Recommended reading #4

[Practicing the Way of Jesus – Free: Spending Your Time and Money On What Matters Most – When Helping Hurts]

Practicing the Way of Jesus, by Mark Scandrette

Mark, who has a quite radical approach to church and spiritual development, is an acquaintance of mine here in San Francisco. If you wonder about how we do church, and wish (pray) there were another way to do it that would facilitate more application and action to our spiritual profession, read this out-of-the-box book.

Free:  Spending Your Time and Money On What Matters Most, by Mark Scandrette

I’ve been in love with the concept of “simplicity” for years now, probably reaching back to my hippie days. Mark and his family have lived in simplicity in one of the most chaotic and expensive cities in the world. I loved this book. I’m adamant that while not all Christians are called to live on a poverty-level budget and give the rest of their money away, we have to at least ask the question:  “How would you have me live, Lord?” Mark asked the question and the answer he got is something each of us would do well to consider for ourselves. He’s not condemning or preachy, but gives you food for thought. Please read this book.

“We live in a culture that reflects our collective sense of discontent. Since the 1950s the average size of an American house has nearly tripled, while family size has decreased by 30 percent.”

“Within six months, only 1 percent of everything the average person buys is still in use. The other 99 percent has been discarded and is already on its way to a landfill or other disposal site.”

“Try enjoying what you already have:  read your unread books, wear the clothes and shoes in your closet, use up your craft supplies. Play a game off your shelf with your friends or family. Try cooking from your pantry for a week without going to the store.”

“What’s good for the soul is good for the pocketbook and also the planet.”

When Helping HurtsHow to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Frankly, this book hurts! Though I’m involved in several bring-food-to-the-poor ministries in San Francisco, this book offers an alternative approach. These authors have the audacity to propose that we might even be hurting people while trying to help them. I recommend this book to you if you’re smart enough (that is, much smarter than me) to do something about the poor in our world in such a way that supports their dignity instead of reducing it. If you do read it and hear God’s voice, come to the City and help us do it better!

Here’s a sample of their provocative ideas:

The way that we act toward the economically poor often communicates—albeit unintentionally—that we are superior and they are inferior. In the process we hurt the poor and ourselves. And here is the clincher: this dynamic is likely to be particularly strong whenever middle-to-upper-class, North American Christians try to help the poor, given these Christians’ tendency toward a Western, materialistic perspective of the nature of poverty.

One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make—by far—is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.

In such settings, top-down, “I-am-here-to-save-you” attitudes can seriously undermine the development of the recipients’ initiative and stewardship.

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