When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

When I heard about this book from a review by a friend I thought it would be a great resource to have. I was right. This book is a great tool on how to properly use aid when dealing with the poor. The solution is not to throw money at the problem but rather find out what is causing the poverty.

Corbett and Fikkert do an excellent job of giving their foundation for helping the hurting: Jesus. Jesus came to earth and helped the hurting. By His example we should do the same. However, there is a way to do so without making this worse than before.

The first thing is find out what type of poverty it is. Is it poverty by tragedy (hurricane, tsunami, medical reasons), economic environment (low income job, high cost of living) or lack of initiative? What the authors have done is show that each situation is not the same. It is the proverbial feed a man to fish, but make sure that there is a river in which to fish.

What was addressed, that never dawned on me, was the mental and psychological battering that the poor are assaulted with that a middle income earner does not face. Thoughts of worthlessness, stupidity, hopelessness, and others plague the poor. These items must be addressed but the solution is not always to give financial aid. What then is the proper response? That depends on the cause.

Sometimes the proper response is to give money but that such situations needs to be examined carefully. It may only be a one time need (i.e. car trouble, damages because of natural disasters, etc) and such needs may be solved by money. However, what about the situations like poor education, loss of a job,  etc.? Giving money will not fix these problems but it is often used because it is one of the easiest.

This gets to the heart of the book: overcoming poverty requires a long term approach. It demands time, energy, relationships, and perseverance. It requires getting to know the people who make up the poor, understanding their fears, dreams, thoughts, and worldviews. This is how to help without hurting: empowerment.

This is a great book and should be on the shelf of anyone involved in ministering to those in impoverished environments. I highly recommend that every pastor, homeless shelter director, and missions organization get a copy. In fact, get more than one so you can lend out a copy or two. It will be well worth it.


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