What Is Poverty – Really!?!? (When Helping Hurts – in Chad – part 2)

When Helping Hurts 2

When you see this photo – should you help this girl? How?

In thinking about "When Helping Hurts" – here are a few things worth considering in Chad and in the US:

  • North American, middle-class churched people think and talk about poverty much differently than the poor. While poor people mention having a lack of material things, they tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms than we do. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness. We tend to emphasize a lack of material things such as food, money, clean water, medicine, housing, etc… (So – when we think about helping the poor – it needs to be more than just food, money, medicine, housing… We need to think about dignity and them being made in the image of God.)
  • When a sick person goes to the doctor, the doctor COULD make two crucial mistakes: (1) Treating symptoms instead of the underlying illness; (2) Misdiagnosing the underlying illness and prescribing the wrong medicine. Either one of these mistakes will results in the patient not getting better and possibly getting worse. The same is true when we work with poor people. If we treat only the symptoms or if we misdiagnose the underlying problem, we will not improve their situation, and we might actually make their lives worse. 

In other words – this is way more complicated than just giving away handouts. And perhaps that explains the conflict in you when you either give some money (but feel like maybe you shouldn't have) or when you don't give it (but fell like you should have done something). This is a very complicated issue. 


PS – I just found out that I'm preaching Sunday morning to Christian humanitarian workers working here in Chad. This area is 100% Muslim – so the only ones there will be those from outside of Chad. It will be done through a translator. I'd appreciate your prayers.

  1. The hardest question of all for me is…

    “If I’m not in a place to assess the situation and figure out all the factors behind someone’s poverty, which way should I default? Should I just default to giving or default to keeping?”

    This is why I’ve tried to think through the kinds of situations that lead me to this decision and what my appropriate response should be: What if a homeless man approaches me? What if he approaches me and I’m near home? What if he approaches me and I’m on a trip in another city? What if he approaches me and I have money on me?

    It definitely doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps reduce the tension and give me confidence when I find myself asking that question.

    Can’t wait to see what you guys bring back from Chad. The preaching sounds like an awesome opportunity!

  2. OK, David, you’ve inspired me. I’m going to read my copy of “When Helping Hurts” for the first time … the one I bought two years ago.

    P.S. Definitely praying for your preaching tomorrow! Wow. Let us know what sermon you used. And the response.

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