impossible if he's willing to work and fight for it."
And there have been a number of Negroes, as well as whites, who have been willing to work hard, to fight the battle against self-intoxicating defeatism to pay the price for success! Among them was Booker T. Washington. Though born in slavery, despite severe hardships, he became a successful leader in U.S. Negro education. He established Tuskegee Institute for practical training of Negroes in trades and professions.
A Great, Noble Negro George Washington Carver was also born in slavery. Yet he became a scientist of undisputed genius. Also, his paintings were prized by museums the world over.
He didn't have great educational-opportunities. Nonetheless, against great odds, he diligently set about educating himself! And he succeeded!
Many times during his lifetime, he met racial prejudice and bigotry. But he was determined not to let these things make him sour or defeat him.
On one occasion, he was accepted by a College in Kansas, only to be turned down when he arrived — because of his color. No man," said he, "can drag me down so low as to make me hate him!"
Carver became famous as a scientist. His thorough knowledge of botany and other branches of science enabled him to become one of the pioneers in the development of plastics, synthetic rubber and other synthetic materials. He is especially noted for his outstanding research on the almost unlimited industrial uses of the lowly peanut.
Again and again he told his students to be diligent. "Learn to do the common things uncommonly well."
Now look at Scripture: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings: he shall not stand before mean men [men of low station or rank)" (Prov. 22:29).
And Mr. Carver's diligence did bring him into contact with many of the great of his age.
His advice and services were sought by presidents and princes the world over. Many well-known men — including Henry Ford — tried in vain to hire him. Thomas Edison offered him a minimum salary of $100,000 a year if he would accept employment with his company.
But Mr. Carver's heart was with his people. He wanted to continue his teachings at the Tuskegee Institute, at Tuskegee, Alabama.
"Carver was a friend of presidents and in the last years of his life kings and princes journeyed to see him" (Reader's Digest, July, 1965). He corresponded with Mahatma Gandhi, and was a close friend of Henry Ford, the Crown Prince of Sweden and others.
Disabled Can Support Themselves! Some people use ill-health or physical disability as an excuse to live on charity. True, some are in such ill-health, or are so disabled as to be unable to earn their own living.
The vast majority, however, could earn their own living — if they really tried hard enough! And they would be much more independent and much happier if they did.
I have heard of a woman who was paralyzed from her neck down. She didn't moan and groan or complain — didn't take a defeatist attitude and give up! By holding a pencil between her teeth she was able to dial telephone numbers and build up a prosperous real estate business.
Another fine example of diligent work and courage is that of Helen Keller — who lost both hearing and sight when only 19 months old. She didn't give up. Because of her determination, she became a well-known author and lecturer, and led a full, successful life.
One of Britain's war heroes, Group Captain Douglas Bader, didn't give up simply because both his legs were amputated. He was determined to walk again even with his artificial limbs! And walk he did!
Wishbone or Backbone? Outright laziness (not ignorance) is another primary cause of poverty. But any lazy man can give a thousand excuses or hard-luck stories about why he is unemployed — why he shouldn't work. "The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason" (Prov. 26:16).
The sluggard is commanded to "Go to the ant" and "consider her ways" in order to become "wise" (Prov. 6:6-11). The ant works hard in the summer, laying up plenty of food for the hard, cold winter days ahead.
God Almighty declares: "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule; but the slothful [the lazy] shall be under tribute" (Prov. 12:24).
Many people use the slightest little excuse to flop down on the bed or couch; they cannot distinguish between true tiredness and just plain laziness. We're told, "Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Prov. 19:15).
The sluggard does not want to plow his fields in the cold weather, in preparation for seeding and harvest. "Therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing" (Prov. 20:4).
Lazy, shiftless, ne'er-do-wells are forever wishing they had more material things — a new home, a new car, new clothes, money in the bank — like others they know of! But they're not willing to work hard. "The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor. He coveteth greedily all the daylong" (Prov. 21:25, 26). He has a huge wishbone, but no backbone! We are commanded, "Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread" (Prov. 20:13). Yes, "drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags" (Prov. 23:21).
Wise King Solomon has said: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down" (Prov. 24:30, 31).
Then Solomon said he considered all this — he looked upon it and learned a lesson — he understood why the fields were all grown over with nettles and why the fences were broken down. "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth; and thy want as an armed man" (verses 33, 34).
Yes, the man who's too lazy to get out of bed in the morning and get cracking is going to encounter poverty. He who shuts the alarm off, turns over and goes back to sleep — is a sluggard! He's lazy! He'll never succeed that way.
King Solomon also showed that, "By much slothfulness the building decays; and through idleness of the hands the house drops through" (Eccl. 10:18). Many a ramshackle house bears mute testimony to the indolence of its occupants.
While traveling through the slum districts of the big cities of the world, and through certain rural areas, I have observed run-down homes, overgrown fields and broken-down fences — commonly the result of indolence, slothfulness or downright laziness!
God Almighty never intended human beings to let the State do everything for them. Too many are all too eager to let the Federal, State or Local Government make all their decisions for them — letting the government care for them from the cradle to the grave.
Any government which foolishly starts a hand-out or give-away policy which encourages idleness and outright indolence is going to have to learn, the hard way, the utter folly of such a policy!
Gifts should be like the priming of a pump. This pump-priming type of charity is quite all right. It is good for all of us to help those who are in genuine need. But it is reckless to give assistance to people who do not deserve it and will not use it wisely. It is a tragedy to sow the seeds of indolence by doling out money to those who just sit and wait for more.
All charity, gifts or assistance should be given in such a way as to help the parties to whom it is going — not to push them further into indolence!
(To be continued next month)