Before I get to the review of the book a little background on the publisher. Cruciform Press is a relatively new Christian publisher. Some might look at that as a negative, but in this case I think it is a huge positive. They are a publisher that is built for the digital world. Yes, they still have print books, but they also are extremely e-reader friendly. Their books come out on a monthly cycle and you can subscribe to have each months book delivered directly to you the first day of the month. The book length is also ideal for the digital era. They are shorter than your average book – typically coming in between 100-120 pages- which makes them a quicker read and very accessible for a wide variety of readers. The final aspect that I’ve really appreciated is that the books they publish are Gospel saturated. They deal with a wide variety of issues – social issues like adoption and abortion, morality, family and parenting, Christian living and more – but all of them are dealt with through the framework of the Gospel. This is a refreshing approach and makes their books highly recommended in my opinion.
Now – enough about the publisher – on to the review!
This book is targeted at Christians and is a corrective on the approach that many take to addressing the issue of poverty and an articulation of a third approach that is often misunderstood. Here are the two views he argues against:
Some of us hold to a theology declaring that it is our mandate as the Church to bring about the end of poverty. Others, holding a different theology, seem content to do nothing at all and wait for Christ to return. Neither approach is acceptable. (loc. 94)
When I think about most churches that I know and the way that they engage the poor – both domestically and internationally – they fall into one of these two categories. Either “if it is to be it is up to me” or “God will wipe away ever tear from every eye, then so I don’t need to do anything now.” The approach that the author argues for is that the Bible has clear teaching on poverty that has direct implications for Christians today. That will be expounded later in the book.
The author begins with an examination of the causes of poverty. This is an important discussion and his viewpoint offers some clarity on the issue. He holds a somewhat controversial – for some – viewpoint: “The root cause of poverty is sin.” (loc. 85) Some interpret this as a “poverty as punishment” view. The author refutes this. It is not that this person or their parents sinned as a result they are in the current state of poverty (e.g John 9) but the entrance of sin in the world and the effects of the curse from Genesis 3 are responsible for man’s ultimate poverty – spiritually, relationally, and materially). With this in mind efforts that address only the material needs do not go far enough. Yet, on the same hand efforts that ignore the material needs do not go far enough either.
After looking at the cause of poverty he then turns to the biblical teaching and resulting implications. Through both the Old and New Testament there is evidence that God has a significant concern for the physical care of people – both believers and unbelievers. For those who are followers of God he expects “covenant faithfulness” and out of this Armstrong argues that it ought to then lead to “ethical faithfulness.” It is not rooted in our own goodness or morality but in the goodness of God and because in so doing God is glorified and made known to the world. It is not a matter of “legalism” that drives our actions – “I must do this so that I am right with God” – but because we are loved by God we ought to love others.
The gifts of love always precede the demands of love. (loc. 644)
More than a practical, how-to sort of book, this is mostly a book dealing with motivations and reasons why Christians ought to engage in ministering and serving those in poverty around them. Toward the end of the book there are some really helpful ideas and a framework to consider for how you can get involved. However, more than anything the author hopes to cultivate Christians and churches that are truly heavenly minded “clear-eyed, motivated, inspired, and practical in a way that no other perspective can match” (loc. 902) who understand that the Gospel teaches that loving God and being loved by God should result in real and tangible loving of your neighbor because “covenant faithfulness simply results in ethical faithfulness.”
DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.