When Helping Hurts- Chapter 2-Notable Quotes


All Quotes from “When Helping Hurts” Chapter 2 by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

“…while there is a material dimension to poverty…there is also a loss of meaning, purpose, and hope that plays a major role in poverty in North America.  The problem goes well beyond the material dimension, so the solutions must go beyond the material as well.”

“If we treat only the symptoms [of poverty] or if we misdiagnose the underlying problem, we will not improve their situation, and we might actually make their lives worse.  And as we shall see later, we might hurt ourselves in the process.”

  • If we believe the primary cause of poverty is a lack of knowledge, then we will primarily try to educate the poor
  • If we believe the primary cause of poverty is oppression by powerful people, then we will primarily try to work for social justice
  • If we believe the primary cause of poverty is the personal sins of the poor, then we will primarily try to evangelize and disciple the poor
  • If we believe the primary cause of poverty is a lack of material resources, then we will primarily try to give material resources to the poor

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)  ‘Spending yourself’ often involves more than giving a handout to a poor person, a handout that may very well do more harm than good.  A sound diagnosis is absolutely critical for helping poor people without hurting them.

“God established four foundational relationships for each person:  a relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.  These relationships are the building blocks for all of life.  When they are functioning properly, humans experience the fullness of life that God intended, because we are being what God created us to be.  In particular for our purposes, when these relationships are functioning properly, people are able to fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.”

“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable.  Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”

“…every human being is suffering from a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community, and a poverty of stewardship.”

“We are all broken, just in different ways.”

“By showing low-income people through our words, our actions, and most importantly our ears that they are people with unique gifts and abilities, we can be part of helping them to recover their sense of dignity, even as we recover from our sense of pride.”


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