by Dewi Hughes
Dewi Hughes navigates this tricky terrain and guides the reader comprehensively through the biblical message regarding poverty.
IVP Academic, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 2009, 253 pages, $25.00.
—Reviewed by Mark L. Russell, director of spiritual integration at HOPE International.
Poverty is complex in many ways and the possible ways to respond to it are often confusing. Sincere questions abound: Should Christians support free market capitalism as the primary instrument to eliminate poverty? Or should we support development interventions? Is this something we should simply let experts take care of? Biblically, poverty is also a bit convoluted. At times, Christ seems dismissive of poverty (e.g., “The poor you will always have with you”). At other times, the biblical call to serve the poor seems so overwhelming that it’s confusing why it does not dominate more of our time, energy, and resources.
Dewi Hughes, theological adviser at Tearfund, a Christian international relief organization based in London, navigates this tricky terrain and guides the reader comprehensively through the biblical message regarding poverty. He leads us to the undeniable reality that God calls for us to look out for the needs of the global poor. There are three main parts to the book. The first six chapters take the reader through the Old Testament, looking carefully at the context and how laws were made to create well-being and prevent poverty. The next six chapters look at the life and teachings of Jesus and their relevance to the issue of poverty. From the Beatitudes to the Kingdom of God to the final judgment, Hughes shows a common thread of kingdom living that is required and promoted by Jesus. The final three chapters focus on the role of the Church as a community of believers who are God’s governed society.
Hughes’ work is quite dense and is ideal for missionaries, missiologists, and theologians looking to study what the Bible has to say on poverty in an especially in-depth way. Any Christian organization engaged with poverty should have someone read this work and guide other organizational leaders through it. However, it is probably a bit too detailed and comprehensive for lay small group studies and the like.
As one who has spent time working biblically and practically on poverty issues, I have longed for a significant resource like Hughes has here provided. It will serve as a reference and guide for a good time to come.
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