Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When Helping Hurts: Monetary handouts

I am learning so much from this book! I'm actually having trouble deciding what to post as I have so much I want to share! Here's a brief, and not so thorough summary of what I've read so far. The authors of the book make some general premises that they support throughout the book. The main premise is that poverty is far more than a person having a lack of material goods, it is also a mindset; a mindset that encompasses "shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. North American audiences tend to emphasize a lack of material things such as food, money, clean water, medicine, housing etc."

He gives the following scenario:

"Similarly consider the familiar case of the person who comes to your church asking for help with paying an electric bill. On the surface, it appears that this person's problem is a lack of material resources, and many churches respond by giving this person enough money to pay the electric bill. But what if this person's fundamental problem is not having the self-discipline to keep a stable job? Simply giving this person money is treating the symptoms rather than the underlying problem and will enable him to continue with his lack of self-discipline. …A better – and far more costly – solution would be for your church to develop a relationship with this person, a relationship that says, "We are here to walk with you and to help you use your gifts and abilities to avoid being in this situation in the future. Let us into your life and let us work with you ton determine the reason why you are in this predicament."

He continues to describe how forming relationships with those in need is essential to helping them overcome poverty. He says,

"There will likely be lots of ups and downs in the relationship. It all sounds very time consuming, and it is. '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 do more harm than good."

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  1. Hey Heather-
    I got your message about this book and have been wanting to thank you for the reccomendation and review. It definitely is something I will read- there was actually a webinar on this very same topic that was hosted by Christian Alliance for Orphans last week, but I couldn't be home at the right time to be in on it. So I'd like to order it soon so I can read it for myself!

    I agree with what he is saying- we have talked to enough indigenous leaders and missionaries and those living in the inner city to know that "our way" is usually not the best way and we desire to form partnerships and relationships with others to be able to further the gospel. It's hard work though- a lot of times it is just easier to give a hand out...
    Isaiah 58- such a wonderful passage leading us to TRUE fasting.
    Thanks so much!
    Sorry I haven't been around to everyone's blogs much- your Addie is getting big and of course she is so beautiful! I am sure your boys are having fun with her! :-)

  2. so glad that you are enjoying this book so much - what i read here is SO true in our situation working with the poorest of the poor here in the Philippines. A handout is very rarely what they actually need. But even if not having food to feed their kids that day is a symptom of a deeper issue that we need to help them with, they still need to feed their kids that day - it can't wait til they deal with the deeper issue. So it is a constant dilemma and we have to seek HIS wisdom with each and every situation. Teach them to fish AND give them a fish to hold them over til they catch one of their own? How best to do this in a way that actually helps them in the long run, not just bails them out today. Not easy, need His guidance moment by moment.