- 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 (762 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself Paperback – June 24, 2009
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About the Author
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Thankfully, the authors provide plenty of hope by suggesting many ways to improve and even overhaul our charitable efforts. The book messes with my head, in a very good way.
I believe When Helping Hurts should be read by all believers who wish to serve others in need and it should be REQUIRED for all in ministry positions at your local church. Ask them if they've read this and then ask them to lead the church though a study. You will be challenged and you will be changed!
I am glad that his thinking while practical and economically informed ultimately derives its roots from the biblical concept of what constitutes poverty. His working definition of poverty goes beyond the common reductionistic one that is measured primarily in terms of material resources. He proposes a relational, rather than material, understanding of poverty as one that has to do with the dislocation of one's foundational relationships with God, self, others and the rest of creation. Helping the poor thus means addressing these four foundational relationships and helping one to see oneself as God's image-bearer, a person of worth, a member of the human family and steward of creation. This strikes hard at the core aetiology of poverty, namely broken relationships. Hence, he writes:
'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 relationships again.' (page 77)
'Our relationship with the materially poor should be one in which we recognize that both of us are broken and that both of us need the blessing of reconciliation. Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us.' (page 76)
He devotes the second half of the book exploring what a more theologically balanced and holistic approach to helping the poorer community looks like. The categorization of the various levels of intervention into relief, rehabilitation and development is helpful in clarifying our thinking about the problem we intend to address as well as the desired outcome. The suggestions for a more collaborative rather than paternalistic, asset-based than need-based, locally-initiated and sustained (ie. by the local church and community) than foreigner-run efforts, long-range mission work than short-term trips (though these have their place when properly contextualized) are spot-on. The practical strategies of 'business as missions' and 'micro-financing' schemes are also discussed as helpful alternatives, though these schemes are not without their pitfalls too.
However, if I could imagine one possible unintended ill-effect reading this book might have on the readers, it would be that of being paralyzed by over-analysis. As the whole exercise of going out of one's comfort zone to reach out to others is fraught with much inhibitions, resistance and rationalizations to begin with, this book certainly does not make it easier. That being said, this book is full of hard truths and practical wisdom one ignores at perils to himself and others.
On the whole, it provides much food for thought and some seed ideas on how to explore a more holistic way of reaching out to the poor overseas and in our own backyard. It also puts a reality check on our possibly misguided motives that often accompany our noble desires to help. Hard-nosed, intelligent and eye-opening, Fikkert's book is a huge pay-off for anyone who will persevere in the challenging task of poverty alleviation with greater discernment and much humility.