Book Review: The Poor Will Be Glad
The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty
By Peter Greer and Phil Smith (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)
Over half of the people in the world live on less than four dollars per day and one billion of them live on less than a dollar a day. Most of them reside in developing countries. These people face a plethora of problems, including hunger, child mortality, lack of clean drinking water, death producing diarrhea, a dearth of education, limited access to healthcare, lower life expectancy, an absence of women’s rights, high unemployment, and a shortage of access to financial services. So opens Peter Greer and Phil Smith’s book, The Poor Will Be Glad.
Attempting to tell them about Jesus, without addressing the ravages of poverty in their lives, fail to produce long-term results. However, when physical needs are addressed along with spiritual needs, lasting change can result. Unfortunately, many aid efforts, although well-intentioned, actually do more harm than good, training recipients to be dependent on and expectant of Western handouts.
The solution that authors Greer and Smith advocate is microfinance. Microfinance provides small, short-term loans to poverty-mired, but otherwise able individuals. These loans enable them to engage in income-generating work that can improve their standard of living and help them rise above the ravages of poverty. Succinctly, access to small amounts of capital empowers the poor. As the book’s subtitle suggests, microfinance can lift the world out of poverty—and the church should join in this revolution.
After laying out the severity and pervasiveness of poverty and offering microfinance as a liable and proven solution, Peter Greer and Phil Smith devote the latter two parts of the book to detail microfinance and connect it to ministry. When done properly and wisely, the results are an opportunity to help those in poverty on both a physical and spiritual level.
The Poor Will Be Glad is full of instructive and inspiring examples of microfinance in action. Unlike many books that are co-authored, where it is often frustratingly unclear which author’s voice and experiences are being shared, with The Poor Will Be Glad, there is no such confusion. The book also abounds with poignant pictures from professional photographer Jeremy Cowart. The inclusion of his work in The Poor Will Be Glad raises the work to coffee-table book status. This, however, does not detract from, but rather enhances, its central function of providing practical education on the power of microfinance, coupled with ministry.
Microfinance is not a poverty panacea, but it does offer the most realistic way to make lasting changes in the lives of the poor in third world countries. When it is coupled with biblically based principles and pointing people to Jesus, the change can be eternal.
[The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty, by Peter Greer and Phil Smith. Published by Zondervan, 2009, ISDN: 978-0-310-29359-0, 279 pages, $19.99]
Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.