BOOK: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself) by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
RECOMMENDED BY: Lydia (Admin Assistant @Kids Matter)
This book was critical in my understanding that good intentions (wanting to help others) do not always lead to good outcomes (others actually being helped). Further to explaining the possible consequences of unqualified and uneducated ‘help’, the book offers ways for us to practically think about how to love others in a really honouring and effective way.
The world is in need – physically, mentally and spiritually. Poverty, sickness, starvation, depression and pain exist in communities across the globe; on our doorsteps if we care to look. So what are we to do? We know, that if we are part of God’s church, it must be something. Jesus loved the poor and God asked us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute; to judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 8-9). When Helping Hurts offers insight into how we can fulfill this biblical mandate, respectfully and in an impactful way.
The thinking that is the heart of Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s advice to the church when it comes to meeting the need, specifically helping the poor, is that people need to be empowered to help themselves. This is done by encouraging those living in poverty to participate in the improvement of their own life. When Helping Hurts urges involving the poor in the process from day one and using their talents to create lasting change – as noted by Judy VanDyke, Beyond the Walls, director for Good Samaritan Ministries.
The reason that the mere provision of material things as a way to alleviate poverty doesn’t work, is because poverty isn’t just a lack of material things but also a lack of what makes a person human. Pride. Self-esteem. Courage. Happiness. These are things that money can’t buy and that money cannot give you. Corbett and Fikkert describe poverty alleviation is described as, “…the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation”. To help rather than hurt in the fight against poverty, the church is thus challenged to look not just the surface but on the inside as well. Including people in the journey out of poverty is a practical outworking of love for those for whom the church intercedes.
In a real sense, they are writing to the church and for the church; they want to see local churches carry out the commands of Christ in ways that are gracious to the poor, good for God’s people, and glorifying to God’s name.
The method of help proposed in When Helping Hurts requires time invested; ‘quick fix’ projects are not going to work because when a person or family is hurting because someone has died, a government is collapsing, the foodbank nearby has closed down or a parent has not got out of bed for a week because their mental health is suffering – sure, they will need food, and money, but they will need emotional support, too. Like any other person. They will need a good person, a smart person, in a position of power to move in the right direction. They will need someone who cares beyond the immediate.
Amy L. Sherman, PHD (Senior Fellow and Director, Sagamore Institute Center on Faith in Communities; author of Restorers of Hope) says of the book:
For over fifteen years I’ve worked alongside other Christians in efforts to effectively address poverty at home and abroad. I can honestly report that When Helping Hurts is the single best book I’ve seen on this topic. While accessible to beginners, it is rich with insight for veterans, too. With solid biblical exegesis, engaging stories from the front lines, and practical, no-nonsense advice, Corbett and Fikkert offer essential wisdom desperately needed in today’s church. The book will make many readers uncomfortable: it reveals the unhealthy and frankly unbiblical ways congregations have undertaken to help the poor in their local communities and abroad through short-term missions. But it quickly offers hope in the form of understandable, feasible new strategies that better grasp the dignity and promise of the materially poor. This book deserves a #1 spot on the reading list of every Christian who wants to follow Jesus in genuine, mutually transforming love of neighbor.
To be challenged, inspired and galvanised to action, get a hold of When Helping Hurts on Amazon.