Nearly thirty years ago I published my first book on Christian economics, Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity. The last three chapters dealt with the nature and causes of poverty and how churches and individuals can help the poor.
I said some fairly controversial things then about how ineffective many methods are, whether by governments, private organizations, or individuals. Since then I’ve seen nothing to change my mind.
But I have learned some things that persuade me I had hardly scratched the surface.
I’d said the handouts were ineffective—and they are, at actually helping the poor. What I hadn’t understood then was just how effective they are at hurting the poor.
Major studies since then have shown that, other than immediate emergency relief after a disaster, most of what governments and private organizations—even much of what many Christian mission organizations—have done in the name of economic development for the poor, especially in developing countries, has done far more harm than good.
This is something church mission committees and deacon boards (not to mention foreign mission organizations and government aid agencies) need to understand—and something you need to understand as a church member and donor who wants not just to have good intentions but also to have good outcomes, outcomes that really help the poor.
You could read many excellent books on the subject to understand this. I’ve listed some of the best ones below.
Or you could watch the revolutionary, and brilliant, documentary, Poverty, Inc., which shows precisely how and why so much of what the global poverty-relief industry does has exactly the opposite effect from what’s intended.
Using interviews not just with scholars and practitioners but also with the poor themselves—in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Haiti, and elsewhere—Poverty, Inc. makes everything amazingly, abundantly clear. It’s a film you’ll want to watch several times and share with your friends, pastor, and deacons.
Once you’ve seen it, you’ll know what really does work, and what doesn’t, for people to rise out of poverty, and you’ll be able to direct your giving accordingly.
Through the end of February, 2017, because I think Poverty, Inc. is so important, we’ll send you a copy of it FREE as our way of saying “Thank you!” for a donation of any size. All you need to do is mention Promo Code 1702 and ask for Poverty Inc. when you make your donation, whether at our secure online giving page, by calling our office at 703-569-4653, or by mailing your check to Cornwall Alliance, 9302-C Old Keene Mill Rd., Burke, VA 22015. All gifts are 100% tax deductible.
So, what are some of the best books on this subject? Here are my four favorites:
- Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself
- Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa
- William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and so Little Good
- Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution