Won’t feeding the world’s hungry only fuel the root problem of a growing population?

Is it so obvious that we should feed the world’s hungry?

Many have been saying that aid to countries with high rates of population growth is immoral and foolish. Why? Because preventing death from hunger today will lead to a larger number of births tomorrow. This will in turn lead to even more people starving the day after tomorrow. At the present rate, in about 40 years the world will have twice as many people to feed, house, clothe, and educate—and the rate of growth of many countries is almost twice the world average.

The Christian may feel trapped between what appears to be the logic of this position and the command of God to feed the hungry. He has read that in the day of judgment Christ will even reward him for doing this, saying, “I was hungry and you gave me food …” (see Matt. 25:31–46).

Are we then aggravating the problem by obeying him?

Five Views

The dilemma rests on the assumption that a growing population is the basic cause of world hunger. To gain a perspective on this, let’s look at five positions that differ in their analyses of either its cause or cure.

1. Malthus. Thomas Malthus, an eighteenth-century English economist, is most famous for his Essay on the Principle of Population. He concluded that growth in population will always tend to outrun food supply since it increases “geometrically” (2, 4, 8, 16 …) while food supply increases at best only “arithmetically” (2, 4, 6, 8 …). So “the poor you will always have with you,” their number limited only by scarce resources and the evils of “war, famine, and pestilence.”

What then shall we do about world hunger? Welfare aid to the poor will serve only to increase their number, so Malthus ...

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