When Helping Hurts: Chapter 3

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All quotes from “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

“Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again.”

“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation:  moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self,  with others, and with the rest of creation.”

“Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.”

“First, material poverty alleviation involves more than ensuring that people have sufficient material things; rather, it involves the much harder task of empowering people to earn sufficient material things through their own labor, for in so doing we move people closer to being what God created them to be.”

“How we work and for whom we work really matters.”

“Poverty alleviation occurs when the power of Christ’s resurrection reconciles our key relationships through the transformation of both individual lives and local, national, and international systems.”

“This implies that the local church, as an institution, has a key role to play in poverty alleviation, because the gospel has been committed by God to the church.”

When Helping Hurts- Chapter 2-Notable Quotes

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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.”

When Helping Hurts- Chapter 1

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When Helping Hurts- Notable Quotes: Chapter 1 by Steve Corbett/Brian Fikkert

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4: 18-19

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and 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: 9-10

Why was Israel sent into captivity?  Many of us have a picture in our minds of the Israelites getting out of bed every morning and running off to the nearest shrine to worship idols.  Indeed, numerous passages in the Old Testament indicate that idolatry was a problem in Israel.  But these passages give a broader picture.  Here [Isaiah 58:1-3, 5-10] Israel appears to be characterized by personal piety and the outward expressions of formal religion:  worshiping, offering sacrifices, celebrating religious holidays, fasting, and praying.  Translate this into the modern era, and we might say these folks were faithfully going to church each Sunday, attending midweek prayer meeting, going on the annual church retreat, and singing contemporary praise music.  But God was disgusted with them, going so far as to call them ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’!

Personal piety and formal worship are essential to the Christian life, but they must lead to lives that ‘act justly and love mercy’ (Mic. 6:8)

Referring to Acts 4:34 “there were no needy persons among them”:

Luke is indicating [in Acts 4] that while Israel had failed to care for the poor and was sent into captivity, God’s people have been restored and are now embodying King Jesus and His kingdom, a kingdom in which there is no poverty  (Rev. 21:1-4).  Indeed, throughout the New Testament, care of the poor is a vital concern of the church (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 6:1-7; Gal. 2:1-10; 6:10; James 1:27).  Perhaps no passage states it more succinctly than 1 John 3:16-18:  ‘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.’

What is the task of the church?  We are to embody Jesus Christ by doing what He did and what He continues to do through us:  declare–using both words and deeds–that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords who is bringing in a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.  And the church needs to do this where Jesus did it, among the blind, the lame, the sick and outcast, and the poor.

God has sovereignly chosen to work in the world beginning with the weak who are on the ‘outside’, not the powerful who are on the ‘inside.’

…the early church’s engagement with suffering people was crucial to its explosive growth.