When Helping Hurts, Chapter 8 – “Yes, In Your Backyard”


  • The poor are all around us, even in suburban neighborhoods.
  • “In summary, poor people in North America could benefit from all of the following: (1) the ability to work at jobs with living wages, (2) the capacity to manage their money, (3) the opportunity to accumulate wealth, and (4) a greater supply of quality education, housing, and health care at affordable rates. Moreover, like all of us, poor people need highly relational ministries (delivered through the body of Jesus Christ) that help them to overcome the effects of the fall on their individual hearts, minds, and behaviors.” (Fikkert and Corbett (F&C))
  • Training for the new job opportunities needed as our society changes is a key to getting out of poverty.
  • Training should include soft skills such as living out a biblical work ethic, working on a team, having a good attitude, personal integrity, respect for authority, conflict resolution and and strong communication skills.
  • Training should include hard skills  that may be specific to a particular job, like a mechanic learning how an engine works. Hard skills might also include learning how to manage money so the materially poor can build wealth.
  • Christian businesses must be brought onboard and see their business as a vocation to expand the kingdom of God.

My Thoughts

The American way is one of individualism. We are supposed to, “Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” I’ve never quite understood where that saying came from, but I know what it means. It means that in America, we have the power to fix our own problems and we shouldn’t need anybody else to help us. American individualism is politically best expressed through the Republican Party, which many Bible believing Christians claim as the political party that best represents their beliefs. In many areas, I think that’s true. However, I think we need to shed our identity in a political party and find our identity in Christ alone.

Is it the government’s job to fix poverty? No. I don’t think it is. Where the government has tried, it has failed spectacularly and done so using our money. The government isn’t prepared to fix poverty because it is a spiritual problem that manifests itself physically. Most Bible believing Christians recognize this and thus tend to vote for the party that curbs “social spending.” So, many Christians understand that the government isn’t responsible for the poor, and that’s good. However, where we go off the Biblical rails is when we provide an American answer for an issue that requires a Biblical response.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” is not a Biblical response. The scriptures teaches us that we should work and be responsible for our families. However, it also puts tremendous emphasis upon the church coming alongside the poor.

“During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” Exodus 23:11

“However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.” Deuteronomy 15:4

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” Deuteronomy 15:7

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

Cornelius stared at him in fear. What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'” Acts 10:4

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-1

Chapter 8 of “When Helping Hurts” provides American Christians with some concrete, biblical ways that we can not only bring relief to the poor help them pull themselves out of poverty. Training gives the poor skills they can use productively, and Christian business owners can provide a place for them to put their skills to work. At the end of the day, everybody is better off. The poor get jobs that help them be responsible toward their families, they stop relying on government handouts that are funded by the rest of us, Christian business owners get good employees with a biblical view of work that will help their businesses flourish, and all of it comes through obedience to God.


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