When Helping Hurts
- Product Review (submitted on February 26, 2010):
Helping the poor is increasingly becoming a priority for many Christians. When Helping Hurts is a guide on how Christians can assist the poor in a way that leads to long term positive change.
I appreciate that the authors try to provide a solid theological framework for helping the poor. To call a chapter focusing on Jesus help for the poor "Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?" is maybe a little overstated since there are a lot of important aspects of why he came that don't really get covered. Regardless, there is still a lot of good theological content to be found in this chapter and throughout the book.
The authors talk about how incorrectly conducted attempts at helping can hurt not just the people getting helped but the people doing the helping as well. I found this very thought provoking as I hadn't thought a great deal about how our help could hurt the poor and certainly hadn't thought about how it could hurt the helpers by developing superiority or patriarchal complexes.
Especially worth reading is the section where they talk about how the poor understand poverty as this provides important insights into what help is needed. The authors argue that poverty is not just a lack of material goods but has social and spiritual dimensions as well.
After establishing where things have tended to go wrong, the authors lay out how to helpfully assist the poor in both in our own communities and in the developing world. They do a good job of explaining the approaches without slipping too much into international development jargon. Some of the advice about helping the poor in our own communities was a little America specific but people elsewhere should be able to learn from it too. Of particular use to many churches will be the chapter on short term missions trips as huge numbers of these trips take place and huge amounts of money is poured into them.
Whether you are helping people in your local community, planning a mission trip or just giving money, this is a book you'll find valuable. Considering we all should be doing something to help the poor, this is a book all Christians should read.