When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor… And Yourself
By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
[From the Back Cover]
Good Intentions Are Not Enough
Unleashing and equipping people to effectively help the poor requires repentance and the realization of our own brokenness. When Helping Hurts articulates a biblically based framework concerning the root causes of poverty and its alleviation.
A path forward is found, not through providing resources to the poor, but by walking with them in humble relationships.
Whether you’re involved in short-term missions or the long-term empowerment of the poor, this book helps teach you three key areas:
- Foundational Concepts – Who are the poor?·
- Principles – Should we do relief, rehabilitation, or development?·
- Strategies – How can we help people effectively here and abroad?
[Buy it on Amazon]
On Sunday we began to explore what it means for us to care for the poor. The next couple of weeks our series will be entitled “Remember the Poor”. The title is taken from Galatians 2:10 where Peter, James, and John encourage Paul to remember the poor throughout his ministry to the Gentiles. This was a significant moment in the development of the church because the predominantly Jewish church – led by Peter, James, and John – had just affirmed the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles. And, having affirmed his gospel, one of the primary expressions of that gospel would be that he would remember the poor. We took this as highly instructive for us as God’s people. Having ensured the clarity of the gospel, it is incumbent upon us to express that good news by sharing with the poor. How could those who have been rescued from spiritual poverty fail to show love to those in material poverty?
We looked at the concept of remembering the poor under three questions: Why help the poor? What does it mean to be poor? And, how can we help the poor. In answer to the first question we saw that the primary reason for us to help the poor is to reflect God our Savior and King. We were made to image God – to know Him and make Him known. We spent a lot of time showing God’s concern for the poor from both the Old and New Testaments. The conclusion was unavoidable: if we are to live up to our calling as the people of God, then we must care for those who are in need. In fact, we noted that God so identified with the poor that He Himself left heaven and became a man – a poor man. Born in a stable, raised in poverty (his parents only offered a pigeon at his circumcision), had no place to lay his head, and when He died the only possession he had (garments) were taken from Him. He did all this in order to bring us blessing and true riches. Truly God remembers the poor and identifies with them!
Secondly, we learned from the creation account that God created us to be whole and prosperous (shalom) in four categories: relationship to God (primary), relationship to self, relationship to others, and finally relationship to nature. Sin corrupted each of these categories and brings about poverty of some kind. We are all poor in relation to God because of sin, and all the other categories are affected in one way or another by sin. So, when we look at helping those who are poor we need to be comprehensive in our approach. For example, the church at Laodicea was rich materially, but Christ evaluated them as poor spiritually. We can also be poor in relation to others: loneliness or strife. Finally, we can be poor in self-understanding as well. The fullness of these categories do not absolve us from reaching out to the materially poor, but they do influence and shape the way we should think about what it means to be poor.
Finally, we tried to answer the question: how can we help the poor? We mentioned four ideas. Based on question two we quickly realized that helping the poor is not simply throwing money at them! It involves relationship, support, and most importantly a full-orbed gospel. As Jesus identified with the poor, so we need to see ourselves as one of them too. We also learned that we must not be blind to our own presuppositions as to why people are poor. Instead, we ought to humbly listen to them and seek to understand their plight. Poverty is rarely caused by one issue. Thirdly, we saw that there is a priority of helping those in Christ first. This may seem ‘selfish’ on the surface, but it is not. We need to serve those in Christ first in order to be the kind of community that attracts outsiders. If we did not care for our own how could we have any credibility to those outside of Christ. Finally, we saw that unless we are deeply rooted in the gospel of Christ our efforts to the poor will wane and/or we will become proud. To help them we must be saturated in this story: “Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
1) How can we discern the ways Christianity fits our cultural paradigm from the ways it doesn’t?
2) Mike identified the natural desire to help the poor as being a witness that we have been made in the image of God. What are some other “natural” tendencies that show we were, in fact, made in God’s image?
3) How should we be remembering the poor who live in other nations, some more destitute than ours?
4) Is it enough for us to make financial contributions for the care of the poor? Or do we need to get personally involved with them as well?
5) In our materialistic, consumeristic society, what are some ways we inadvertently oppress the poor?
6) What are some social, societal, cultural boundaries we can cross locally in our mission to the poor?