If you have been following this series, then I don’t need to introduce you to it again.  If you have not been following it, then… I don’t blame you.  But if you have not and want to see for yourself what is wrong with the book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert (in case you have not seen it for yourself already), then please scroll down about five posts back and start following the posts with this same title.

However, I cannot reproduce all the tons of nit picking critique from my notes.  And besides, I need to save some of the more important critique for my forthcoming project TBA later.




INTRODUCTION (page 21 … finally)




We are now finally to the “INTRO” and the opening paragraph comes under an ALL CAPS heading for the opening section: “MZUNGU.”

What is “MZUNGU”?

You will have to wait until we get into the next section on page 23 before that information is revealed.  In the meantime, Brian Fikkert will tell a personal story, a vignette, from his personal experience visiting a slum in Kampala, Unganda on one of his mission trips.

This story depicts him as a naïve “MZUNGU” – a foreigner, white, tall American – out of his element and learning life-lessons in the mission field.  It all seems so humble.  He rhetorically uses himself as a model for us readers of WHAT NOT TO DO and to learn from his mistakes.

He once was like us; now we can become like him.  He once was a naïve MZUNGU, but now we can become wise helpers of the poor by learning what Fikkert teaches us.

Fikkert was in a slum in Africa helping with a “small-business training class held in St. Luke’s church.”  He was on a “teaching sabbatical” from the college where he works.  A very unique issue developed in the class.  One of the students was a demon-possessed, witch-doctor who had a lucrative career casting spells which afforded her $27/day worth of booze to which she was addicted!

Dramatic!  No???

(I am already thinking Fikkert needs to praise this woman for her industrious independence!  This woman does not beg for money, she makes it the old fashioned way: she earns it by convincing clientele of a predicament she has the remedy for, and then sells it to them.  This is exactly what Tide detergent does too.  All except the part about being demon-possessed.  But then what’s a little demon possession between Mammon devotees???  That’s what I want to know!)

It turns out Fikkert’s life long experience as “a pastor’s kid in a rural Wisconsin village that consisted of twelve hundred no-nonsense, fourth-generation, Dutch immigrants” and having “been a member of theologically conservative Presbyterian churches [his] entire life” just did not really prepare him to deal with demonology.  Yeah, despite all these wise, conservative credentials, he didn’t know how to handle this demon thingy!


If you just completed the OPENING EXERCISE on page 19, wrote down your answers to save for a review at a later date at which time you can see how much you learned since picking up this book – where you can see how naïve you were (compared to this MZUNGU) and how far you have come – then Fikkert’s story will provide the template for you to follow.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know yet how to say “NO” to beggars, just hang in there with Fikkert a little longer.  He will gently lead you there in the next few chapters.  He too had to learn this discipline, and he started with strong conservative credentials!  But soon you too can learn to say NO to beggars like Jesus always intended from you, and then you can feel good about yourself while you do it.

See?  Simple, right?  Painless too.


Did you catch the part there where Fikkert mentioned he is /was “conservative”?


Don’t feel bad if you don’t have all the answers yet.  This is a conservative you can trust to show you, maybe not what the Bible actually says, but what God surely meant by it.  He is an expert, after all!  But he started out just as lost and naïve as you.  A MZUNGU.  So, keep the faith.

I just have one question:

Where is the Bible in any of this, Fikkert???

I mean, Fikkert is half way around the world working in a church that offers classes to the locals.

Is it a Bible class???

No.  It’s a “small-business training class” – just like St. Paul taught in Philippi, Ephesus, and Corinth.  Just like Peter taught in… in… wait… did Peter teach a small business class?


Does Jesus ever offer such classes?

Let’s see… Jesus led 5000 hungry, needy people into the desert and taught them to fish, right?


no wait, what?

He gave them a fish for a day???

Where does the curriculum come from for such a “small-business training class” as Fikkert speaks of?  The Psalms?  The Prophets??  The Gospels???

This class is offered by St. Luke’s church, Right?

Why is St. Luke’s church in modern day Uganda offering a “small-business training class”?  (This reminds me of the First Baptist Church in Dumas, Texas making headlines in the national news feed when they offered conceal-carry classes!)  I’m pretty sure I can take classes like that in my public high school back in the USA, schools that don’t allow prayer.  I’m sure I could sight up for such classes at South Plains College or Texas Tech University… you know state schools!  I bet I could sign up for such classes on the internet or with mail order courses such as DeVry or maybe “Fred’s Night School of Best Business Practices and Administration.”

So why – WHY – why is the CHURCH duplicating the offerings of literally hundreds of secular institutions?  Does the gospel of Jesus just need a little help being relevant?

Does the Bible ever instruct this stuff?

And anyway, how are demons handled in the Gospels?  Do the disciples “inconspicuously” hold their noses and “pray for protection”?

As I recall from page 15, Corbett and Fikkert “are grieved when we see churches using poverty-alleviation strategies that are grounded in unbiblical assumptions.…”  (I added the bold type there.)

Hey, it’s in their own words!


Here we are, still in the introduction of a book all about how our help hurts the poor, and we are not actually appealing to the Bible for guidance yet, but we are leading “small-business training classes” to demon possessed witch doctors and then aching about the fact we gave $8 to help her when she got sick.

I am certain that if I had written that story, I would be called stupid.

By the way…

in Luke 6:30, Jesus says, “GIVE TO ALL WHO ASK…”


That’s what JESUS SAYS in LUKE 6:30!




The Bible, of course, is God’s Word.  And as a missionary from a conservative, Presbyterian church serving at St. Luke’s Church in a slum half way around the world… THE BIBLE, and being faithful to JESUS is the WHOLE REASON you are there to begin with!

Your $8 gift which was an obedient act that obeys Jesus and THE BIBLE is NOT the problem!

(Take care, Fikkert, not to claim it is the problem!  That puts you dangerously close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit!)

That too is IN THE BIBLE!

But of course we aren’t even into chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts yet!



“WHY… THIS BOOK” (page 26)


Near the bottom of page 26 of When Helping Hurts, we find the ALL CAPS heading (which wraps up the introduction) and states: “WHY WE WRITE THIS BOOK.”  I’m thinking this section has the potential to reveal some DEEP level insight into the book When Helping Hurts.  No?

The first sentence says: “My coauthor and I have spent most of our adult lives trying to learn how to improve the lives of poor people.”

At that point, there is something of a resume for both writers outlined for us to consider and then this:

“About seven years ago, our lives converged as we began working together at the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, a research and training initiative that seeks to equip churches around the world to minister to the economic and spiritual needs of low-income people.

In case it’s not clear, these sentences found on pages 26 and 27 tell us that Corbett and Fikkert have devoted years of their lives specifically to improving – IMPROVING – the lives of poor people.

I’m sure it will seem nit picking of me to say this, but I don’t see a well-defined aim in that terminology.  Yes, I THINK I understand, but I’m not actually sure – especially in light of SCRIPTURE what these writers/ministers have in mind.

How does Jesus “IMPROVE” the lives of poor people?  Does he give a wad of cash to the poor?

No.  Of course not!

(A point I’m surprised these writers don’t make, since on the surface of things it is a point that bodes well for their thesis, I think.)

Does Jesus hold “small-business classes” and train the poor how to make money like responsible, conservative Republicans?  (MZUNGUs???)

No.  Of course not!

Ouch!  So what else is there?

Well, in Luke 7, Jesus tells John the Baptist that “…the poor have the GOOD NEWS preached to them…”

Good news???

The gospel???

That’s it?

That must be some pretty good news, if that is what the poor get.

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 might need to consider carefully.  It may well reveal more about God’s care for the poor than us modern English-speaking, American Christians readily realize.

Consider what Jesus says in Luke 4, just 3 chapters before.  That scene when he enters the synagogue in his hometown?  Yeah, he proclaims the YEAR OF THE LORD’s FAVOR to the poor!  This is his campaign kick-off sermon!  He is characterizing his whole mission, which will culminate in a Roman crucifixion and resurrection from the dead as a proclamation to the poor of the YEAR OF THE LORD’s FAVOR!!!

As Joshua Jipp translates that passage, it is actually THE YEAR OF THE LORD’s WELCOME – a matter of hospitality!  The poor are welcomed in for water, food, clothing, shelter – the things we read about in Matthew 25:31-46 AND the forgiveness of debts!  The forgiveness of debts will directly fly in the face of Corbett and Fikkert near the end of their book where not only do they advise churches to offer microloans, but they insist you NOT forgive them either and discuss how hard that can be for pastoral types!  OMG!!!

I could go on and on and on with this, but I think I have said enough.  I will save more for another time – OR I MIGHT OFFER MORE OF THIS UPON REQUEST… if you should be so interested.

Let me know…

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