At the beginning of the month, Rev. Robert Sirico traveled to El Salvador to speak at ENADE XIII (Encuentro Nacional de la Empresa Privada,). This event is put on every year by the National Association for Private Enterprise of El Salvador and its theme this year was “bettering business, transforming lives.” Rev. Sirico gave the closing presentation at the event and spoke about the effectiveness of businesses in the fight to end poverty.
He said that neither piety nor charity can ultimately end poverty. The best thing that businesses and entrepreneurs can do to break the circle of poverty is to be successful. It is a moral obligation, not a bad thing to be successful in business. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) illustrates this point. What’s more, entrepreneurs are given the same calling that Adam and Eve were given in the Garden of Eden: “be fruitful and multiply.” Labor is something sacred and not simply a means to wealth and riches.
The state has a role in helping the poor, but it is limited. Governments should work to create environments where businesses can thrive and provide opportunities for employment. Profitable private businesses are closely linked to poverty reduction and the overall progress of communities. He asked which is better: a powerful state with a powerful bureaucracy or a competitive and productive private sector that creates employment?
Drawing on another parable, Rev. Sirico explained the Biblical teaching about wealth and poverty with the story of Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell (Luke 16:19-31). Many people wrongly assume that Lazarus was in Heaven because he was poor while the rich man was in hell because of his wealth. Sirico points that that it was the rich man’s pride that kept him out of the kingdom of Heaven while it was Lazarus’ humility that is exalted, not his poverty. One should never assume that the Bible teaches that wealth is something inherently evil.
While it is common to think that prosperity is the norm and poverty is the exception, the contrary is true. Countries do not become wealthy through natural resources, but instead through men and women who transform and utilize these elements through freedom and intelligence. In fact, Rev. Sirico defines wealth as the ability and freedom to transform natural resources with courage and intelligence.
He ended his presentation reminding the audience that generosity should still be a virtue of every entrepreneur.
You can read a Spanish summary of Rev. Sirico’s speech in El Salvador’s National Newspaper, El Diaro de Hoy and in La Prensa Grafica.