As a staff we are reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor or Yourself and for most of us it has been an eye-opening book. The danger of being in ministry is that we get comfortable with the idea that we have the answers for serving the poor, but this book has a loving rebuke for everyone, whether you have been serving the poor for decades or if you have never done anything to help the poor in your life.
I was struck by a quote from the book that emphasises our need to find humility before we can help others. The authors write that we must approach serving the poor saying, "I'm not OK. You're not OK. But, Jesus can fix us both." I was convicted by the premise that we, as mainstream American Christians, have a subconscious feeling that we have all the answers and that the poor need our great help. The result is that we bring well-meaning but destructive condescension with our desires to serve the poor, which blinds us and degrades the poor.
How many times have I looked at a homeless man, disheveled and without any teeth, and felt a pity that bordered on condescension? I don't mean it to be so, but somewhere in the recesses of my heart I must believe that I have the answers to life that he does not for it happens more times than I would like to admit.
The only way I can really serve the poor with a pure heart is to first acknowledge that I am an equally broken person, even if in different ways, and it is only the grace and mercy of Christ that has allowed any healing and blessing and prosperity in my life.
Pride that has weaseled and wiggled into the farthest recesses of our American Christian hearts can be difficult to eradicate. We don't want it to be there, but the brokenness of our own culture has planted seeds of deception that took root even without our consent. They must be sought and plucked out if we are to truly serve others as Christ asks of us.
I have to remember to preface every Christian act of service with "I'm not OK" before I ever point out that "You're not OK." Which sounds bleak, until we add, "But Jesus can fix us both!"
Please check out When Helping Hurts.