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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 10 comments

Tips for Tuesday

"When Helping Hurts - How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself," is a book that anyone concerned with giving and helping others should read before sending another dime.   

"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." ~ 1 John 3:17-18

Yes, Jesus calls us to give and to serve others, but we must do so responsibly. Each chapter of "When Helping Hurts..." begins with "Initial Thoughts" - questions that encourage you to think of and define your beliefs - and ends with "Reflection Questions" which help to clarify and apply your thinking based on what you've just read.  Many of the questions seem simplistic, but after reading each chapter I realized my thinking changed. For instance, I initially defined poverty as a lack of assets, but those who are poor themselves had a very different definition, regardless of whether they were living here in the U.S. or in other parts of the world.  

We often send money in response to poverty, which is correct in cases of a lack of material resources, such as following a natural disaster. Most of the time, however, a lack of resources is just a symptom of another underlying problem.  Treating the symptoms is not going to help anyone in the long run, and may actually harm them instead.  

It's also helpful when on mission trips, even to the unreached, to remember "we are not bringing Christ to poor communities.  He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them "by His powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3) Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time."

The authors are very honest about mistakes they made in ministry, mistakes that don't appear as such in our western way of thinking.  One of the mistakes mentioned was bringing large quantities of goods in to poverty-stricken areas. While it may seem like the generous thing to do, it can actually flood the market and harm those trying to make a living selling those items.  

While reading this book showed me some mistakes in our ministry to Kenya, it has also shown us what we're doing right, such as providing education and encouraging people to invest in their own future rather than relying on us.  

Regardless of whether you are doing mission work or contributing towards it, I highly recommend reading "When Helping Hurts..." so you can do so responsibly. If you're currently not doing either, reading this book will open your eyes to the true source of poverty and what we are called to do about it.

Lord, we thank you for your generous provision.  Forgive us for those times we confuse our wants with our needs, and when we selfishly hoard your blessings for ourselves rather than using them to bless others as you have blessed us. Thank you for books like this, that open our eyes to the true problem and help us discover practical solutions.


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10 Responses so far.

  1. These are such important issues and must be handled with so much Holy Spirit wisdom. Thanks for sharing this book.


  2. Fantastic read. Yep, yep. I only borrowed it when I read it, but I'd love to own it.

  3. Unknown says:

    I love the teaching that Christ has been in these community all along -- how presumptuous to think that we are "bringing Him" anywhere. Helping people to discover how He has been present...that is so great.

  4. Unknown says:

    Sounds like an amazing book. I would never have thought about the fact that you could be taking money away from a local vendor through the gifts that are given. I tend not to read anything but this is so interesting to me that it just may temp me to pick up a book.

  5. Lisa, we are 'neighbors' at SDG this week....I'm so glad I stopped by. This line really spoke to me,
    "a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time."
    I think that's God's idea for ANY thing He's doing when we enter into it, is to ask, "God, what are you doing here and how do you want me to be a part of it?"
    Great post.

  6. Thank you for sharing your precious thoughts at "Tell Me a Story." Yes, we often give fish when we should instead teach them to fish. - - or plant and harvest and support themselves. I think of our USA welfare system, and it is keeping many in proverty because it is too expensive to work when welfare is free.

  7. Carol says:

    We have three summer Sunday School sessions on this topic at our church. This book (When Helping Hurts) and Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton are recommended reading.

    Thank-you for sharing this.

  8. caryjo says:

    Good thinking, sharing. We live in a challenging present-day world when t comes to finances, in, out and about. World ain't easy, but God IS. All I can count on.

  9. This sounds like a really good book. Thank you for sharing :-)

  10. martha68 says:

    i've heard of this book for quite awhile. this fall we'll be studying it in one of our sunday school classes. i'm very excited. at this new (to us) church (we recently moved) there are already a number of opportunities to help in community projects set up according to this concept, so we don't even have to re-invent the wheel. i like that b/c i'm not really an organizer. i look forward to this fall when we will be finding out where the best fit will be for us to help.

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