Loving Not Helping

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Hanging Up Your Superman Costume

You’ve probably all seen the movie.  The community is in havoc and needs a hero to save it… Along comes Superman to rescue the people, free the city and save the day.

How often do we take the same “hero” approach in our service to the poor?  We serve with a motivation to accomplish something for ourselves and for our own personal significance and gain.  And in the process we reduce the poor to objects of our charity that are merely helping to perpetuate our personal pride and selfishness.  We end up serving out of our own neediness, brokenness and sinfulness, not for the well being of the recipient and certainly not for the glory of God.

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september 18

When Love is Enough

“Heidi, please come,” Samir said in the best, broken English he could muster. “We need your help. I want to fill out a job application. I need a job. But I can’t understand this form.” Since English is something I am good at, I jumped in my car and drove thirty-five miles to downtown Phoenix from my Gilbert home.
Samir fled his home in Iraq and came to the United States with his wife and two small children as a refugee. His life was in danger in his homeland, but coming to the U.S. for a fresh start had its own rude awakening. English is his second language, and he speaks very good English for someone living in Iraq where his language skills gave him opportunities to help with translation during the war. But when he arrived in the U.S., he found it wasn’t good enough for everyday life here in America.
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Why We Need to Stop Helping the Poor


In their best selling book, When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett reminded us that sometimes our best intentions to help don’t quite achieve the results we desire. In fact, sometimes our efforts to help can actually hurt. For some it caused a pause—what do we do? The Bible doesn’t allow us the option of doing nothing. Isaiah 58, the story of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), and James 1:26-27 make it extremely clear—we are to help. So, we are left in limbo. Commanded to help, yet not wanting to hurt.

It’s not a simple problem, and to even propose a solution in a brief blog post isn’t sane. So throwing caution to the wind, I’m going to make a suggestion anyway.

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How was neighborly love demonstrated?

This blog is part 3 of a 3 part series. You can read the first 2 parts of the series at the following links: Part 1 / Part 2

One key to loving our neighbor is understanding our neighbor’s immediate needs and responding accordingly. We conclude the study of the Good Samaritan parable by looking at the perspective through which neighborly love was shown.

The Perspective

God’s concern is for all areas of life.

When sin entered the world it created brokenness on many levels (Spiritual, physical, social, mental). Therefore the work of Christ on the cross was meant to bring wholistic reconciliation. Reconciliation to all things not just our relationship to Him (Col. 1:19-20).

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Priscilla’s Story


“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Luke 10:30

There are so many ways that people get “beat up” by life. Loving people like Christ is basically the same whether they are alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes…or just scared, lonely, or depressed. In July 2006, I was all of those things.

I wasn’t quite homeless. I had a room at a boarding house, where I dealt drugs and prostituted myself. I hung out with other addicts, but I didn’t have any real friends. Addicts are your friends until your stash runs out, and then they’re gone. I knew that. I did that to others. And I felt incredibly alone. I believed there probably was a God, but that He had crossed me off His list. I thought He would be present for someone more worthy. I felt there was no hope for me.

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How do I love my neighbor like Christ?

This blog is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can read part 1 of the series here.

Our study of the parable of The Good Samaritan first considered the question: Who are the people we are to love? Now we explore the process through which the Samaritan showed neighborly love.

The Process

What happened in this story? The Samaritan came across a man lying in the road “half-dead” and took “pity” on him. (Luke 10: 30,33) However, it is not the encounter or even the pity that teaches us about neighborly love, rather it is compassion moved to action.

“He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10:34

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superman-returns-superman-logo-1920-1200-resolution

Hanging up your superman costume

You’ve probably all seen the movie.  The community is in havoc and needs a hero to save it… along comes Superman to rescue the people, free the city and save the day.

How often do we take the same “hero” approach in our service to the poor?  We serve with a motivation to accomplish something for ourselves and for our own personal significance and gain.  And in the process we reduce the poor to objects of our charity that are merely helping to perpetuate our personal pride and selfishness.  We end up serving out of our own neediness, brokenness and sinfulness, not for the well being of the recipient and certainly not for the glory of God.

Brian Fikkert in the book “When Helping Hurts” describes this attitude as a “god-complex.”  The subtle sense of superiority that believes that we have achieved our wealth through our own efforts and that this success somehow anoints us the ability to decide what is best for low-income people, whom we often see as inferior to ourselves.  (pg. 65)

Many people living in poverty already struggle with a sense of inadequacy and all our benevolence does is re-enforce their shame.  We actually exacerbate the very issues we are trying to solve.  This does not mean that we should stop serving but rather that we should always check our motives and serve from a humble heart.

Serving through brokenness

Our service to the poor should not come from an attitude of authority but rather a heart of brokenness.  An admission and realization that both you and I need fixing and only Jesus can provide it.  The more deeply connected we are to the message of the cross the more our serving becomes about loving the poor and not loving ourselves.  About loving because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19) We all need healing and there is no better place to express it then in our humble attitude towards serving the poor.

The poor don’t need heroes.  The poor need people who are willing to walk with them in their circumstances and be their friends, collaborators, encouragers and advocate.  People who will show them value, worth and dignity by recognizing their own mutual brokenness and need for God.  People willing to be real and vulnerable and ready to admit their need for God’s grace and healing.

Clark Kent (Superman) was known as the “champion of the oppressed.”  Sometimes our tendency as humans is to want to be like superman and save the day while being the champion for the poor.  Let’s be their “champion” but let’s do it in a way that gives God the glory and not ourselves.  The question we must continually ask ourselves is this: Why do you want to help the poor?  Let’s take a moment to examine our motives…. and if need be hang up those superman costumes for good.