Ben Affleck is living on $1.50 a day next week. The actor and director has joined 20,000 other volunteers for "Live Below the Line." The campaign, which runs April 29 to May 3, is intended to raise awareness for the 1.4 billion people around the world who live below the line of extreme poverty. Participants agree to live on $1.50 of food a day for five days. The website gives ways to do this, encouraging people to work as a team. Those who join the effort also make donations to one of ten international humanitarian initiatives to fight world hunger.
Can such a commitment actually change global poverty? An organization called "Live58" claims that "the end of extreme poverty is possible in our lifetime." They have produced a video that offers both troubling facts and remarkable hope.
First, the bad news: 164,000 children died of measles in a single year; 881,000 people were killed by malaria. Extreme poverty is responsible for these deaths, as $5 will buy a measles vaccine or mosquito net. Poverty is the difference between an earthquake in Los Angeles that killed 63 people and an earthquake of similar magnitude in Haiti that killed 220,000 people.
Now the good news. In the last 10 years, the number of children dying of measles has dropped by 78 percent. In six years, 22 countries have cut their malaria rate in half. In recent years, the number of children dying of preventable causes has dropped from 40,000 to 21,000 a day. In 1981, 52 percent of the world's 4.5 billion people lived in extreme poverty. Today that number has been cut in half, to 26 percent.
According to "Live58," there are 138,000,000 Christians in America who attend church regularly and say their faith is very important to them; collectively, they earn $2.5 trillion. America's Christians would be the seventh-richest country in the world. God has given us amazing wealth and influence. The question is, what should we do with it? Here's what God says: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Have you asked your Father how he wants you to share his compassion with his impoverished children today? To learn more about God's word on this issue, I invite you to read my essay, "Why you should care about the poor." "Live Below the Line" and "Live58" are two great ways to respond.
In our comments section, please tell us how you or someone you know is working to end poverty. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted: "Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God."
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009 and is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.
Publication date: April 26, 2013