This is the latest Culture Watch article by yours truly.
“Is Africa cursed?” This startling question was put to Dr. Wayne Grudem by a Nigerian couple who wanted to better understand the reason for the seemingly perpetual poverty and economic malaise that Africa finds itself in. (1) Sadly the recent, tragic events in Marikana have again highlighted the socio-economic problems in our own land. According to the Gini Index South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world with a Gini Index of 63.6%. (2)
So what is it that causes one nation to prosper and another to continue in poverty? Very simply it is the degree to which a country implements and abides by biblical principles. This does not mean that a ‘non-Christian’ country cannot prosper. One only has to look at countries like Japan and Germany to see this. However, these countries prosper because of the biblical principles that are at work, whether they acknowledge them or not. This is God’s world and He has ordained the principles that will bring success and prosperity. (cf. the whole book of Proverbs)
According to William Gumede the Honorary Associate Professor of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand:
South Africa does not have a system based on meritocracy, which rewards hard work and excellence. As a result, a small black elite, from the ranks of the ANC and its trade union ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), has become fabulously rich through shares in long-established white companies, winning government contracts and holding top posts in the public sector – all under the guise of black economic empowerment. (3)
Professor Gumede’s statement about meritocracy gets at one of the basic requirements for prosperity in any society and that is individual responsibility. Any society that moves away from the truth of individual responsibility is heading for sustained poverty. When people are no longer punished for their crimes but are rather seen as victims or when someone who does succeed is seen as ‘lucky’ then that society is no longer operating within biblical parameters. Throughout Scripture we see that God holds people accountable for their actions. Consider this passage from Ezekiel:
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)
For South Africa or any country to prosper people need to begin to take responsibility for their actions. This brings us to our next point, the role of government.
Government is a gift from God! Paul writes that Rulers are God’s servants who bear the sword in order to punish wrongdoers (cf. Romans 13:1-7). The government is meant to punish wrongdoing wherever it is found. They are to hold individuals responsible for their actions. They are also to be free from bribery and corruption (Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 16:19). Sadly as Sir Fred Catherwood writes, “Corruption almost always starts from the top.” (4)
All people and especially Christians should vigorously oppose bribery and injustice in the spheres in which God has placed them. Christians should be light and salt, exposing corruption and acting as preservatives against the natural tendency towards moral decay (Matt. 5:13-16).
History has shown that the rise of the Protestant work ethic which flowed from the Reformation was directly responsible for the prosperity of the West. As people began to see that all work, no matter how menial (Jesus Christ worked with His hands as a carpenter!), was sacred and should be done to the glory of God so they began to work diligently and with integrity.
May God be merciful to us and use the preaching and practicing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring about a true reformation that impacts Africa and brings her out of grinding poverty and insidious corruption.
Soli Deo Gloria
1) From a very informative lecture series by Dr. Wayne Grudem entitled 50 Factors Within Nations that Lead to Sustained Economic Growth or Continual Poverty. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/za/itunes-u/50-factors-within-nations/id378880087
2) The Gini Index is the standard economic measure of income inequality varying between 0% (perfect equality) and 100% (perfect inequality). An Hodgson, “South Africa – The Most Unequal Income Distribution in the World,” accessed 5 September 2012; available here http://blog.euromonitor.com/2012/06/south-africa-the-most-unequal-income-distribution-in-the-world.html
3) William Gumede, “Viewpoint: Will South Africans’ Anger Boil Over?” Accessed 5 September 2012; available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19355104
4) Fred Catherwood, Light, Salt and the World of Business (Singapore: Excel Print Media, 2007), 13.