Perspective is an interesting thing. Many people seem to feel that the world is becoming a worse place by the day. Certainly the things that divide Americans seem more pronounced than they did a decade or two ago. And it's pretty easy to look around the world and see massive problems today that weren't on most peoples' radar 20 years ago.

But in many respects, the world is a dramatically better place today than it has been for much of history. Take the following chart, which shows the massive escape from extreme poverty for much of the world's population in recent decades.

That's incredible! Most of this data comes from the World Bank, which defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day. And as this similar chart shows, much of this progress has been recent. As recently as 1981, roughly 44% of the world's population — nearly half! — lived on the equivalent of that meager amount. Today, within the span of a single generation, it's down to less than 1 in 10.

Obviously "graduating" off this chart to living on $2–$3 per day still isn't awesome, but it's progress. No one is arguing there isn't much more to be done. But we'll take good news where we can find it, and this certainly qualifies.

As Christians, this should be both cause for celebration and a reminder of the plight of the world's poor. God consistently identified Himself with the widows, orphans, aliens, and poor in Scripture, and became angry when His people didn't treat those vulnerable people appropriately. Clearly, they're important to Him — which should make them important to us.