I know I have a few interested people reading here and praying for us, and so I need to share this update.

Today we are blessed with a new COVID CAMPER.

A COVID Camper is, in our case, a small Winnebago travel trailer.  We managed to purchase one of our own this week, and it arrived just today.

Several doctors and nurses and other medical workers are purchasing, renting, or borrowing these things these days in case of exposure at work.  This makes it possible for Mrs. Agent X to isolate in a home away from our home full of foster kids if it becomes prudent.

Hopefully it will not come to that.  Hopefully, we just go camping and have fun with it.  The kids are all a buzz over it tonight and want to go camping tonight!

COVID CAMPER.  It is the ultimate in preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

We are blessed to have it.  If Mrs. Agent X either becomes sick or even just thinks it is likely, which of course is a real concern since she works in the ICU where the COVID patients go, we have a tremendous option now.

And if that doesn’t happen, we have a fantastic camper to enjoy at campgrounds nationwide!

(I can’t help but think who else might wind up taking advantage of these spare beds we suddenly have acquired!  We might entertain angels unaware!)

Anyway, it is a blessing in this time of trial, and for those of you praying for us and caring, I want you to know.  Join us in thanx!



It took six posts to get us through Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert.  There is just SOOOOOOOO much to nit pick.  However, in this post, it’s probably not fair to call it “nit picking” since my review in Chapter 2 is just so heavily devastating.  The fruit hangs low too.  I can’t believe the observations I make here have not been made before me.  I am not that smart.  This is not some great intellectual debate.  The thesis is just that pitiful.

The only thing I can say is that I just did not drink the Kool-aid.  It must be some tasty Kool-Aid too, because it seems like everyone and their dog is drinking it.  But for you few who read here, if you haven’t read When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert before, should be able to see what I am talking about.  I will be as fair as I can to them, but as I shine a biblical light on their book, it collapses under its own weight magnificently.

Enjoy.  (oh, btw, this post is not nearly as long as the others in this series)


Chapter 2 (page 51)



What is the problem?

Well, with barely 27 pages left in this composition book for me to make my chicken-scratch notes, I reiterate the lack of BIBLE and/or the misuse and ABUSE thereof (to the extent it is used) as my chief problem.  Maybe not Corbett and Fikkert’s but since this book is addressed to churches and Christians – then it sure is mine.

By my count, Chapter 2 cites/alludes to Bible passages 8 times total (counting one in the review questions at the end and once in the footnotes.)  I also note that at least one citation quite effectively (ironically) argues AGAINST the point it’s meant to support.  Contrast this against 9 (count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) times nonbiblical sources are cited or alluded to (some of which have no connection whatsoever to the Bible).  Here is the list of them:


World Bank (page 51)

“the true poverty experts, the poor themselves” (page 51)

Cornel West (page 53)

Bryant Myers (page 56)

Westminster Shorter Catechism (page 57)

The “Cultural Mandate” (page 58)

research from around the world (page 64)

Robert Chambers (page 70)

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen (page 71)


Also One TABLE and Two DIAGRAMS are offered and repeatedly referred to as authoritative.

What is the problem?  According to the chapter???

Well, put in my words, my rephrasing and truncated repackaging (which I hope is fair to Corbett and Fikkert’s intent), I say:

The problem is a misdiagnosis (which is a metaphor Corbett and Fikkert use for) a flawed definition of “poverty.”

For Corbett and Fikkert, “poverty” correctly defined and rightly diagnosed is really a matter of FOUR BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS.


Relationship with God

Relationship with Self

Relationship with Others

Relationship with Creation


These broken relationships manifest in at least 4 forms of poverty (which it turns out may or may not have bearing on “material poverty,” which is of course (or was at least before When Helping Hurts was published) JUST “POVERTY”


which actually is the focus of this chapter and most of this book in the final analysis ANYWAY… but I digress….)


Anyway, the 4 forms of poverty are:


Poverty of Spiritual Intimacy

Poverty of Being

Poverty of Community

Poverty of Stewardship


At any rate, Corbett and Fikkert want us to correctly define and diagnose the underlying problem of these broken relationships rather than simply treat the symptom which is “material poverty.”  They go to pains to show how these broken relationships lead to these other 4 poverties which often manifests in “material poverty,” but along the way, they ironically show how (apparently (based on page 27)) Brian Fikkert, being a “workaholic” which causes him to suffer a “poverty of stewardship” has made him “unlikely to experience “material poverty” (see page 64 for details).

AT THIS POINT I should probably say something nice, before I forget.

All this talk about broken relationships (and the quote from Bryant Myers on page 62 comes nearest to making this clear) is actually a rather jumbled up way of speaking about SHALOM, the Hebrew word for “peace” that means so much more than the mere absence of conflict (like that word is typically used in Modern English) but branches out and speaks of the presence of complete harmony between every particle of God’s creation with all the other particles of all of creation!

It is a biblical concept, and heavily theological!

Yay to Corbett and Fikkert for trying!  However, funneling all that shalom down into matters of poverty (or not) is reductionist to say the least.  Corbett and Fikkert start off in the right ball park, but just like they so sadly suggested in Chapter 1 about “small” and “nuanced differences” having “dramatic consequences” (see page 31), they fall victim to it again.

Why all the reliance on the worldly wisdom of THE WORLD BANK, of “the poor themselves,” of Cornel West and Bryant Myers among others, especially when ignoring Jesus’s words in Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21 or the biblical example of the church in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34?

You see, I’m all in favor of examining SHALOM as part of this process, I even see a clear and valiant attempt to be biblical in considering “the Cultural Mandate” and a study of biblical stewardship that MIGHT flow out of that.  I really do!  But you can’t expect me to take seriously a persuasive case about how to “help” the poor while you call it “biblical” yet ignore these important passages and then go lean on Cornel West to help hold the glue in your cobbled-together theological assertions all designed to undermine the words of Jesus you just ignored!

NOPE!  Not havin’ it.

I really think all this redefinition of “poverty” really just helps create the smoke-n-mirrors on the one hand, and then lends credibility to the rhetorical effect and manipulations on the other.  Despite all the fancy, hifalutin exercises to the contrary and in the middle of the chapter, the “poor” refers to the “materially poor” at the start and still has them in mind every step of the way … all the way to the other end of the chapter (and the book for that matter).  Thus, all the redefining of terms doesn’t actually change the meaning we started with at all.

Instead, it winds up giving us pointless jargon about “experiencing a poverty of being” which reminds me I need to talk gently to my “inner child” too!

When does St. Paul ever say, “Don’t give a dollar to a beggar on your way to the temple, he has a ‘poverty of being,’ and that’s his underlying issue.  If you give him a dollar, you’ll just exacerbate his ‘poverty of being’ which might lead to a devastating poverty of spiritual intimacy too?

Got a verse???

(I didn’t think so.)

Space just doesn’t allow me to dwell there any longer, and sadly some of that was the better contribution of this chapter!  But I’ve really got to get into Jayakumar Christian’s contribution about “the god-complex” and Fikkert’s battle with the health-n-wealth gospel before I run out of space.

Oh… man!  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black… WOW!


First off!  Is the term “god-compex” in the Bible at all?  Is it even a biblical concept?  As image bearers, is it appropriate or inappropriate?   Should we try to be like Jesus or not?  Should someone warn Jesus not to have a “god-complex”?

Just exactly WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT here?  Misters Redefine everything???

Hey man, I’m thinking, if you’re gonna bring it up, and esp if you’re gonna use that term for it, then you have a lot of explaining to do.  However, Corbett and Fikkert don’t.  They don’t explain it.

Look here how the writers of a book called When Helping Hurts define this term:

“…a subtle and unconscious sense of superiority in which [the helper(s)] believe that they have achieved their wealth through their own efforts, and they have been anointed TO DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR LOW-INCOME PEOPLE, whom they view as inferior to themselves.”

(I added the emphasis.)

I mean these guys write a whole book devoted to HOW BEST TO HELP LOW-INCOME PEOPLE, and they jump through all manner of rhetorical hoops to actually oppose the words of Jesus in Luke 6:30 while claiming to be biblical as they ignore how the church in Acts 2 and 4 help needy people so they can justify themselves telling you, the proud owner of their best-selling book which dares to speak for God, NOT TO GIVE MONEY to a person who needs it and /or asks for it because THEY (the writers with the god-complex who are now setting you up with one while warning you against it) KNOW BETTER than the poor (who they list as “true poverty experts” on page 51).  These MZUNGUs seem to know better than misguided liberals and even better than you and me!

But don’t take my word for it; listen to Fikkert TALK ABOUT HIS OWN gOD COMPLEX!:

“Few of us are conscious of having a god-complex, which is part of the problem.  We are often deceived by Satan and by our sinful natures.  For example, consider this: why do you want to help the poor?  Really think about it.  What truly motivates you?  Do you really love the poor people and want to serve them?  Or do you have other motives?  I confess to you that part of what motivates me to help the poor is my felt need to accomplish something worthwhile with my life, to be a person of significance, to feel like I have pursued a noble cause… to be like God.  It makes me feel good to use my training in economics to “save” poor people.  And in the process, I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something.  It is a very ugly truth, and it pains me to admit it, but ‘when I want to do good, evil is right there with me’ (Rom. 7:21).”

(page 65)


Wow!  He even used Scripture finally, but used it to call his whole project into question.

And yet… somehow doesn’t see it.

[I guess if I read Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21 and felt compelled, based on the words of Jesus, to give money to a poor person – NOTICE EVEN FIKKERT FORGETS TO CALL THEM MATERIALLY POOR OR “people suffering poverty of stewardship” or whatever – that I would be having a god-complex since I would be trying to be like Jesus.  Of course, doing that does NOT mean I think I know better than the poor person themselves, so that superior part is not really jiving, but actually, I am trusting the poor person knows how to use that five spot I just gave them… but wait, that is what prompts this book huh?  The poor person Fikkert has reduced to an object so he can fulfill his need to sell you this book is likely to buy some booze if I give them a five spot, and so Fikkert knows better what they need than they do, and he is having the superiority complex here, not me!]


Midway through the next paragraph Corbett and Fikkert say this”

“The way that we act toward the economically poor often communicates – albeit unintentionally – that we are superior and they are inferior.  In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves.  And here is the clincher: this dynamic is LIKELY TO BE PARTICULARLY STRONG WHENEVER MIDDLE-TO-UPPER-CLASS, NORTH AMERICAN CHRISTIANS [the people mostly likely to purchase this book, btw] TRY TO HELP THE POOR, GIVEN THESE CHRISTIANS’ TENDENCY TOWARD A WESTERN, MATERIALISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF THE NATURE OF POVERTY.”

(page 65)

(I added the emphasis)


It’s almost like the writers suddenly see clearly the log in their own eye and then help you get one in your eye too!


They move from this cathartic confession to an illustration of Creekside Community Church which is made up of white, professional types who reach out to the black residents of a “nearby housing project.”  Just then the narrative asks, “But what could they do to help” (see page 66).  I’m thinking: WHY NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR like Jesus says?  Hey, it’s a biblical idea!

Well, Creekside gets all these Christmas gifts for all the residents and their kids, and as our writers report, “The congregation felt so good about the joy they had brought that they decided to expand this ministry….”

“Unfortunately, after several years, Pastor Johnson noticed that he was struggling to find enough volunteers….”  And the reason given?  “Pastor, we are tired of trying to help these people out… their situation never improves…. They don’t deserve our help.”

(page 66)


What happened to “spend yourselves”?  Remember like was quoted from Isaiah 58:10 on page 56, on of the very FEW times we went to the Bible in this discussion???  What happened to the “trial and error process… necessary before a proper diagnosis can be reached”?  As Corbett and Fikkert themselves have already said, “even after a sound diagnosis is made, IT MAY TAKE YEARS to help to overcome their problems.”  (see these quotes on page 56)


I mean NEVER MIND for the moment, that such observations about making a correct diagnosis so as to treat the underlying problem and not just the symptom suggests that there is a LOT of trial and error involved and even then it may take several years!!!

Makes for an awful alternative that is hardly any better than getting it wrong! 

(I mean, if my doctor’s diagnosis is that bad, I am getting a second or even a third opinion!  But since we could just trust God’s Word in the Bible in this instance, it surely suggests we should do that!)


I said, “Never Mind” all that!

Do you REALLY THINK I MEAN NEVER mind?  Or am I just using the rhetorical effect forcefully here?

hmmm… turn about is fair play!

But, really, never mind all that, at least for the moment  Get back to Creekside and apply these thoughts to their situation like page 56 would have you do in yours.  “Spend yourself,” be patient with the trial and error, and even give the diagnosis YEARS to see if it will make any changes.

BUT DON’T!  Please DON”T let Creekside off this hook, esp when they say they are “tired” that it doesn’t seem to be working, and that “these people” don’t “deserve” our care!

Oh!  And while we are at it, these PROUD fathers who are hiding out because they feel ashamed to receive the FREE GIFT of GOD on behalf of their kids??? – Well, they need to learn some humility.  No doubt they don’t suffer anything the poor in the church of Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34 didn’t suffer, but then PRIDE is actually THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM that prevents many from following Jesus and receiving his blessings!  It’s not unique to the poor or the rich, nor is it a new idea!

And finally on pages 68-70, Fikkert REPENTS of the health -n- wealth gospel.

Actually, he tells a story about one of his many experiences in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya.  As he tip-toes and slips-n-slides around the slum on the poo and mud and other ick, he gets asked to preach at a humble church he finds worshiping there.  In addition to learning Fikkert can cobble together a good Presbyterian sermon off the cuff just for the asking, we join him in experiencing what James meant when he said, God chose the poor to be rich in faith.

Sadly, Fikkert makes no mention or application of James 2:5 as he did on page 42, but this would have been a great place to ponder that text!

You see, suddenly, as Fikkert is preparing his impromptu remarks for the sermon, the members of this destitute congregation are allotted “a time of sharing,” which doesn’t mean they spit a sandwich or a can of beans, but rather they “cried out to God” (page 69).

“Jehovah Jireh, please heal my son, as he is going blind.”

“Merciful Lord, please protect me when I go home today, for my husband always beats me.”

“Sovereign King, please provide my children with enough food today, as they are hungry.”


Let’s listen to the impact Fikkert reports this episode had on him:


“As I listened to these people praying to be able to live another day, I thought about my ample salary, my life insurance policy, my health insurance policy, my two cars, my house, etc.  I REALIZED THAT I DO NOT REALLY TRUST GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY on a daily basis, as I have sufficient buffers in place to shield me from most economic shocks.  I realized that when these folks pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer – Give us this day our daily bread – their minds do not wander as mine so often does.  I realized that while I have sufficient education and training to deliver a sermon on God’s sovereignty with no forewarning, these slum dwellers were trusting in God’s sovereignty just to get them through the day.  AND I REALIZED THAT THESE PEOPLE HAD A FAR DEEPER INTIMACY WITH GOD THAN I PROBABLY WILL EVER HAVE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.”

(page 69)


Yeah… Fits well don’t you think?  I mean with the rest of this chapter which demonstrates that even though these people live in abject “material poverty” and have NOTHING, nothing except a FAR DEEPER INTIMACY with God than Fikkert will ever have in his entire life, nevertheless, Fikkert (who I now see as completely out of touch with the poor and with his own humanity and with GOD) has a responsibility (according to this chapter) not to give these people a solitary dime, but rather to correctly diagnose their broken relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation.  Otherwise he might HURT them!

But my mind keeps going back to his own Bible quotation on page 42 from James 2:5: “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Maybe Fikkert, ironically, is/was THE NEEDY ONE.




More than three years ago, I posted about divine peek a boo vis-à-vis the image of God.  A very brief post which did not attempt to exhaustively exegete Scripture and develop a full-blown biblical theology, but in whimsical brushstrokes painted the picture in almost devotional terms.  It’s been a long time now since I posted that, but I have not stopped thinking about it.  I keep putting the observation together with the rest of my worldview and with the things I believe are important in life.  I want this post to build on some of those foundational thoughts.  If you want the refresher, here is the link:

Yeah, as I sit here today ministering (to use church lingo) to this foster baby almost learning to walk, I find myself having a spiritual experience playing peek a boo.  AGAIN.  And I notice that the child is coming from behind.  AGAIN.

Babies don’t come to live with us/me because it was just so good with their parents that they had to quit.  No.  They come to this house because their parents are strung out on dope.  They come to me because for the first 9 months of life (or was it 6, 7, or 8?), they too were getting hooked on the dope.  (Did I just use the singular form of the word “dope”?  Let’s make that dopes – as in many dopes!) Yes, here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we specialize in Come-Back Kids.

Fortunately, early intervention helps.  Not entirely, but it helps a lot.  My kids will have life-long struggles after the battles they faced in the wombs of their biological mothers.  Some of those struggles we will put behind us, some we will learn to compensate, and others we will lose over and over again for life.

Which ones will we win and which ones will we lose?

It’s hard to say.

Perhaps I need to pay $30 for a seminar in outcome-based, solution-oriented, effective parenting so I can help my kids be independent, educated, home-owning, Amazon shoppers and taxpayers.  No doubt, that could help.

(If that is really the goal.)

But it is clear that just by virtue of living in this house where these kids get love, and lots of it, every day starting early in life, they recover a lot more ground than they would otherwise.  I don’t need H.M. Skeels and H.B. Dye to study the IQ of orphans or Harry Harlow to study rhesus monkeys to know that if I show my LOVE to the kids, they will learn to be human.


Let’s talk about parenting a moment.  Do you have kids?  Did you raise kids already?  Were your kids born healthy?  Did they get the benefit of prenatal care, of in-tact nuclear family relations, of steady and well-balanced breakfasts and diets?  Did they get piano lessons, play soccer, and go to school?

Did you make any mistakes?

You did???

Did you not read the manual?  It’s all in there, right?  How to raise perfect angels and all?

Did you raise 2, 3, 4, or more kids all eating the same food, going to the same schools, living in the same house and one or two of them turn out remarkably different from the others?  One or two of them get into a lot of trouble???

Answer honestly!  Are you a bad parent???

Did your troublemaker ever surprise you and become the hero unexpectedly?

Probably there is a lot of complexity in all that.  (Did I just say “probably”?)  Probably you had a few really rotten days as a parent.  Maybe you had a lot of them.  Probably your kids are mostly pretty good, and in fact better than you deserve!  Probably some of your best days were when you coddled them, when you gave them food and maybe even money.  When you wasted time with them smiling and laughing.  And you don’t need a seminar to tell you that.  Books and seminars might have some value, but I don’t want to just insult your parenting here.

Parenting is a long process.  In fact, in some ways, it never really ends.  Over time, it involves less and less intensive care and more and more freedom and a longer and longer leash, but it never dreams of some hermetically sealed outcome where the children just go away become completely independent and have all their problems completely solved with no more interest from the parents.  A disciplined maturity – YES, but total independence – no.

And though you might read some books, consult some experts, take your child to a doctor and professional educators, you never for one moment let the tail wag the dog.  Both as a matter of foundation and built-in all through the substructure of this parenting phenom is LOVE.  Sloppy, mistake-making LOVE.  Inefficient, clumsy, needy and sometimes embarrassing, but never independent… LOVE.  Probably you will leave your money to your kids as inheritance, like a free gift to be squandered and lost forever because YOU LOVE THEM.

Love is how humans are made.

All that other stuff is supplemental at most.

Playing Peek-a-Boo

Let’s talk a moment about where peek a boo comes in to this.

I’m sitting here today playing with my 10-month old who is on the cusp of learning to walk.  For several months now, we have played millions of peek a boo games.  It just never gets old.  My ugly mug popping out from behind my hands to give a friendly gasp and say “boo” just lights up his life every time!  It’s universal, really.  It worked like this for every single kid who ever came to this house.

I began to see the image of God imprinting on both of us (to borrow a term from developmental psychologists and employ it for theological purposes).  The sheer joy of it is divine!  The universality of it is providential design.  And it is pure love, stripped down to it’s bare essence.  You can’t bottle it, sell it, store it up for later.  You can’t eat it.  It won’t keep you warm at night.  It doesn’t secure your home from burglars.

What good is it?  It has no market value!

And yet, it is as important as your next breath of air!

How mysterious is that???

And the child is on the floor as I sit leaned over in my chair.  From his perspective, my face disappears behind my knees and then reappears like the sun breaking over the horizon.  But this child of 10 months is just starting to develop enough strength and balance to pull himself up to his feet and peek over my knees at my face!  And the sheer joy of the experience compels him to do it.

Suddenly, I see practical benefit to his maturity in this otherwise dumb little game.

I didn’t read about this little exercise in a parenting manual.  It might actually appear in one, and probably should, but I didn’t come across it that way.  I found it by LOVING the kid.  We wasted TIME together looking at each other.  We discovered primitive language that doesn’t use real words even – baby talk.  And we learned to share smiles and laughter as we did this stuff, and over time a bond has developed that encourages dependence, not independence.

There is no outcome-based interest in peek a boo, other than a smile and a laugh.  But there is a very mysterious sense in which the outcome of a lot of it is a bond of love and the development of humanity.  There is healing for those prenatal months of destruction and neglect.

It turns out, this stuff is the difference between life and death.

Beggars, Bums, and The Homeless

Let’s talk about the homeless a minute.

Did you know that one of the biggest segments of the homeless population is kids of 18-19 years old “aging out” of the foster system after being bounced around from home to home throughout their formative years?  It’s not the only kind of damage that puts people out on the streets, but it is a major one.  War vets, abused children, mental illness, substance abuse and more (to name a few) all factor in to the “root causes” of homelessness.

Did laziness make the list?

Perhaps it should have.  But I am thinking any laziness (the only factor that MIGHT legitimately warrant contempt) is almost always complicated by these other factors.

I am also thinking, and this is where my thoughts tend to roost, that our churches are spending too much effort and energy reading all the manuals, taking all the seminars, and consulting all the experts for their outcome-based, solution-oriented, “effective” charity models – AND doing so while abdicating the responsibility to LOVE needy people on the one hand, and passing them off to the parachurch ministries on the other.

Look, I am talking to the CHURCH here… and to Christian people.  All that outcome-based stuff is fine for the professionals, the secular charities, government programs and all those doing that kind of work, but the church is something else entirely.  The church is FAMILY, the body of Christ no less.

As far as I know, The United Way and the Homeless Vet Project, government welfare and SNAP all want solutions to the homeless problem so that it will go away, so that the people suffering such problems will find outcomes where they go away, and thus they measure the efficacy of their programs on how well they achieve this going away goal.  But you, church, it shall not be so among you.

We treat our care for the poor like it’s something wholly other than our worship, than our evangelism where we bring outsiders in to become insiders partaking in our worship.  We treat our worship like it’s a decoration on our lives, like it’s an addendum to who we are and all we do, and not like it is the central point of our very lives.

No.  We treat the American Dream like that, and church is this private, personal piety we tack on to the weekends mostly, and to the extent it fills up our off hours from work we divide our piety and “Bible study” from our ministry and outreach which shows almost no desire to integrate poor, needy people into our lives and worship.

Does your church open the doors to homeless people on cold winter nights?

Does your town have a “homeless church” where “homeless people” will be “more comfortable” anyway?

We have so many layers and boundaries separating us from the needy built in to the structure of our church assembly so pervasively that we don’t even notice.  But we do notice if the same bum keeps coming back to the handout line over and over, year after year, without getting better and finally going away!

And of course, the church never actually claims that phrase “go away” as a stated goal, but we have layers of boundaries built in so we never have to face that fact.  We have a church for “them” on the other side of town.  We pat ourselves on the back for purchasing a latte at the coffee shop that supports that church on the other side of town.  We are well insulated from actually caring ourselves or even as a church.  We employ parachurch ministries to do the work for us, and if any of us individually want to go put in the time and help there, we will be welcome, but we will also be trained not to help too much, not to be too available, not to get too involved, but rather to maintain those boundaries and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give a bum your phone number or your money because that violates the “effective,” outcome-based solutions we learn from secular professionals or from best-selling, Christian ministers whose expertise is in economic development (a discipline outlined no where in the Bible).

Gone is the divine peek-a-boo.

The Apocalypse

“Creation eagerly awaits,” as we are told in Romans 8:19, “the apocalypse of the sons of God.”

That is church business.  It is not the business of The United Way, Homeless Vet Relief, government welfare assistance or food stamps.  It is not the business of anyone else except the church.  God wants to play peek a boo with creation, and he is doing so through the body of Christ!

He played peek a boo with Moses at the cleft of the rock.  He played peek a boo with the disciples at Emmaus.  (These are just two very handy examples among many, many, many more which typically require more explaining.)

God wants to be seen in you.  He wants to be seen in his church.  He was seen in Jesus who had beggars, bums, and needy people thronging to him everywhere he went.  He taught his disciples, not to fish so they would go away and feed themselves for life, but to be fishers of men!  And he fed them a fish for a day!  He did so as the bread which came down from heaven, recalling the manna our fathers ate in the wilderness – manna they were instructed not to gather too much of, but rather to learn to become dependent upon.

Eucharist is church business.

Eucharist is not the business of The United Way or of the parachurch charities.  It is strictly the business of the church.  There is an outcome it seeks, but it is too mysterious for our engineering.  On the other hand, it is also the holy peek a boo of God!  The revelation of God is so thoroughly associated with the meal time and again all through Scripture that you should be embarrassed not to know this!

We come to the table and find the presence of God, the healing presence of Jesus.  We are loved there even more intimately than a nursing mother loves her baby.

And yet when I go to my church to discuss our outreach to the needy, to the homeless, our concern is always that our charity be “effective” in that go-away sense.

Creation waits for the revelation of the sons of God.  We need to bear his image in the world.  We need to help form his image in each other.  We need to see his image in each other – especially in the poor.  (Matt. 25:31-46 anyone?)  This apocalypse is the outcome we as the church really want, and playing peek a boo is part of the mysterious process leading to it.

It is church business.

Think about it.





Oh no!  I washed my hands all thoroughly with soap and water, but the infection control nurse was hiding with a stop watch outside the bathroom and estimated I fell short in proper handwashing.  What do I do?


Facing the secret police of handwashing is no fun.  Words like “Nazi” quickly come to mind.  But I have worked in healthcare facilities several times in my career, and this scenario is entirely realistic.

I will never forget Nurse Jan, the inspector who periodically came around with her special glow-in-the-dark lotion to test your effectiveness.  I rarely ever passed the test the first time.  It was irritating.  Maybe not as irritating as catching C. diff., but probably the most irritating of irritations up to that point!

The other day, I needed to run over to my dad’s place for a quick errand like I have done hundreds of times over the years.  Yet, it wasn’t until I was stopped at the corner that I remembered my mask.  I felt torn about going back to get it.  I wanted to excuse myself this inconvenience with the very hifalutin rationalization that to go back and get it means I want to convert to Islam.  But then of course after giving my best thought to it, I realized that loving my dad and going back to get my mask is just good discipline – even Christian disciipline.

I love my dad, someone who has added risk from this virus, and I would feel so terrible if I found my carelessness exposed him to infection.  My love for him is more important than my minor frustration about returning home for the mask.

Over the years, I have thought a lot about Nurse Jan and her secret police measures.  As I recall it, Nurse Jan was normally a very sweet person.  She was one of the best gift-givers at the annual Christmas party.  She expressed an abiding faith in Christ.  She upheld standards of excellence and professionalism.  In those moments of confrontation, my kneejerk gut feeling had me thinking she took some malicious joy from it, that she was on a power trip.

In the big picture, that characterization was an anomaly, but in that moment, it seemed to be the hard truth of the matter.

In my view, there is an oversaturation of antibiotics and germaphobia.  Many in our culture, including me at points, have become too fearful of such things.  I, like many of my neighbors, believe a little dirt and a little exposure is actually good for us.

But where is that line?

I think about how unrealistic Nurse Jan’s glow-in-the-dark lotion was.  I mean, if I had smeared infected diarrhea all over my hands until most of it dried, then I don’t think there is any way 20 seconds of handwashing with soap and water will do.  But if I paused in the middle of preparing a ham sandwich to change the channel on my TV using the remote control (which studies have shown is more filthy than my toilet handle), then I am pretty sure a quick scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds is far more than adequate.  In fact, 19 seconds is more than adequate.

But we need to set some standards which cover the majority of circumstances, and we need to adhere to those standards – especially – in professional settings.  But even more than that, I think hospital settings should warrant more strict adherence since they are more often hotspots for infection.

My rule of thumb is that there are times and places where this stuff is more important than others.  Most of those times and places are fairly easily matters of “common sense.”  I want my surgeon to wash far more thoroughly for my surgery than for his lunch, and I think antibacterial soap in the surgery setting is entirely appropriate.  So is his mask.

Let’s call “pandemic” a time when these concerns come up in all places.

I see nothing wrong with adhering to stricter discipline during this TIME of increased and legitimate concern.  I see nothing wrong, once this time has passed, with purposely relaxing that discipline.  The over-saturation of antibiotics is not appropriate for all times and all places, and in fact presents new problems- or more accurately the same/similar problems.

We live between these pendulum swings.  We die out past them.

Nurse Jan was a good lady doing a good job.  Perhaps she could have shown a bit more charity in her work on some occasions, but she was doing a job for which the very nature of it dictates that it be an inherent difficulty.  I needed to be mature enough to not think of her as a “Nazi.”  She was not pushing some Islamic agenda.  That kind of thought represents frustration, but when left unchecked is actually fearmongering.  I needed to be mature enough to appreciate her taking on a tough job.

As I recall it, I fell under her tough scrutiny a few times, but I found her eager to share her sweetness at other times.  She was a good friend.  She had my best interest at heart.  She was good at her job.  And I did a little growing up knowing her.

Toxic Charity, Toxic Books.

Lupton expresses two true sentiments in the book, the first, “I actually enjoyed occupying the superior position of giver (though I covered it carefully with a façade of humility”. The second truth expressed in the book is ” Everything depends upon the lens through which we view reality…Both views of reality are legitimate through seldom compatible.” (Lupton 82,83) –

This line worth the price of admission! Please read this blog post.

By Faith Alone

American & Canadian Christian expatriate communities often organize paternalistic relief endeavors, identifying themselves as perpetual sources of cash and reinforcing the white-savior-industrial-complex.

In Nicaragua, I witnessed an exchange and subsequent conversation, that contextualized the distorted axiology of American colonialism. This view is celebrated by Robert D. Lupton in his book “Toxic Charity, How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)”.

During a short-term mission in Nicaragua, I watched an indigenous woman, known in local communities to pursue exploitation of westerners as a vocation, approach a young Western woman on the beach. We’ll call her Becky. The local woman related a story, holding a child that wasn’t hers, standing next to her neighbor’s daughter. “My daughter’s eye is hurt very bad and we need money for the doctor,” she said in Spanish. Becky turned to the local girl and asked what happened. “I was running at…

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There’s an old movie with Sam Elliot (one where he is always moping around crying – very unusual for him) called Off The Map.  I happen to love the movie.  Haven’t seen it in many years, but to my way of thinking, it has captured something of the essence of life and culture in New Mexico.

I bring it up only because it has a scene that depicts a small town café with a handmade tortilla tacked to the wall because when the cook prepared it, they noticed the appearance of the Virgin Mary in it.  The movie then depicts folx from as far as forty miles away making pilgrimage to the café to see it.

I have family and friends who would do that.  I am sure of it.

Tonight I was cooking for my family.  I am not the good cook in our home, but I do a fair bit of it.  Most of my cooking is what I call “kit cooking.”  Tonight I used a pizza kit, not sharing the brand name, I only say that it was purchased at a major national retailer.  I have used this particular brand many times.  My family seems to like it.

However, for the first time ever, I saw the impression of a human hand in the pizza crust.  Almost like hands in concrete or like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except this one had no signature.  For the first time, I gave real thought to the fact that this pizza kit is really “hand-made” and not machine produced.

So, I looked closer at the packaging.  Sure enough, it boasts “authentic hand-made” right on it.  I never noticed before.  Then I looked up the company on line.  I began giving more and more thought to that handprint.

I have noticed that these pizza crusts have imprints, depressions, and thick parts.  They certainly are not machine precision.  Mountains and valleys, they have.  But I never really thought about the hands that prepare them.

The hand was small.

My hands definitely are not small.  I reckon, I wear an extra large glove.  The impression left in my pizza crust appeared almost childishly small to me.  Probably an adult, and if so, almost certainly a woman.  My hand just dwarfed it.

I began thinking about that small hand.

Who is this person?  Where is this person?  This person put herself into our food; she left her very  personal mark.  Yet, I in no way have any clue who this person is or anything about her.  I almost certainly never will.

But she fed us.

Then I began considering how until I saw that perfect hand imprint, I was assuming that a machine had prepared my pizza crust.  I thought about how cheap the pizza kit was and wondered if she got a fair wage for her work.  I fear she did not.

The name of the brand suggests that the company is Italian, but I noticed in the fine print that the company is not located in Italy at all.  It’s not American either.  Things are not as they appear to be.

If you read here often, you have probably seen where I sometimes make mention of the long running slogan used in advertising for The Olive Garden.  The slogan is out of use now, but for many years they used to say, “When you’re here, you’re family.”  I always note how hollow that actually is.  When you eat at Olive Garden, you are not family!  Not even close.  You are a paying customer!  Also, most of the people working there are not Italian either.  In fact, I expect they do a lot of kit cooking!

I don’t mean to suggest Olive Garden is a bad place to eat.  Not at all.  For that matter, I recommend it.  But it is not what it claims either.

But that hand impression in my pizza crust is.  It is the mark of a person – a real person.  Maybe a child, but likely someone’s mom.  Probably someone who has prepared thousands upon thousands of these pizza crusts.  I wonder how long it took her to prepare mine.  I bet she was fast.  I hope she was well compensated.

Recently I have begun rethinking my racial biases and sensitivities (or lack thereof), especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  I have talked about those matters quite a bit recently on the blog too.  And it occurs to me that in my mind’s eye, as I think about this person who I believe is probably a woman, I liken her to my mom feeding me.  A white woman almost automatically pops up in my imagination.

Then I read a very interesting blog last night posted several months ago by a very thoughtful young person who critiqued Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity in a blistering review.  Actually, he hit it with some very erudite language, some of which I found hard to follow.  I happen to think Lupton’s book is bunk too, but for perhaps different reasons.  Nevertheless, some of the thinking this blogger laid out struck me as both insightful and cutting far deeper than I had considered on my own.

Here is a bit of his:

Lupton says, “We discovered it is more difficult to detoxify pathological relationships than to build new, healthy, reciprocal relationships between the rich and poor.” (Lupton 18) I suggest the toxic pathology he’s referring to, Imperialist-White-Supremacist-Capitalist-Patriarchy, is the same toxic pathology he benefits from.

“The Imperialist-White-Supremacist-Capitalist-Patriarchy” does strike me as a pathology Lupton benefits from.  But it strikes me as a pathology I benefit from too.  (Actually, he had a couple other far more hard hitting and spicy remarks than this one, but this one comes to bear – in my mind – on the topic I blog about today.  I mean, this blogger calls Toxic Charity “pity-porn.”  I love that line, though I will quibble with it.  I think Toxic Charity is a condom for pity-porn.  Probably, I should reblog that post!)

What if that hand print is made by a black hand?  What about a brown hand?  What about red or yellow?

They all bear the image of God.  Why do I automatically see a white hand in my imagination?

I decided I found the image of Christ’s hand in my food.  And when I determined that, I felt sure then that she is underpaid.  I felt sure then that those hands were tired and maybe in need of a rest.  But those hands fed me and my family tonight.  And though the kit allows me to express some of my own creativity, I found that hand impression disappearing beneath the sauce and cheese to be the most beautiful part of our meal.

I guess this is my little pilgrimage.  Not a forty mile drive down a dirt road to the local café, but an 1148 word post instead.

Thank YOU Jesus.




Yay!   We are now up to Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts.  I thought we would never get here.  IF you have read these posts in this series up to this point, you already know how I have nit picked this book to death in the introduction.  It has died the death of a thousand cuts now, and we are only just opening the first chapter now.

However, you also know that my real problem, my big problem, with the book is how unbiblical it is.  That too, I have demonstrated repeatedly, and in fact is shown a thousand ways with a thousand cuts.  The book has almost completely fallen flat on just that point.  It claims to be biblical and theological, but that is misleading.

I did NOT copy my opening notes in this chicken-scratch notebook back at the start of these posts.  But I opened my analysis asking some questions and making some observations even before I began critiquing When Helping Hurts.  SOME of those points are only just now coming to bear on the critique.  Thus, I will offer an abbreviated recap of part of that now:

Is When Helping Hurts biblical?

Consider these three overly simplified criteria/options demonstrating whether a book (any book, for that matter) is biblical:

  1.  Little or no attempt to be biblical at all.  Practically (or even purposely) a “secular” approach to whatever topic.
  2.  Biblical citations/allusions made, but frequently abusing biblical context, limited to proof-texting, and frequently misapplied.  But nonetheless, peppered intentionally with citations.
  3. Thoughtful explorations of biblical text, theological research, engagement with context and exegetical matters AND ONLY THEN applied.

These are oversimplifications, for surely other options might exist and/or the matter of clear delineation between these options can sometimes be blurred as well.

As we now join Corbett and Fikkert in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts where more than any other chapter in their book, this categorical criteria comes to bear.  Not the only chapter, but the main one.  And so with this abbreviated backdrop in mind, I now go back to the original chicken-scratch notes.  Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts is by far the best chapter in the whole book, and IF Corbett and Fikkert had kept closer to it’s message, their book would be both very different over all, and draw far less criticism from me.

Let’s get back into it.


CHAPTER 1 (finally)



TO BE FAIR (in the interest of objectivity)

There is much in this chapter of When Helping Hurts to commend!  There’s about 3 pages of it that I really like!!!  Corbett and Fikkert make a valiant effort to be biblical and theological in this chapter and make many powerful (in some cases inspirational) assertions.  In fact, if they didn’t betray some of the biblical ideals and the attempts to actually write biblically and theologically at other points in the book but rather had continued in this vein, I expect they would have written a very good book.


Let’s break it down and sing its praises to the extent we can:

Way back on page 7 [of this chicken scratch composition book, not of When Helping Hurts] under the “OVERALL/OVERVIEW” remarks, I asked, “How biblical is When Helping Hurts“?  I outlined 3 overly simplified options in which to categorize a book as being biblical.  It is because of some of the work done on some of the pages in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts that I must say it is more difficult to refute this book – esp more difficult than Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton which only alludes to and/or cites Scripture a total of 6 times in the whole book and offers some theological reflection in vague terms only 6 other times as well.  AND THAT IS, by my count, A TOTAL OF 12 ALLUSIONS TO BIBLE IN THE WHOLE BOOK!!!

Writing like that does practically NOTHING to demonstrate a biblical basis for its assertions, but rather merely assumes it.  [And we all know what ASSuming too much does!]  In fact, the point where Lupton provides a quote and citation, that text he cites and the illustration he employs, both argue AGAINST his thesis, but readers hardly seem to notice.

Contrast that with Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts (which promotes an almost identical theses as Toxic Charity) and by my count Corbett and Fikkert cite (and multiple times they quote) Scripture 37 times in one chapter!  Theological analysis/reflection absolutely saturates most of the pages in chapter 1.

Though When Helping Hurts lacks a full and robust exegetical analysis of the passages it does cite and quote, there is some historical context provided at some critical junctures AND ANYWAY, a large swath of it, though deployed in the manner of mere proof-texting, happens to jive with my view(s) of Scritpure too.  In fact, there are three pages (40-42) where in the margin I penciled in “Good Point” or “Yes!” not simply because I agree in principle, but because the analysis at those points is very strong, imaginitive, and inspiritng!  And thoroughly biblical!!!

In fact, those bits are so good that if I were writing a book (despite the fact that my thesis would prove detrimentally contrary to Corbett and Fikkerts) I would be happy to quote these guys from those bits.

Yes.  There is a lot in Chapter 1 which I too find foundational, not merely for a ministry involving the poor, but for a “Christ-centered, fully orbed kingdom perspective” (page 48).  Thus, I could not categorize When Helping Hurts with the first option as I outlined above, AND for that matter, these pages in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts buck the trend of the rest of the book being at the shallow end of option 2.

Perhaps I could make other praiseworthy observations about it, but I think these praises capture the truly high points well enough.  I want to be fair in my analysis and point out the places where I find value.  It’s not as if every word on every page of When Helping Hurts is just sheer trash to be rejected outright.

[If you read When Helping Hurts and found Chapter 1 to be inspirational, reasonable, biblically sound, I would not fault you for it.  Thus, I think this chapter covers a multitude of sins in the rest of the book.  As I read the critique of other readers, I find the principles outlined in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts drives much of the acceptance of the rest of the thesis.  Therefore, I must acknowledge the good and the impact of this chapter and then separate it from the damage done throughout the rest of the book.]

However, there is a lot of GARBAGE in Chapter 1 too, and we might do well to note how Corbett and Fikkert transition from treasure to trash.  There is really not any trash to note in Chapter 1, though the transition is there.  Thus, in order to demonstrate it, I need to get into the critical bits.  And this is where rebuttal gets more difficult.


The critical bits


Perhaps I should actually borrow from Corbett and Fikkert some of their own insightful remarks to help map out the distinction.  On page 31, the opening words of the whole chapter, they write this:


“Why did Jesus come to earth?  Most Christians have a ready answer to this question. However, there are actually nuanced differences in how Christians think about this most basic issue, and those small differences can have dramatic consequences for all endeavors, including how the church responds to the plight of the poor.

(I chose to embolden the particular thought I want to address in that quote.)



Corbett and Fikkert ask this very basic theological question (“Why did Jesus come to earth?”) to achieve two related aims.  On the one hand, starting with the cogitations on a question such as this, they can construct a biblical/theological worldview and talk about it and show its relevance to the topic of the book over all.  On the other hand, they can show how Christians (esp in the modern, west) hold some basic popular views on this question that (though not entirely without merit) are largely mistaken and actually not biblical – or at least stand to be challenged by a closer biblical analysis.

Oh yeah, Corbett and Fikkert want to straighten out some unbiblical thinking the rest of us might be suffering.

“Why did Jesus come to earth?”

As Corbett and Fikkert tell it, “.. the vast majority of people say something like,’ Jesus came to die on the cross to save us from our sins so that we can go to heaven'” (page 33).

If Corbett and Fikkert are right about this, and I am inclined to let them have the point, then this is one of those “nuanced differences” that seem “small” on the one hand but turn out to have “dramatic consequences” in the long run.  In my view, this idea applies to the differences I have with Corbett and Fikkert and When Helping Hurts too.  However, their illustration (and the dynamic insights they draw from it) wind up confusing the issue, I think.  Thus, this will be a complex argument, one I will try to simplify and untangle from theirs as simply as I can (but I fear it may remain rather complex).

In order to simplify the case I make against Corbett and Fikkert here (to the extent I can), I will rephrase some of their concepts in my own words, however I definitely invite any reader of mine to examine Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts closely to determine if I fairly represent their argument.  I do not want to misrepresent them, but I will rely on you to judge it.

Okay.  So, these “small nuanced” differences that transition into “dramatic consequences” as far as When Helping Hurts is concerned, start with an illustration of the pop level response to the question, “Why did Jesus come to earth?” vs. a biblical examination of that question.

“Most people,” according to Corbett and Fikkert, provide the answer that Jesus came to die so that we can go to heaven.  Whereas, according to Jesus, he came to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy which impacts many facets of “this life” in the “here and now.”  Not that any of this excludes and impact on “the hereafter” or the “afterlife” at all, but his mission was also for life in THIS WORLD and has special significance for “THE POOR.”

Corbett and Fikkert then demonstrate how the embrace of the afterlife meaning – esp to the exclusion of the here-and-now meaning – has “dramatic consequences” for Jesus’s continued mission (via the church) in the world today.  The pie-in-the-sky worldview of many Christians leaves the world Jesus came to save just to languish instead!

One of the illustrations Corbett and Fikkert employ for this insight comes from the testimony of Charles Marsh in his book The Last Days… (pages 35-38).  Near the end of the chapter, Corbett and Fikkert pull this illustration together with lessons learned from the genocide in Rwanda (pages 46-48).




I would do well, I think, to point out that in the broad strokes, I understand and concur with Corbett and Fikkert in their view that the OTHER WORLDLY, pie-in-the-sky worldview held by many Christians today is (or can be) detrimental to the faith and to Christian witness in the world.  I agree that the Jesus-message and mission is FOR THIS WORLD and not strictly FOR THE NEXT.  We absolutely must work to implement the GOSPEL in the here-n-now, and that will impact the food, clothing, and shelter of the poor with the LOVE of God.

I even think the terms they use, “Christ-centered, fully orbed kingdom perspective” are a good way to designate the view that both they and I would advocate in place of a pin-in-the-sky view so many at a pop level hold and which leads to “dramatic consequences.”

However, there is another “small nuance” they overlook right in the midst of the otherwise fine analysis they offer which also likewise has “dramatic consequences.”  And in this case, they are like those “vast majority of people” they point out on page 33.  They need to think through some stuff that previously they have not.

In my view, at least in part (let me say that again, because I don’t think this explains away everything – AT LEAST IN PART), call it a “small nuance” if you like, Corbett and Fikkert, in their rush to bring back the THIS WORLD, HERE-N-NOW LIFE  into the Gospel worldview, have then/thereby short-changed the power and meaning of the Gospel FOR THIS WORLD.

I’m sure that needs explaining.  I am still searching for a better, more succinct way of phrasing it, but…

Here’s the “small nuance” they fail to account for in their own work:  Corbett and Fikkert are absolutely right to insist that the message and mission of Jesus is FOR THIS WORLD and not exclusive to life in the hereafter.  However, Jesus ministers to and dies for THIS WORLD and THAT IS THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEMS OF THIS WORLD.  Basically, there are “dramatic consequences” to Jesus’s death and resurrection which are going overlooked here.


Okay, let me do a little more to shape up the idea I am getting at, and if need be re-read these three paragraphs a couple of times to get the parts working together.  Because the problem is that even though Corbett and Fikkert rightly point out that Jesus and his Gospel, his Lordship come to fruition on a Roman cross, is FOR THE HERE-N-NOW, they then run to worldly wisdom from the HERE-N-NOW to either supplement or even replace what Jesus says and does in order to address the HERE-n-NOW.

Am I making sense yet?


Okay, well I will go ahead and say more to unpack the idea, but those 3 paragraphs above were my attempt to summarize the “mall  nuance” difference between Corbett and Fikkert and me which then have dramatic consequences later – each paragraph adding a layer to the one before it, but aiming at succinct.

Corbett and Fikkert have rightly discerned that THIS WORLD needs saving, but have wrongly discerned that either the Gospel of Jesus can’t do it, or that the Gospel of Jesus needs help and can’t do it alone without WORDLY WISDOM getting involved.  Thus the “small business classes” and so forth.  Thus, all the appeal to conservative vs. liberal ideals etc….

Now, I am getting irritatingly redundant in an effort to be clear on this, but basically, they introduce ideas, plans, ambitions that you don’t find in Jesus and the Gospel he brings; you find instead WORDLY ideas, plans, and ambitions of theorist and practitioners from many decades that SEEM TO MAKE BETTER SENSE at being “EFFECTIVE.”


Consider this contrast:  Jericho

How does Joshua and the armies of Hebrews defeat Jericho?  Do they win with ANY of the usual battle strategies?  Do they teach Jericho’s battle strategy at West Point or the Naval Acadamy?

NO.  Of course not.

God tells Joshua to gather the people and march around the city everyday, and then on the 7th day, they march around it 7 times and blow their trumpets.  At that point the walls fall down as if – AS IF – as if the trumpets were basically the People of God announcing the fact that God has just entered the battle field!

What a strange strategy!  Other worldly, in fact!  A play book NOT FROM this world, but definitely FOR this world.

I just really expect that these strategic instructions felt rather counter-intuitive to Joshua and most of the Hebrews with him.  This is THE WAY God wanted them to engage the problem, but it didn’t make much sense.  It sure isn’t the worldly wisdom of a sneak/surprise attack like those they teach in military academies.  But it is the battle strategy revealed to Joshua by the captain of YHWH’s host!

Now this may be just a little theological speculation, but WHY do you think THIS IS THE STRATEGY GOD ORDERS???

Well, no doubt there is important theological significance of marching one time for six days and then seven times on the seventh day.  No doubt such a strategy points the theological eye back to the first creation and the theological imagination to the NEW CREATION.  And somehow all of that (and more!) comes to a head in the Battle of Jericho.


There is another theological strand in this cord of rich meaning and purpose, AND we see God re-deploy it time and time again in various ways and various settings and it is obvious as the nose on your face!

Do you see it???


Well, let me ask a question which surely will make it jump out at you:


Who gets the glory for THIS BATTLE STRATEGY?  Joshua or GOD???


I mean they could have planned a stealth attack, or they could have devised superior weapons, or they could have lured the people of Jericho into a trap, OR -oh my- they could have invented their own version of the Trojan Horse before the Greeks did it.  And IF they had deployed  ANY of those fine and proven battle strategies, they might well have won the battle without God’s divine intervention AND certainly Joshua could get the glory.




Instead Joshua trusts God and takes him at his word.  He instead deploys the very UNWISE (by worldly standards) – even FOOLISH (1st Corinthians, anyone???) strategy of blowing their own cover and surprise and marching around and around for days and blowing the trumpets.  I’m betting this strategy TESTED Israel ever bit as much as it tested Jericho.  And when those walls finally fall, it has NOTHING to do with Joshua’s engineering, but everything to do with trusting obedience to God which in turn brings all the GLORY to God where it belongs.


I’m thinking how foolish this battle looks and feels on about Day 3!

(We marched, but nothing happened.)


Again on Day 4, (Wow!  This feels silly! Common sense tells you we should have planned a surprise attack!  If this doesn’t work, we will probably die AND look stupid too!)

Feel me yet???


I mean it’s almost like God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the week things to shame the strong, the base despised and things that are not to shame the things that are!

Oh my!  I might have read that somewhere!

(hint: 1st Cor. 1:27-28)


It’s essentially the same point Corbett and Fikkert make by quoting Mark Gornik on page 43, but I stick to it while they abandon it.




We see this theological strand in the cord of battle strategy over and over and over again!

Think of these biblical examples:


Moses vs Pharaoh

Shepherd boy vs. Giant

or my personal favorite the BEGGARS at the Gates of Samaria vs. the Army of Aram (II KINGS 6-7)

Oh nice!


Did you see how I worked in that very biblical example of God using beggars – NEEDY PEOPLE – to save his king and nobles???

Yeah, that story becomes very important again later when we are actually discussing homeless beggars and the like….

Just wait for it.


In every one of these cases (and more too!), we witness the people of God learning to TRUST and OBEY God rather than conventional wisdom and to lean NOT on their own understanding or on “small business classes,” but to seek God’s GLORY that we may not boast!

[Now, I gotta say, if you are a professor of economics or social work at a state school or a leader in a government agency, then all this learning to TRUST and OBEY God stuff, seeking his GLORY in our own humiliating and foolish battle strategies will seem out of place.  But to smuggle all of their secular wisdom into a church?  What do you think the church is there for???]

(By the way, Corbett and Fikkert flirt with this idea again on page 43 when they say “It is strange indeed to place the poor at the center of a strategy for expanding the kingdom, but history indicates that this unconventional strategy has actually been quite successful.”)

In the final analysis, it’s not actually Moses vs. Pharoah, but God vs. Re (or the principalities and powers), not really a shepherd boy against a giant, but God vs. FEAR, and not really beggars vs. Aram, but God vs. PRIDE. Point being, however you slice it, God is at work in the small, weak, foolish, humble things, and people of this world, and God is fixing the problems of the world at levels we can’t really understand but which we can trust.  When HE prevails, it will surprise us all as well as our enemies, but we will all then KNOW THAT YHWH IS THE LORD!

And of course the premier example of all of this is that humble prophet from Naz (a place reportedly nothing good comes from, btw) gets crowned KING of the JEWS via a Roman cross when he is utterly rejected by his own people!  And…



Take care not to blaspheme!




I hope you can see the stone that Corbett and Fikkert have rejected.  They leave this part out of their otherwise mostly fine analysis in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts.

I agree with their assessment and that of C. Marsh that the old pastor was ignoring the terrorism of racism with the Gospel right when he should have confronted it, AND that the old pastor justified himself by charactierizing the Gospel as a fix for ANOTHER WORLD which will only be realized in the next life.


But, that leaves open the question of how the humble Gospel might confront the terrorism and racism!

While southern pastors turned a blind eye to this problem, the Federal Government did not.  The president sent in troops with guns and tanks and FBI agents to investigate.  And through all that BIG GOVERNMENT worldly wisdom, the problem was definitely addressed, though not resolved.

But I wonder why Corbett and Fikkert would wish for that worldly type of wisdom via the church (or would they send in the “small business class” teachers for that too???).  I’m just spit-balling here, but based on the reactions to church (as well as school) shootings in recent years by many southern and West Texas pastors, I’m betting Corbett and Fikkert may well think old pastor Marsh should have armed his church with shotguns and gone out to confront the white, racist terrorists.

However, that is all ironic for disciiples of Christ/followers of Jesus who are told to put away their weapons and love their enemies and take up crosses and follow!

What if… and I’m just spit-balling again… what if old Pastor Marsh showed up at a cross-burning rally with a handful of his parishioners and began preaching against the fear and hate and racism like John the Baptist?  I mean armed with only a few witnesses and a Bible vs. the KKK idiots with their shotguns and torches – SOME OF WHOM very likely might attend Marsh’s church on Sunday mornings – old Marsh would appear quite humble and vulnerable and MIGHT LOSE HIS LIFE for the cause (Dr. King did!).

And I can’t predict for sure what would have happened.  Marsh might really get killed!  But I really expect not.

I expect that those good ol’ boys under those hoods weren’t exactly ready for killing a white Baptist preacher!  Esp. if he was THEIR pastor!

Maybe.  But probably not.

I think the moral authority which really was God’s GLORY would overwhelm those idiots and disarm them in their tracks.

Risky?  Yes!

But I would bet on it.


IF they killed old Pastor Marsh, then Marsh would be martyred and go be with Jesus all the sooner on the one hand, and the legacy of faith in God on the other would be so DEEPLY convicting to those good ol’ boys that killed him that I bet they would unravel after the fact!  And thus, the old pastor would have GLORIFIED God either way – but done so with the Gospel!

That OTHER WORLDLY message and mission deployed IN and FOR THIS WORLD has divine and mysterious power.  But our guns and our “small business classes” are nowhere listed in our arsenal.




I hope I have demonstrated – at yet another level – the very thing Corbett and Fikkert highlight when they say that “there are nuanced differences in how Christians think… and those small differences can have dramatic consequences….”

As you can see, I have been entirely biblical with my rebuttal too, and so it’s now a matter of discernment.  Which of us in these opposing views that can both be fairly characterized as being biblical is actually the more faithful to God and his word?

And at this point, I have now come far afield of When Helping Hurts.  In order for me to make my case further, I will now return to the trail Corbett and Fikkert chase down and hopefully show where their otherwise very biblical presentation transitions into “unbiblical (p15) assumptions” esp. about “the nature of poverty” and God’s Gospel approach to it.

One of the most glaring deficiencies – a real fly in the ointment (to put it conversely) – is found on page 41 right smack dab in the middle of one of the best paragraphs on one of the best pages of the whole book!  I mean right at the point where Corbett and Fikkert really have me jazzed they say this:

“And in the very first passage concerning the gathering of the church, we read, ‘There were no needy persons among them’ (Acts 4:34)” (page 41).


I mean the 3 paragraphs leading up to this point and the 3 paragraphs following it are very insightful, scriptural, and helpful.  But go read Acts 4:34 for yourself.  You will find Corbett and Fikkert do not quote it in its entirety, and they do not add the verse following it (which has bearing on it).  Nor do they quote or cite Acts 2:44-45 which resonates harmoniously with 4:34 perfectly!


Why do Corbett and Fikkert fail to quote the whole verse?  The part which explains HOW the CHURCH addresses the issue of the needy people among them?

I suspect the reason they don’t quote that part is because their thesis (arrived at on completely other grounds) is diametrically opposed to that part of God’s Word.  You see, the part they just danced all around and neglected to acknowledge says those people of means in that church sold their wealth off and shared the income with all the needy folx in that church and THEN “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34)!

But Corbett and Fikkert wouldn’t endorse that part of what the Bible clearly teaches; instead they endorse the sponsoring of “small business classes” which clearly is an “unbiblical assumption about the nature of poverty [but embraces]… best practice methodologies developed by theorists and practitioners over the course of many decades.” (see page 15 again for that quote).





Ahhh… but I’m not merely nit-picking Corbett and Fikkert for failing to quote the whole verse or for failing to analyse it in its full context; I’m noting that they’re actually rather good attempt at being biblical then transitions to a very subtle undermining of itself, which (to my mind) actually begins under the ALL CAPS heading “AN ARMY OF OUTCASTS” but finds ever more tangible expression under the bold print heading “THE GREAT REVERSAL” on page 45 and especially under the next bold print heading on page 46, “AN IMPORTANT TASK.”  Let’s get into it.


Okay, I’m sure I’m out on a limb with the first part of my point here, so I will merely mention it and not labor it, since it won’t win me any prizes on the one hand, and is the weakest part of this rebuttal on the other, BUT…

Corbett and Fikkert assert this:

“The claim [that “God has chosen the poor…to be rich in faith…] here is not the that the poor are inherently more righteous or sanctified than the rich.  There is no place in the Bible that indicates that poverty is a desirable state or that material things are evil.”  (page 43)


Yes, this is that first slippage of transition, in my mind, that I detect even before we get to “The Great Reversal.”  As I see it, Corbett and Fikkert, still in the midst of an over all good argument, suddenly make this bold assertion.  Yes BOLD!  Bold in light of passages like Mark 10:23, 25 or even Mark 4:19; Luke 12:15-21; Eccl. 5:10; Matt. 6:24; Rev. 18:19 and I Tim 6:10!

Oh wait… you mean I Tim. 6:10 doesn’t say MONEY is the root of all evil but rather it’s the LOVE of money that is the root of ALL KINDS of evil???

Just how far do you think you have distanced yourself from the root of all kinds of evil by pointing that out?  You arrogant self-righteous twit!  You think you can check off the box that you  know the difference between all the money you have, all the money you work so hard to obtain, and all the money you hope to have piled up for yourself at retirement when that day comes and your LOVE for it?  What about the occasional LOTTO ticket you buy AND THEN come talk to me about “the LOVE of money”!

Look again.  I think you are loving your money!  And you can’t serve both God and Mammon!  (A lesson that goes over real well at the “small business classes” I am sure.)

But really now… with all these passages of Bible impinging on such a bold assertion as Corbett and Fikkert so easily make there on page 43, it sure seems to me that even if we decide they are right, the Bible is begging them to justify that assertrion.

But maybe that’s just me.



Let’s move off that relatively weak point and see if we don’t detect the transition from all the good quality biblical insight of the earlier pages in Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts and into the unbiblical assumptions that so easily accompany the politics Evangelicals who will even vote for a self-professed, “Two Corinthians” quoting “pussy-grabber” as long as he claims to be conservative and to hate liberals.

Look, I don’t want to be a baby-killing liberal any more than the next Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby customer, but then I’m not a liberal-hater either.  No.  I’m sure the Bible says to love your enemies, and that’s a tall order for anyone, but championing a hater – esp one so blatantly opportunistic about his appeal to Evangelicals rather than his anything-but-pious life should be a no-brainer.

(Now I understand completely that our current president was not even in the running back when this book was published, but all the earmarks of the same appeal are there, and some of them surface on page 45).

In their description of “The Great Reversal” Corbett and Fikkert tell us, “However, this all changed at the start of the twentieth century as evangelicals battled theological liberals over the fundamental tenets of Christianity.”  And with that off-the-cuff statement about a tangent issue, our writers establish themselves on the side of those battling liberals.

It’s curious that the liberals being battled against were not entirely wrong in their views.  Those liberals seemed to have the right idea about the mission and message of Jesus being FOR THIS WORLD and as part of that package they were caring for the poor when the evangelicals moved away from such care (for a time).

Of course, Corbett and Fikkert are singling out the THEOLOGICAL liberals in particular when they use that word, and  that is not the same as political liberals per se.  But despite the technical difference between them, Corbett and Fikkert waste no time drawing upon the catch phrases and complaints popular among political conservatives who openly oppose political liberals too.  So, yes, the politics come in for review too.

What POLITICS am I referring to particularly?

I quote:

“It is important to note that the Great Reversal preceded the rise of the welfare state in America.”

And then specific mention is made of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and FDR’s New Deal, two features of liberal politics that conservatives single out for sharp criticism, ridicule, and even hate quite frequently.

Why is mention of “the rise of the welfare state in America,” LBJ’s “War on Poverty,” and FDR’s “New Deal” made in a book about “When Helping Hurts“??.?

Well, ostensibly Corbett and Fikkert want to show that these politically liberal policies are not the cause of the Great Reversal, rather it was those “theological liberals” that Evangelicals were battling with long before the politics caught up with them.  But actually, I’m scratching my head here, wondering why that matters to the thesis Corbett and Fikkert promote.


Let me see if I got this straight


The conservative Evangelicals of yesteryear began mistakenly withdrawing from charity support for the poor in their reaction to theological liberals who seemed to twist some of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. (One wonders if the liberals – the theological liberals – were disregarding the Bible and its teachings about miracles and providence and obedience to God’s Word – like say… oh… “Sell all you own, give it to the poor, and come follow…” OR the church selling all their property and bringing the proceeds to the church and no one went in need….)  I mean, hey, I am a conservative, but after giving Corbett and Fikkert a hearing on this, I think those liberals they lament were probably the heroes in the analysis they want to scapegoat!

Anyway, the conservatives were opposing these liberals rightly (on some undefined level) but the liberals were still caring for the poor, as meanwhile the conservatives stopped for a time, and thus due to battling with them, the good Evangelicals let care for the poor slip by the wayside.  But all of this happened way before “the welfare state,” FDR, and LBJ so those liberals don’t really factor into this, but their stupid version of poverty relief get trotted out here along the way.

Is that it?


Is this recital of American politics vis-à-vis church politics just a rhetorical way of bashing liberals for giving a dollar to a bum while making it all sound justified on modern political grounds – all meant to supplement our theology (since the biblical theology just ain’t really getting us here)?

So why exactly, then, did FDR and LBJ get mentioned here and what difference does that mention of them make?

I’m starting to wonder why these Evangelicals get any praise.  They stopped “helping” the poor at all!  The liberals kept helping!  [Remember the first of two convictions Corbett and Fikkert tell us prompts them to write this book back on page 28?  Where is that right about now???]  Yeah, according to Corbett and Fikkert – not me!  I didn’t research this; they did.- yeah, according to Corbett and Fikkert, the liberals kept caring for the poor when the good conservatives stopped.  Yet they make no case whatsoever that those theological liberals were doing it wrong or ineffective or doing harm.  No.  All that is standard complaint about FDR and LBJ, but those guys have nothing to do with any of this because the Great Reversal came long before they did.


So again… Why are we talking about this?  Why bring all this up?


I think we have some smoke-n-mirrors here!  And in a chapter that was doing so well at being biblical just a few pages back, I think this now is starting that transition into its self-fulfilling prophecy of leading churches into “using poverty alleviation strategies that are grounded in unbiblical assumptions about the nature of poverty…” (see page 15 again).



I come to page 46 under the heading “An Important Task but Not and Exclusive Task.”

Basically, the whole section consists of one unfounded assertion after another, but even more, it’s really one outlandish, unfounded assertion after another.

My assertion about all their assertions may seem strange considering they cite 3 Bible passages mid way through the first paragraph.  So let me address that briefly.

The Bible is authoritative for the church specifically.  To join the church is to join the People of God who bend the knee to Jesus willingly now in THIS WORLD.  We cannot expect individuals, families, and governments outside the church to be both outside the church AND beholding to God’s Word.  That’s just a moot point.  Even if people outside the church show an interest in God’s Word, we cannot expect them to honor it.

And anyway, it looks to me like all that is intended to segue into a focus on parachurch ministry, in reality.  [I don’t think Corbett and Fikkert truly want to address the church in the fullest sense, but to address the parachurch ministries, and address the church insofar as she supports those parachurch ministries.]

But “para-church” is not biblical.  Nice, but not biblical.  In fact, we might call it “theologically liberal” though that would not fit the standard definition of it – yet I can’t help but think how such a blatant disregard for what otherwise isn’t liberal.


But it’s this quote I find jaw dropping on this basis:

“Hence, while the church must care for the poor, the Bible gives Christians some freedom in deciding the extent and manner in which the local church should do this, either directly or indirectly.”



Well, the Bible very directly commands me to “give to all who ask” (Luke 6:30), but Corbett and Fikkert disregarded that – wrote a whole book about how doing that causes harm, yet here we claim the Bible gives us all this freedom to decide how a church will care for the poor, yet NO citation is given???


The mistake is so glaring, I am embarrassed for Corbett and Fikkert to point it out.



To sum up my critique of Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts, I must say the biblical theology of this chapter is refreshing.  A strong effort is made and much improvement over that of the intro shines through!  The use of Bible is necessary, and Corbett and Fikkert definitely step it up.

The take away seems to be that Corbett and Fikkert reveal two different kinds of handling of the Gospel (or two different worldviews which are often generated by those of us who devote ourselves to the Gospel).  The difference is “nuanced” and “small” at first, but it makes for “dramatic consequences” in the long run.  And on this point (as far as it goes in the hands of Corbett and Fikkert) I agree with them.

However, merely pointing out that many Evangelical Christians mistakenly adopt a worldview in which the Gospel ONLY impinges on the afterlife and saving souls in order that they go to heaven when they die, and limiting the Gospel to strictly this OTHER WORDLY, pie-in-the-sky mentality when actually the Gospel really does impinge upon matters in THIS WORLD, this life here-n-now does not yet dictate a right or wrong way to serve the poor.  So much of all of that is right, true, and accurate, but begins to assume too much while it stops too short.  And with the aid of rhetorical force and the use of political ideas, the fact that the real thesis of When Helping Hurts comes unhinged from the actual Bible gets obscured.  Small nuances lead to dramatic consequences.

I am pointing THAT out, which is more difficult amid a stash of Bible citations.  The trick is to show how the proof-texting on the one hand is not really honoring the biblical context, and thus God’s Word, and on the other, how the rhetorical effect obscures this feature.

I think I have done that now.

Even though I have begun to criticize in broader strokes now (rather than word-for-word/paragraph-by-paragraph) the only part of Chapter 1 I have left untouched (I think) is the preview and reflection questions.  I think for now I will just leave them be.  I consider them to range from harmless to manipulative in nature, really, but I think if I was successful in refuting the meat of the chapter, then the questions fall under their own weight.


Here we go again with the Blah Blah Blah Blah series that hardly anyone reads.  This is the fifth post in the series scattered throughout the last ten or so.  If you have an interest in When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, please give me a hearing.  I think you will find that book (and the general philosphy and attitude it promotes) does the very damage (or more) that it claims your almsgiving for the last 6000 years has been doing.

I am open to debate, if you like.  But I don’t really expect you to read this.  And in the final analysis, my reason for producing all of the chicken-scratch notes has more to do with helping me process the thoughts I want to include in the chapter I plan to devote to Corbett and Fikkert (AND FRIENDS) in my upcoming project on Heaven’s Hospitality.  In part, I have a LOT of thoughts here that I plan to leave on the editing room floor, but MAYBE, MAYBE, MAYBE someone will read them and find them useful HERE.  Yet, as I say, in the big picture, I am using this blog to help me process my first round of editing for THAT project.

So, jumping back in where we left off…. (In case you feel like you joined a conversation midway at this point, go back to the start because you have.)  Here we go…





I have now spent the last 14 pages [in the original handwritten] chicken-scratch looking into the Bible for answers to how to engage  the poor according to God.  The thing is… we are now FAR AFIELD from When Helping Hurts, the book to which all this chicken-scratch reaction is devoted.


Well, I reckon we need to back up and find Corbett and Fikkert back there in their introduction to When Helping Hurts.  They still haven’t got out of the intro before totally bankrupting their thesis!

Ahhh… yes.  Here is another quote that provides a fine example of why we don’t find them in our little tour of Scripture we just took.  Listen to this:


“… we do not pretend that the material in this book [When Helping Hurts] is unique to us.  Rather, the following pages are simply a way of synthesizing and organizing the ideas of many others….  We are deeply indebted to the many authors, researchers, and practitioners who have produced a vast range of principles, resources, and tools for us to draw upon.”  (page 27 -bold print added by me)



Here’s a deadly question:

Does Jesus get even honorable mention on this list?


Am I being overly nit picky now?

I am sure Corbett and Fikkert don’t mean to slight Jesus, but they do, AND the fact that they rely on SO MANY authors and researchers and practitioners who PRODUCE a VAST RANGE of PRINCIPLES, RESOURCES and so on strongly suggests that even IF they value what Jesus says, they think he is lacking.


****SIDE NOTE****

I fear at this point based on my own words/wording in that last statement that I may sound like I have no use for authors and researchers etc.. but that is not the case.  Yet, as stated there above, the distinction is not made.  So allow me to do that now.

If Corbett and Fikkert were actually basing their theories/theses on Scripture, they very well might rely on a host of Bible scholars to help them discern the Bible text.  As it is, and I think I have already demonstrated this, they are looking for… well, let’s call it WORLDLY WISDOM.

How many of these authors, researchers, and practitioners come from the disciplines of FINCANCE, of POLITICS, ECONOMICS, SOCIAL WORK, PSYCHOLOGY/SOCIOLOGY or ADDICTION TREATMENT?  And how much of this VAST RANGE of PRINCIPLES, RESOURCES, and TOOLS come from those “secular” disciplines, and then displace the teachings of Jesus such as we find in Luke 6:30 or Mark 10:21?

And “displaced” would be a good description for this since Corbett and Fikkert, no where in their presentation, make any allowance for those teachings, address them at all, or show any sign there might be a word from God there for this issue at all.  Jesus is ignored at just those points!

See the distinction?




Okay… now for another quote:


“While materialism, self-centeredness, and complacency continue to plague all of us….”  (page 27)


I find it curious that Corbett and Fikkert see “materialism, self-centeredness, and complacency” as a “plague” we all suffer, are willing to give the nod to these matters in the intro, but then spend the rest of When Helping Hurts outlining how our care – selfless care at that – does harm to the poor.  Will there be a chapter devoted to these plagues?


And so this may be the last mention of 3 plagues that make life hard for the poor.



Where is the volume on materialism and its impact on the poor?  Isaiah 5:8???

Where is the volume on self-centeredness?

Where is the volume on complacency?

Why do we get a volume on When Helping Hurts, but not these plagues???  Why start HERE (assuming it’s even legit)?


On page 28, Corbett and Fikkert tell us they write with TWO CONVICTIONS:


“First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough.  We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth.  Period.  Yet most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world.”





This is some of the best and most profound words to come from the pen(s) of Corbett and Fikkert!  They are so true, so powerful, and so disturbing that they DESERVE 230 pages of analysis.  They really SHOULD have written their whole book with just that one conviction in mind!  But, I think they forgot this conviction for the next 200 pages instead.

Instead of taking us to these Scriptures that very obviously address the first of their two convictions, they end the paragraph I just cited on page 28 lamenting that, “there is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.”





That’s what they said.

BUT THEN Corbett and Fikkert drop their real conviction on us – the one they actually write the whole book about:


“Second, many observers, including Steve and I, believe that when North American Christians DO attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor.  Our concern is not just that these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources, but that these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.” (page 28 of When Helping Hurts)


Oh man!  Where do I start?

Okay, Why is this the “second conviction” and not the only one?  Did Corbett and Fikkert write a two part book here and feature their conviction that North American Christians simply are not doing enough yearning and striving and then offer a second part featuring their conviction that when North American Christians actually do (though with inadequate yearning and striving) attempt to alleviate poverty, they botch it all with jacked up methods like “giving to all who ask” (see Luke 6:30) or “selling everything they own and giving it all to the poor” (see Mark 10:21) or selling it all and giving it to the church who then shares it all with the poor (see Acts 2 and 4)???

Yeah.  Did they incorporate the first part with the first conviction, or just blow a little smoke up our skirt by mentioning it when really they wrote a book only about the “second conviction” which actually is their only conviction?


Next, I’m wondering about the term “materially poor” and its partner the “materially non-poor.”

Yeah.  Why the fancy terms for what the rest of us in the English-speaking world just call “the poor” and “the rich” – much like the Bible?

Well, we are not to that redefinition part of the book yet, BUT IT’S COMING, and this phraseology is a foretaste of it.  SPOILER ALERT!!!  According to Corbett and Fikkert, there are different kinds of poverty.  If you jump ahead briefly to page 61 in Chapter 2, you will find a diagram there that outlines the different poverties: Poverty of Spiritual Intimacy, Poverty of Being, Poverty of Community, and Poverty of Stewardship.  None of this terminology appears in the Bible, but Corbett and Fikkert will have you (the Christian book buying public) chasing all manner of diversionary bunnies soon, and will need the rhetorical force of redefining terms, prying up matters previously nailed down, blowing smoke and dirt up in the air to obscure your views.  It’s smoke-n-mirrors,


When it’s done you can look a homeless beggar in the eye and refuse to give him a solitary dime AND consider it your Christian duty rather than just your selfish apathy!  (Two plagues lamented back on page 27, by the way!)  And that’s got to be worth the price of the book!


So, yeah, instead of referring to “the poor” or “the rich,” we are treated to “the materially poor” and “the materially non-poor.”  We are greasing the gears already, right here in the introduction.


Next the quote says:


“Our concern is not just… wasting…resources….”


Yeah.  There is the stewardship angle here, and it gets the nod too.

By the way, I am filling another of these chicken-scratch composition books with BIBLICAL research into the word “STEWARD” and “STEWARDSHIP” particularly as used by Jesus, and I am finding it has a lot to do with FEEDING THE UNDERLINGS what the Master provides for them, rather than efficient, non-wasteful use of resources.  But more on that at the other end of this project.


Then FINALLY, we come to the last part of the quote we have been looking at from page 28.  Here it is:


“…these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.”


AGAIN, I should reiterate that I do not deny that the phenom we call “enabling” exists.  Call it the “rescuer triangle” or the “law of unintended consequences” and you quickly realize the phenom is broader than just helping the poor.  My expectation is that the phenom can not entirely be avoided or even managed.  When we relate in caring ways with other people, it always involves risk and requires patience.  Thus, I don’t think I would write a book that seeks to avoid or manage it; I think that is naïve at best.

But again, my real beef is that the Bible does not warn against this nor have very much to say which can even be construed as advice about it.  On the contrary, Jesus does considerable harm to himself in his offer of salvation which he makes and then he honors the decision of those he makes it to as they either accept or reject his offer of Salvation…


accept and stumble along the way while he patently leads them (us) or even carries them (or us) back to the fold like a lamb on his shoulders!

Thus, even the idea that we are going to “solve” these problems is not so well established – certainly not in the kinds of terms Corbett and Fikkert present them.  As Jesus says, “The poor you always have with you…. and you can do good to them whenever you want” (Mark14:7)

If I actually alleviated all the poverty in the world, I would prove Jesus wrong in that statement.

As it is, I am going to have to let go of this fine tooth comb in the rest of the book and just pick out one or two features of each chapter to rebut.  We are now thoroughly introduced to When Helping Hurts, but we have yet to deal with even a word from Chapter 1.


Perhaps this post is better called Blah Blah Blah Blah (part 3b) since really no one reads it or cares AND since I didn’t really finish the last post.  These nit pickings are long and … well… nit picky.  You gotta have an interest in homelessness, in Jesus, and in Corbett and Fikkert’s work to read this stuff.  Plus you gotta either have an open mind, willing to think biblically about their offerings OR you gotta already be seeing the deficiency there and wondering what Agent X might highlight regarding it.  That makes for a small readership, I reckon.

But if that’s you, then I encourage you to scroll down the past few posts.  This series is well under way.  I would hate for you to miss even one riveting paragraph of it.

Of course, I would very much appreciate your feedback too.  Please, if that’s you… let’s talk.


And… Enjoy

After straying off my notes a bit under the heading “WHY THIS BOOK” found on page 26 of When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, I am now picking up the chase again.  Not going back to overlap, and this might feel a bit disjointed if you put it all together, since I interjected some new thoughts there at the end of the last post, I hope you can make sense of it.  If you are really that interested, I bet you can.  If not, ask me!  I will answer questions.

So jumping back in:

Is that the extent of Jesus’s program/ministry to improve the lives of the poor?

Well, no.  Not exactly.  BUT it was, in his mind, a good enough description of his mission (as far as “the poor” are concerned) to comfort John the Baptist (who was about to die) that he had not lived his life in vain or backed the wrong messiah.  So probably there is a depth in that statement which we need to consider carefully.  It may well reveal more about God’s care for the poor than us modern, English -speaking American Christians will readily realize.

I do not intend to exegete that passage [Luke 7 if you need the refresher] AT THIS POINT in my chicken-scratch rebuttal to When Helping Hurts, but I highly recommend that defenders of this book do just that.  I am quite certain “small-business classes” are not involved.

But there are far more texts in the Bible dealing with Jesus’s ministry to and for poor people than just this self-professionary statement.

No doubt many of the poor Jesus encounters are poor in part or the whole due to physical illness/injury which Jesus heals (which we might presume gets them back to work at the mill (or wherever)).  But of course, that is certainly NOT a complete answer, and since Corbett and Fikkert are not running around performing miraculous healings (nor promoting them – one thinks rather than holding “small-business classes” they might AS A CHURCH hold healing touch classes and find poor people’s lives improved that way, but they don’t).

There is another way Jesus addresses poverty – a way which I expect dovetails very nicely with his preaching the Gospel to them, by the way, but it is a VERY SUBVERSIVE and indirect approach to the issue.  It also is the cornerstone – the stone people like Corbett and Fikkert appear to have rejected, since for them it never comes up.

What am I talking about?

Jesus frequently has a word TO THE RICH or sometimes ABOUT THE RICH in relation to the poor – a word that if heeded would surely improve the lives of the poor – esp. if the whole of creation got on board with it.


Let’s look at a few passages which might fit this pattern/theme:

Luke is always a good place to start when talking about how the Bible (and esp Jesus) engage the poor and favor the poor as dear to God’s heart.

LUKE 1:53

One of the most easily overlooked passages in all the Bible, in my experience, that shows regard for the poor is found in St. Mary’s prayer THE MAGNIFICAT.

Yes.  Shortly after the young, virgin Mary learns from the Angel that she will give birth to the Son of God, and shortly after she shares this good news with her cousin Elisabeth, this young girl, the mother of our LORD, offers a prayer/song of praise to God.   And there in the midst of this WORLD-CHANGING/CREATION-SAVING news, Mary says, “He has filled the hungry with GOOD THINGS and sent the rich away EMPTY-handed!”


Sends the rich away empty???

That sure doesn’t sound like any sermon I ever heard where I go to church!

If PASTOR was gonna preach a sermon on THAT passage, what would the sermon say?

Well, “the hungry” almost certainly are THE POOR – even on the face of it.  Certainly, “THE HUNGRY” are contrasted in this very verse with “THE RICH.”  And throughout the gospel tradition, and especially Luke, we will find this sentiment from Mary take shape in various people, shapes, and time (etc.).

See Luke 18

I can’t help but think of the “Rich Young Ruler” (as he is traditionally called).  You find Luke’s account of that exchange in 18:18-27.  I doubt very much that I need to recite it for any would read here.  But we see this RICH MAN come to Jesus seeming so eager to join Jesus’s cause all except for the parting with his wealth.

He doesn’t want to be sent away empty handed!


It occurs to me that if you write and publish a book in any way claiming to represent Jesus about how to interact with the poor in a way that honors Jesus and either ignore this passage or tell rich people not to give their wealth to the poor …



…you have made the same choice as this rich man!  (Corbett and Fikkert… I am talking to you!)  And you are encouraging others to do the same as well!  Thus, the discussion between Jesus and the disciples that follows after his interaction with the rich man becomes a STARK WARNING 


Ahhh!  But then I am being biblical.  Look.  I’m not some jerk that just wants to crash your party; no.  I am a Christian minister who was taking passages such as this seriously and TRYING to live accordingly when suddenly my church found this book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert and began discouraging service to Jesus as we find it IN THE BIBLE!

And so far, When Helping Hurts has totally ignored this passage and many like it.


Luke 19

What about Zaccheus?

He was rich and encountered Jesus very SHORTLY after the rich man turned Jesus down, and he too appears to be eager to join Jesus’s mission.  And Jesus invites himself over to Zaccheus’s house for dinner!  And after this encounter, Zaccheus, a RICH MAN who got his living by ripping off the poor, offers an extraordinary repentence; he offers to pay restitutionto the tune of 4 times what he stole!

That would wipe the RICH MAN  OUT!  Zaccheus would become poor like all the bums he paid back while they got what was stolen from them and three times more!

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking IF that repentance led Zaccheus to have LIFE BOTH NOW AND IN THE AGE TO COME, then it would be by virtue of the RIGHT RELATIONSHIP he finds Jesus restoring, not least between him and those poor people he pays restitution to – who now think Zaccheus is ONE OF US and WE SHOULD take care of him now too!


Did I just discover Jesus’s version of community/economic development???




Worth pondering!

But you won’t find that featured in Corbett and Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts.


Luke 16

But we were talking, if you remember, about how Mother Mary sings about the fact that when her Son is born, he will usher in the filling of the hungry with good things and the sending away of the rich empty handed.  And probably the passage par excellence which exhibits that is found in Luke 16.

What about the parable of The RICH MAN AND LAZARUS?

Did that one just slip your minds, Corbett and Fikkert???  Huh???  WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING???

For all I know, this RICH MAN might have the same views on dealing with the poor as Corbett and Fikkert.  He doesn’t GIVE any of his wealth to Lazarus during his “LIFE,” but after his death he wishes Lazarus could GIVE him just a cool drink of water!

It’s a turn about of just about the same caliber we find in Luke 1:53.

What motives the Rich Man NOT to share his wealth?  Is he just so insightful about how GIVING to the poor might “enable” them?  Do them some “harm” in the final analysis?  Or IS HE JUST SO SELFISH HE CAN’T BE BOTHERED???

Neither Jesus nor Father Abe care to take this great opportunity to lay out that kind of thesis.  Corbett and Fikkert, though, wrote a whole book with that thesis and try to pass it off as biblical and Christian.






IF THE BIBLE wanted to teach you NOT to give your wealth to the poor because of the harm inherent in such a naïve MZUNGU action, THEN ANY OF THESE PASSAGES WOULD BE MISLEADING IF THEY DID NOT ALSO HIGHLIGHT THIS PROBLEM TOO!


I am left to wonder, then… Why would Christian ministers create this worry and address it with a 230 page book?

They sure are NOT appealing to these CLEAR TEACHINGS.


and isn’t that practically the same as giving money to needy people?

Consider these passages:

Deut. 15:1

Nehemiah 10:31

Ezekiel 18:7

Matthew 18:32 (and 6:12 while we are at it)

Luke 11:4

Colossians 2:14

Philemon 1:18

(Among others)


Look.  I could keep going and going and going with this, but this is the chicken-scratch reaction notes.  Suffice it to say, IF AND WHEN the whole of creation responds to and lives by THE GOSPEL of God and honors Jesus as Lord, THEN all relationships will be made right by virtue of the Gospel, and at least part of that package entails us FORGIVING DEBTS which effectively makes all things into FREE GIFTS.


Just imagine the whole creation, and esp every man, woman, and child living in a world where all debt is forgiven and all things are free gifts.  This is exactly what Jubilee envisions (even if only temporarily) and it characterizes THE AGE TO COME!  It’s entirely biblical AND is the way Jesus first presents himself in his hometown synagogue in Luke 4.

It looks to me like rather than tasking the church with leading “small-business classes,” Jesus wants us to continue his mission of cancelling debt!  It is the way to Shalom!  And it is his engagement with AND his GOOD NEWS PROCLAMATION TO THE POOR.

Oh… and it has a way of sending the rich away empty.


And anyway, what goal other than the AGE to Come does Corbett and Fikkert think the church should work for?

In the meantime, look at Mark 14:7.  The poor you always have with you, and you can do good to them whenever you want!

And again… absolutely no caution from Jesus that giving a few dollars OR A LOT to the poor will harm them or inhibit the KINGDOM cause in the slightest…





I have devoted quite a lot of this blog lately off topic since the pandemic hijacks EVERYTHING.  And one thing about it, I have always been, and advocated for, getting ahead and staying ahead of the virus.  I don’t want people to die.  I want them to live.  I want to live.  There are SOME tough choices and SOME risks that must be faced, but if we all got on the same page with the majority of them, the tough ones would be vastly mitigated.  And so I have always tried to get and stay ahead.

I am also vigilant about it.  There is no good excuse for thwarting the simple precautions.  Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep a distance (in fact, isolate except for the exceptions).  If we all did these things to the extent possible and feasible, then the pandemic would probably all but subside.

You can thank your anti-maskers and antivaxers for extending the pain.

That gets me just a little bit steamed.

But you know what?

If these people would think of the group above their own interests, then they would change their tune.  THIS IS A LOVE issue.  A HEART issue.  A matter of hard heartedness and soft heartedness.  Seriously, the vast majority of the deaths in this pandemic are due to the indifference or selfishness of people who refuse to consider others’ interests above their own.  And we are not talking about huge sacrifice on the part of most of them either.

SOME?  Sure.

MOST?  No.


Yeah, that’s what I am talking about.



I realize something else at this point too.  In an effort to GET and STAY ahead of this virus, we need more LOVE.  Self-denying, cross-carrying LOVE.  And up until this point, LOVE is losing against the virus in a massive way!

But there is another flank where LOVE will need to attack.


There are so many people sick and dying now that very few of us are still not directly affected or indirectly affected.  The word on the precautions is out now, and so it is no longer a matter of ignorance that we still suffer.  Education is not the answer anymore.  Education has done what it can.

The obstinance of many has not been overcome with better education.

Now it is FORGIVENESS that comes to bear (or not).  But for LOVE to win, FORGIVENESS must take its turn at the front.

Someone you LOVE will put you at risk.

Could be a mistake or willful obstinance, but this is how pandemic goes.

And LOVE wins that battle by FORGIVENESS.

Prepare your hearts!  The cost is high.

Watch your kids disappear into the ICU, your parents disappear into the ICU, your friends and loved ones disappear into the ICU, and then turn to the one who exposed them and say, “I FORGIVE you; LOVE you.”

Otherwise, pandemic wins.