My church life group recently started a new study on the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. So far, I give it two enthusiastic thumbs way up.
The premise of the book is that poverty around the world can be traced back to four broken relationships: relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. The book then goes on to say that where most people go wrong is to treat poverty solely as a lack of resources with the solution being to give money, food, etc., and treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying ailment.
One of the most convicting parts for me was reading about how in this American middle-class mentality there is an almost subliminal “health and wealth gospel” belief that God rewards faith with prosperity, therefore these people are poor because they are sinful, much like the disciples questioning Jesus about the man born blind and how it must have been either him or his parents who sinned for him to be like that.
There is a sense sometimes where Americans have an implicit “god-complex” about serving the poor, as if I am condescending to serve the poor out of my benevolence from my lofty spiritual position, like the Pharisee who praised God that he was not like those other sinners. Sometimes, I personally need to be more like the tax collector who acknowledged his own sin and deep need for God.
The reality is that both those in need and those in position to meet that need are equally broken, just in different ways. One may have a better coping mechanisms for hiding his brokenness than the other, but they are both equally flawed and both need Jesus.
For me, the biggest revelation is that poverty brings about a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and the solution is to help people see their innate worth as those created, redeemed and loved by God as those who with God’s help don’t have to remain trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.
I suppose at the end of the day, we are all poor in one sense or another. Jesus says that it is blessed to be poor in spirit, realizing that we have nothing in ourselves to offer God but ourselves, for to those belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.
Trust me. The book words all this far better than I have. I recommend it to anyone who has a heart for the poor or the least of these.
PS Here’s a link if you want to buy the book. The cover is different than mine, but the content is the same. I’d go so far as to say this is a must-read for any individuals or organizations who want to work toward alleviating poverty in the most effective manner.