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When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself Paperback – June 24, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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About the Author

STEVE CORBETT is the Community Development Specialist for the Chalmers Center for Economic Development and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. Previously, Steve worked for Food for the Hungry International as the Regional Director for Central And South America and as Director of Staff Training. Steve has a B.A. from covenant College and a M.Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia.

DR. BRIAN FIKKERT is a Professor of Economics and the founder and Executive Director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. Dr. Fikkert earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University, specializing in international economics and economic development. He has been a consultant to the World Bank and is the author of numerous articles in both academic and popular journals. Prior to coming to Covenant College, he was a professor at the University of Maryland--College Park and a research fellow at the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (June 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802457053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802457059
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When Helping Hurts is a compelling book that will be a significant help to the Church for years to come. The first chapter alone is worth the cost of the book and ought to be read by every church leader in every ministry category. This is not just a book for the missions committee (although it ought to be required for everyone involved in missions) or the Outreach Director, or the pastor. I think every Christian in America would benefit. Most evangelicals would be rattled.

There are several benefits from this book. Since most people read book reviews to try and determine whether they want to buy and read the book, let me mention those benefits.
It doesn't just pick on the Church or her leaders. This book is personal; it will pick on you. It was deeply convicting to me as I read it. I realized that as many times as I have been moved by stories about the fatherless and the widow, the poor and the sick, I am not purposefully living for my life, and leading that of my family, to intersect with these members of society. I have forsaken the needy by my enslavement to convenience and stuff. My house is conveniently situated away from poverty. I hardly see the needy. And then there is my busyness. All my important tasks that keep me far away spending myself on "behalf of the hungry" (Is. 58:10) are often where I find my own significance and worth. I am convicted that although I hold to the position that all humans are created in the image of God, I don't live as such. And I realize that I do have a god-complex (although every time I read that phrase in the book, my first reaction was, "No I don.....okay, I do. I do.").

The authors are not writing from lofty chairs in academia. They pen their own confessions.
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Format: Paperback
As the pastor of a rural church in the heart of Appalachia, I am confronted with the harsh realities of material poverty on a daily basis. Generational poverty is not a pretty sight, but neither is the attempt of many to alleviate that poverty. Most people are emotionally moved by images of poverty. Then, after the initial emotional response, the question becomes how can the materially poor best be helped? Unfortunately, most attempts at helping are futile at best and can even be destructive. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert do a very good job of addressing that question in their book, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Ourselves.

This book is far from a typical, tired, social gospel guilt trip. The authors begin by building a theologically sound foundation by defining the true nature and mission of Jesus, His church and the Gospel. It is only out of that correct understanding of the Gospel that truly beneficial social ministry can occur. From there, they lay out their case that much of what is done in the name of Christian charity is not beneficial. They do not shy from their belief that, "when North American Christians do attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor." They further state that their concern, "is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve."

The authors did not just take the opportunity of this book to rant against what they see as wrong. In addition to accurately depicting what is wrong, they do an outstanding job of pointing out a better way.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thank you, Brian and Steve, for this tremendous book. So often we miss the unintended consequences of our wonderful intentions. For anyone who has been on a mission trip, plans on going on a mission trip, or is thinking about supporting missions, please pick up a copy of this book. Its thorough analysis and helpful guide to thinking through long-term issues will dramatically refine your understanding of the world and of missions.

Chris Horst
HOPE International
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Format: Paperback
Good but not great is how I would describe the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself. I would argue that Christians can and should learn from the insightful way that these authors look at poverty and its alleviation. I would also say, however, that the book can grow tedious and the ideas do not appear to be transferable to all contexts.

What I Liked

The authors of this book have a clear love for the poor, but not the sort of adopt-a-stray-puppy love that many wealthy folks have toward those less fortunate. The truth is, sometimes adopting a poor person or people group as your pet project might harm them and you, and Christians need to know this truth for themselves.

I found the authors' description of different kinds of poverty very helpful. Not all people who we think of as poor are impoverished in the same ways. The poor could have extra need for healing in their relationship to God, self, others, or the rest of creation. This book addresses all these categories.

The authors also do very well when pointing Christians toward more than one kind of aid that a poor person might need. While our gut reflex is to give immediate relief in the form of food, money, or service to someone in need, the authors wisely attempt to guide readers to a bigger-picture approach. Sometimes immediate relief is needed. Sometimes rehabilitation or skill-development is more appropriate. The authors show us how wise decision-making in this category can be a life-saver for the needy and the helper alike.

What I Did Not Like

While much of the book is very solid, I have to confess that this book simply grew hard to read after a while.
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