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Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert
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Book Synopsis

Poverty is not only about a lack of resources but is primarily caused by broken relationships with God, self, others, and creation. Poverty alleviation, then, must center on relational reconciliation. Efforts that focus on relief over development can hurt the poor more than it helps.

Understanding the true cause of poverty prevents helpers from treating symptoms only or providing relief for the wrong problems. When understood, the correct intervention of relief, rehabilitation, or development can be humbly offered. In the process, the materially poor are equipped and empowered to use their God-given talents and gifts to glorify God in work, while allowing their families to enjoy the fruit of that work.

The foundation concepts, principles, and strategies presented in this book will help pastors, missions leaders, and anyone interested in poverty alleviation to maximize their efforts in helping the poor.

Many people want to help those in poverty. However, most efforts for poverty alleviation are based on the foundational idea that the poor only need more resources. This is not true. Poverty alleviation involves much more than resource allocation. Instead, poverty alleviation requires restoring relationships and long-term development.

The paradigms of poverty alleviation need to change so that the poor are empowered and equipped to help themselves escape poverty. Otherwise, the poor are either made to be dependent upon the helper, and their poverty is perpetuated, or they are enabled to continue making choices that have contributed to their poverty. Cultural differences need to be understood in order to find the best way of helping the poor in other countries.

Any person who wishes to impact poverty will greatly benefit from this book. It will challenge conventional wisdom that has proven to unintentionally create poverty rather than alleviate it. Sometimes good intentions have resulted in injury both to those being helped as well as the helper.


Who Should Read This?

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 president of the Chalmers Center 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; he is the author of numerous articles in both academic and popular journals and co-author of five books. Prior to coming to Covenant College, he was a professor at the University of Maryland – College Park and a research fellow at their Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector.

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Table of Contents | When Helping Hurts

Main Idea of When Helping Hurts

Key Insight 1: Everyone Is Broken and Poor

Key Insight 2: Poverty of Relationships

Key Insight 3: Understand How Best to Help

Chapter 1: Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?

Chapter 2: What’s the Problem?

Chapter 3: Are We There Yet?


When Helping Hurts( FREE SUMMARY )

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Key Insight 1

Everyone Is Broken and Poor
All people are broken and poor in different ways.

When it comes to the discussion of poverty alleviation, how we define poverty is extremely important. If poverty is only an issue with material deficits, then North Americans would be considered rich and righteous! If poverty is deeper than material acquisition, then it is possible for the materially wealthy and the materially poor to both experience different types of brokenness and poverty.

North American people tend to believe that poverty is only about lack of resources and believe the solution is providing those resources. However, when poor people in Majority World nations are interviewed, they describe poverty as a much deeper reflection of their identity. They describe poverty as taking away from their value, worth, and hope.

Materially wealthy people, which almost all North Americans would be categorized as according to world standards, also experience poverty. Every human experiences poverty of spiritual intimacy, poverty of being, poverty of community, and poverty of stewardship.

When the materially wealthy recognize that they, too, need restoration and healing, then they can better help those who are in material poverty without hurting them in the process.  Poverty alleviation is really about redemption and reconciliation. The economically wealthy have to embrace their own brokenness to humbly come alongside those who are impoverished.

Without humility, respect, love, and a right understanding of poverty, helpers can experience compassion fatigue and give up on helping those in poverty. The first step in humbly helping those in poverty is to repent of believing the lie of the health and wealth gospel that says that spiritual maturity leads to financial prosperity.

Key Quotes
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Application Questions
  • In what ways has brokenness contributed to poverty in general?
  • In what ways are you impoverished?
  • How has your own brokenness contributed to poverty in your life?
When Helping Hurts Summary | Copyright Accelerate Summaries LLC

Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1
Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?

The most important question for any Christian to answer when considering kingdom work is, “Why did Jesus come to the earth?” The simple answer is that He came to earth to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. The expanded answer is that He is bringing healing to the entire cosmos and reconciling all things back to God. One can only experience the benefits of the kingdom by repenting and trusting in Him.

Jesus came in word and deed. He not only preached about the good news, but He brought good news by doing great works on behalf of those who had the most need. The church is designed to be the embodiment of Christ who brings the message of reconciliation and redemption to those who are in need, both physically and spiritually.

Key Quotes
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When Helping Hurts Summary | Copyright Accelerate Summaries LLC
Chapter 2

Top 3 Key Quotes

Top 3 Key Quotes

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Overview of When Helping Hurts
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