Darrow Miller and Friends

What Do Singapore and Apple Have in Common?

  1. Not Every Story is Based in Reality
  2. How Homosexuality Became Normal in the West
  3. How Evolutionists Explain Poverty
  4. Lies Enslave, Truth Transforms
  5. Human Evil, Cosmic Consequences
  6. NURTURING: The Wonder of Being There
  7. Personal God, Personal Creation
  8. The Implications of Moral Freedom
  9. Work, Save, Give: The Protestant Ethic
  10. Three Ways God’s Universe Makes Sense
  11. HOME SCHOOLING: Why It Makes Sense Today
  12. Christianity is True Even If You Don’t Believe It!
  13. Moral God, Moral Universe
  14. What Do Singapore and Apple Have in Common?
  15. God’s Laws, the “Secret” to Life
  16. Time Matters: Present, Past, Future
  17. The Doctrine of the Trinity Matters in Real Life?
  18. Two Fronts in the War of the Century

Singapore in the evening


Bengalis sometimes tell this unflattering story about their Indian Hindu neighbors:no genie is responsible for Singapore success

One day a genie appeared to a farmer in India. The being told the man he would grant him one wish—anything he desired. Overjoyed, the man began to think of great wealth. Then the genie told him, “There is only one condition: Whatever you receive will be given doubly to your neighbor.” Suddenly subdued, the farmer asked the spirit to let him think about it overnight, to which the genie agreed. The next day, the genie returned. The farmer told him, “I have decided on my wish. Put out my right eye.”[i]

In a closed system, trust and love of neighbor are absent. Animism and secularism see the universe as a place of limited resources and opportunities. But biblical theism, which understands “nature” to be the creation of a Person instead a product of impersonal forces, is an open system. Creation can be stewarded; in fact, it was designed for this purpose. Everyone can gain. Wealth can be created by discovering and exploring God’s world. God calls us to steward internal capital—including our minds, our imaginations, and our God-given gifts—along with metaphysical and moral capital. We are also to steward external resources—the land, social capital, physical infrastructure, and all manner of human institutions.

How do we help communities and nations to flourish? One approach is “need-based development” (NBD). Those who practice NBD enter a community, ask people what they need, and then seek to meet the needs by importing outside resources. The unintended consequences? A zero-sum economic model, crippling dependency and greater poverty.

Asset-based development

Another approach is “asset-based development” (ABD). Those who practice ABD enter a community and help its members to discover their internal and external capital. Then they ask, “How can you use the assets you already have to develop your life, family, and community?” ABD is a logical application of the Judeo-Christian worldview, in which human beings bear the image of God and resources are the product of human imagination and innovation. In this model, people are encouraged to create jobs, not simply find them.

Singapore harborSingapore demonstrates the power of ABD. This city-state is situated on an island just forty kilometers long. It has no natural resources to speak of. In fact, it is so resource poor that it needs to buy water from neighboring Malaysia. With over five million people, Singapore has the world’s second-densest population in the world. Conventional wisdom would say that Singapore should be one of the poorest countries in the world—and indeed Singapore was quite poor as recently as 1965. But in fact, in just a half century, Singapore, with virtually no natural resources, has become one of the world’s richest nations. How could it reach such a remarkable state? By the wise development of two assets: (1) a deep-water port near the major Pacific trade routes, and (2) the creative and innovative minds of its people.

People who recognize that the universe is an open system understand that economics is a “positive-sum game.” Resources are the product of human imagination and creativity. Wealth may be created. Think of the wealth and jobs created by Apple.

Apple demonstrates the power of human imagination

Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak founded Apple in April 1976. In April 2012, six months after Jobs died, Apple’s value had reached $600 billion, greater than the GDP of all but about eighteen countries. Further, Apple has created more than 500,000 jobs (directly and indirectly through its partners, supply chain, and service provider) in the United States alone. Where did all this wealth come from? Not from the ground! All this originated in the minds of two men created in God’s image.

The open-system principle establishes limitless opportunities to discover new worlds, expand resources, and create positive-sum societies—where, at least theoretically, everyone has the opportunity to benefit. This stands in sharp contrast to the closed-system story of the universe, in which people are merely a part of nature and cannot intervene in it.

Wisdom-Based Societies

Here are some facts that give us reason to be optimistic about the prospect of human flourishing:

  • Life expectancy. The World Health Organization states that “people everywhere are living longer. . . . Based on global averages, a girl who was born in 2012 can expect to live to around 73 years, and a boy to the age of 68. This is six years longer than the average global life expectancy for a child born in 1990. . . . Low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by 9 years from 1990 to 2012.”
  • According to the United Nations, in 2015 “about 795 million people in the world are undernourished, down 167 million over the last decade, and 216 million less than in 1990–92.” We can be encouraged, but there are still many who need our compassion.
  • Grain production. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports, “Current projections suggest that average daily energy availability could reach 3050 kcal per person by 2050 (2970 kcal in the developing countries), up from 2770 kcal in 2003/05.” While people are still dying of hunger today (although fewer than before), food shortages are regional, not global. At the global level, food production continues to increase.

God’s world, made for His children

God’s first commission to Adam was to “be fruitful . . . fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). It is a tall order, one that includes bringing substantial healing to nature, standing against the decay of our fallen world, and causing deserts and gardens alike to bloom. Ultimately, it will be fulfilled completely when Jesus returns and his faithful stewards are vindicated with him: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. . . . The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19–21).

  • Darrow Miller

[i] Adapted from W. Merrill Long, “Introducing Social Change through Community Health,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly, July 1997, 321.

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