How Not to Help the Poor (Video)


We have big challenges with helping the poor in our country and around the world. This video (below) shares some thoughtful insights as to how and how not to do that effectively.

There is no question that virtually everyone, no matter which political party they support, wants to help the poor. Just because somebody may think there is a different or better way to help the poor than you, does not mean they don’t care about the poor.

I get this kind of stuff all the time. I believe a bigger government than we already have is ultimately bad for us. I think it’s become less and less effective. I believe it breeds corruption and waste. I think it’s one of the absolute worst ways to help the poor. But when I don’t support a big government politician who supports more spending on health care, education, etc. somehow I’m then accused of not caring about those things. But that’s illogical. I just don’t believe more spending on those things is going to help the problem. And it hasn’t.

We live in a culture that is increasingly dependent on a government to solve problems which it is simply incapable of solving. The problem is not a lack of money. It’s a lack of dirty hands.

It seems that many of us want to live in elite neighborhoods, drive fancy hybrid cars, socialize in exclusive circles, and donate a few bucks to worthy causes and then feel good about “helping the poor” when we vote for some politician every few years that promises to do so on our behalf. Like that’s fulfilling our moral obligation to help those in need.

That sure would be nice if that worked. But it doesn’t. We just like to convince ourselves of that so we can all have our cake, eat it, and pretend we’ve shared it with some stranger in need that we’ve never met. Then we pat each other on the back and blame any persisting problems on those that opposed some politician, proposition, or policy.

Obviously this isn’t working. And that’s because the poor don’t need politicians. They don’t need more laws. They don’t need more bureaucratic “programs.” And they actually don’t need our money if that’s all we’re willing to give. They need people. They need someone to listen. They need intact families with mothers and fathers. They need a friend. They need personal relationships to help guide them through their challenges.

I think far too often we leave that kind of stuff to “other” people. But that’s because it’s the hard part. It’s the messy part. It means sacrificing our time and our comfort – not just our money. We can’t wrap it up in a nice clean paper check. It means building real relationships with these people who need us. It means sacrificing a day or two out of our week to spend time with those in need. It means sometimes canceling our poker night, a dinner with friends, a social event, our favorite TV show, or our workout routine and stopping to help somebody around us in need at that very moment.

It’s messy. It’s personal. It’s difficult. But that’s the only way we’re going to ultimately solve these problems.

And we don’t have to travel to Africa to do this. We don’t have to travel to some particularly bad neighborhood. There are people right down the street, and often in our own homes, that need our help. And they aren’t necessarily physically poor. Some of the worst poverty, especially in America, is wrapped up in big houses, masked in a busy schedule and carted around in fancy cars.

We’ve forgotten how to help people. We’ve forgotten how to help ourselves – which is through helping others. We’ve shifted all the real work to the proverbial “other” and dressed it up with the rhetoric of some politician while reducing our responsibility to voting and paying taxes (which are taken…not given). Instead of increasing real charity in our culture, it’s sucked it out.

This video gives us some stuff to think about.

7 comments Add comment

Artie May 21, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Could not agree more Matthew! I don’t know how people can argue that setting up government funded programs like “the projects” actually is a valid way of helping out the poor, when in reality it has crippled them and actually made the situation much worse.

Joyce May 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

Gives us something to think about. There’s a part in the video that says that the welfare state makes it advantageous for women to drop out, don’t work and have more babies. I can totally relate to that. I grew up in a lower-middle class family. Beyond food and housing expenses, we never had much left over for anything else. I’m an only child. My mother died when I was 3 years old. When I was in college (on a full scholarship) my father died. Having no full-time income, and not wanting to drop out of school I applied for food stamps. The woman at the welfare office told me that in order for me to receive food stamps I would have to drop out of school and get pregnant. I was going to school to get out of poverty. I just needed some temporary help. And the only “help” they were willing to give me, should I choose to accept it, would drop me further into poverty, perhaps perpetually into poverty. I would have to commit the immoral act of being an unwed mother (I didn’t even have a boyfriend at the time!). And, I would be bringing a baby into the world that I couldn’t support. Luckily I had an aunt who helped me out and I worked two jobs in the summer to pull me through. Now, I have a degree, a good job, a wonderful husband, a house, and an ability to support ourselves and any children that God will bless us with. If I would’ve taken the “help” that the government offered, I would not be so blessed, nor would I have the ability to help others.

Artie May 23, 2009 at 9:39 am

Joyce thank you for sharing. Talk about a living saint among us! Thank God for your aunt and thank God for Him giving you the wisdom, fortitude, and knowledge to get through it all!

It is stories like this that should give everybody hope.

“We cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday”

Joyce May 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Artie, “a living saint” is a bit much! But I will have to agree with your statement “We cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.” And, I thank God every day for my aunt (and the rest of my family, for that matter) and for all the gifts God has given me.

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