When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself

The authors, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, worked very hard to put a compressive guide to poverty in “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” Thank you!helping

It lays out a clear command to help the poor referencing Matthew 25:31–46, 1 John 3:17–18 and Is 58. “In summary, while all Christians have a responsibility to help the poor, there is enormous diversity in the ways that each Christian is to fulfill this biblical mandate.”

When Helping Hurts strikes at the heart of the reasons for generational poverty and how to lead and help them to a better place. It warns against creating dependency. While it does not claim to have a solution for all problems it gives examples and principles that should be heeded.

Steve and Brian recognize the need for relationship as a key to helping the poor. “relationships are the building blocks for all of life.”

They claim it not just a material poverty. They also make a true and important observation of the poor “Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.”

I have found this to be true and isn’t well known “It is strange indeed to place the poor at the center of a strategy for expanding a kingdom, but history indicates that this unconventional strategy has actually been quite successful.”

Since I work amongst the poor and have many friends in that state, I have trouble with the institutional approach to poverty which they seem to primarily adhere to. This is not to say they do not advocate the individual (working with what they have, where they are) to help those around them. But there is an apparent bias to the organizational approach to helping. This again leaves the individual (Christian servant) feeling powerless, instead of empowered.

I think that they make the process unnecessarily complex and were long winded…it was a hard book to finish…drink a lot of coffee! For this I gave it 3 of 5 stars.

1 John 3:17-18 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Corbett, Steve; Fikkert, Brian (2012-04-20). When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (p. 9). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.


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