This week we read Chapter 1 of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. Last week we read and wrote about the intro. Anissa, Jon, Kacie, and Christine shared some great insights. If you’re interested, the links to their blogs are at the end of this post.
Chapter 1 is titled “Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?” The author challenged readers to think about our own answers to this question before reading. So, stop for a moment and think about yours. [Did you?] … [No, seriously.] … [Okay, good.]
Our attention is brought to Luke 4:17-21, a time where Jesus gives an answer to WHY he came. In this passage we see Jesus in the synagogue reading from the book of Isaiah (ch. 61).
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus came as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Imagine what it would have been like to be one of those listening that day? The author helps us imagine the questions that may have been running through their minds.
Was it really possible that justice, peace, and righteousness were about to be established forever? Would this King really bring healing to the parched soil, the feeble hands, the shaky knees, the fearful hearts, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the sinful souls, and would proclaim the year of jubilee for the poor (Isa. 35:1-6; 53:5; 61:1-2)? (When Helping Hurts)
The answer: Yes. Jesus came to do all of those things. He came to redeem and restore all that was broken in the world… a process continuing now and finished upon Jesus’ Return. But, if you ask most Christians the question “Why did Jesus come to earth?” the answer you will hear is most often “He came to die on the cross to save us from our sins so that we could spend eternity with him in Heaven.” That is true. He did that. But that is just a part of the truth if we look at what Jesus himself said.
Goodness. As I look the chapter there is SO much to talk about… I can’t talk about it all. There are stories and examples in the chapter that I want to retell to you. But I won’t. I hope you read the book. Now. Or later. But seriously. You should read it. I’ll tell you about me instead.
I had a phase several years ago. An ignorant/arrogant phase. I became very passionate about “proclaiming the gospel.” I wanted all men to know Jesus. That’s a good thing, but I wanted to do NOTHING but tell them about Him. That’s all I thought mattered. That’s all the I felt was worth my time. I had friends who would talk about working in orphanages or doing various types of aid work and I wasn’t interested. “I just want to talk about Jesus.” I thought I was so great. Honestly, I think in some ways I arrogantly looked down on people who weren’t ONLY telling people about Jesus. Eventually, God busted my arrogant little self and showed me that proclaiming the gospel happens in word AND deed. We need to do SOMETHING while we tell them about Jesus. If we speak words but do not put hands and feet to those words we’re not sharing the WHOLE gospel. If Jesus cared enough to touch people physically, to heal their bodies, to provide food for the hungry, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to free the oppressed, to give the blind sight… I probably need to learn something from that and follow His example!!! We are sent… commanded… to walk into broken places and to be instruments through which God continues his work of redeeming and restoring.
Another question the authors asked is “For what specific sin was Old Testament Israel sent into captivity?” I wasn’t sure. I would have said, “They were disobedient and did not honor God.” That answer, however, was not SPECIFIC. Check out Isaiah 1:10-13, 16-17; 58:1-3, 5-10. [Really. You should read it. Just click.] God was angry because Israel was neglecting to care for the poor and oppressed. They’re not making this up. It’s in God’s word. How did I not notice that before? And in the New Testament there are examples galore of how important God has made this task to the church. This one…
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
Goodness gracious. That can not be ignored! As mentioned last week from the intro… We’re rich. You and me. North American Christians. We are. Not only that but we are a part of the most wealthy population that has ever lived on earth. That brings such opportunity, such responsibility! Pair that with the fact that we live in a time that has the greatest economic disparity… and that responsibility is magnified!
Did you know that BEFORE the 1994 genocide 80% of Rwanda claimed to be Christians and yet a horrific civil war broke out and 800,000 were killed in the period of 3 months. There’s a story in the book in which a man in Rwanda, a Christian leader, says, “You missionaries brought us Christ but never taught us how to live.” Oh. My. Goodness. We must make disciples, not just converts… people who follow the example of Jesus who brought justice, peace, righteousness, healing, liberty… Oh Lord, Please help us!
There’s a lot more I would like to talk about but this is a blog post, not a book. I’m hoping my friends will talk about the parts I didn’t get to. So, if you want more [read the book… and/or] click around to read other people’s reactions, thoughts, insights… Anissa @ Oasis, Brittany @ His grace displayed, Jon @ Hands Wide Open, Kacie @ The Well Thought-Out Life, Kirsten @ Kung Phu Panda, and Christine (and Scott) @ We Are His Hands.
And now onto Chapter 2! “What’s the Problem?”