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.
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.
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.
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???
But you won’t find that featured in Corbett and Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts.
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.
THINK ABOUT THIS CAREFULLY
THE BIBLE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT
WHEN HELPING HURTS
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!
THINK ABOUT IT.
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.
MY GOD! WHAT DOES JESUS SAY ABOUT THE FORGIVENESS OF DEBT???
and isn’t that practically the same as giving money to needy people?
Consider these passages:
Matthew 18:32 (and 6:12 while we are at it)
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…