Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When Helping Hurts

By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

I read this book recently.

It wrecked me.

I was expecting to read about failed programs of poverty alleviation and successful models for doing it right.

I did.

But, more importantly, I read about my own poverty, my own mistakes, and my own false assumptions.

It was a very humbling read. In fact, by the time I got to Chapter 4, I put it down for over a month – because I didn't want to read it.  You might say I put my hands over my ears, shut my eyes, and shouted, "…na…na…I can't hear you!" 

Very mature of me, I know.

Well, eventually, I did pick it back up and finish it.   I'm slightly more self-disciplined about spiritual growth than weight loss.  But I digress.

Each chapter begins with some questions to get your juices flowing. It is designed and works best if you write down your answers to the pre-chapter questions before you read the chapter, so you can refer back to them at the end of the chapter. By doing this, you force yourself to actually think about the way you think about poverty.

At the end of each chapter, there are more questions to help you sift through and apply what you just read. Again, write down your answers so you can nail down your thinking. These questions are excellent for small group discussion. I would have appreciated thoughts from multiple points of view as I digested the material in this book.  In fact, I'm seriously considering leading a small group through a study of this.

Even though When Helping Hurts was painful to read, I highly recommend this as a must-read to the following people:

  • Anyone who sincerely cares about helping the poor, oppressed, needy, weak others
  • Anyone going on a short-term mission trip
  • Anyone considering long-term missions
  • Anyone who calls themselves Christian
  • Anyone who is thinking about helping anybody with anything :-)

Will you take the challenge?

Blessings to you,


GB's Mom said...

In for a nickel, in for a dime. Yes, I will take this challenge, too.

Anonymous said...

Having read this book, and pretty carefully, I think it does more harm than good. His example of the witch doctor, for example, and his fear that he hurt the local ministry in doing what he did.

Had he walked away and let the witch doctor die, that would have harmed the local ministry too.

And, unfortunately, many people in the United States are using this book as an excuse to do nothing for those who are in desperate need.

That's not to say that he doesn't make some good points. And I've often said that handouts tend to hurt people.

Yet, here we have a conundrum: the activities of a few have caused many people to be out of work in America, have caused many people to be homeless, and they truly have no options available to them. Disabled, blind, deaf, sick half the year -- they will never find work. Books like this tell people that they, themselves, are not responsible for what they've done to other people; that those other people should be responsible for pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. "Change."

So, I truly think this book has injured the Christian Faith.

In addition, one word that came to mind while I was reading the book was, "Sophistry." Using logic and reason to make the commandments of God of no effect. "It is Corban," said the Pharisees. "I've already given to the temple the money my elderly parents need to survive."

Same thing. Bad.