Today is National Read a Book Day, a day meant to encourage everyone to pick up a book they will enjoy and spend the day reading it. Here at Jesus' Economy, we're readers. You could even call us bookish. Our reading has become the research that supports much of what we do. For my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change, I assembled the following reading list, which I now recommend to you.

If you decide to buy any of these books, don't forget to support Jesus' Economy using AmazonSmile.

Reading List on Poverty, Missions, and Economic Development

While it’s often hard to quantify how ideas influence us and where these ideas eventually resurface, I know the following set of books greatly influenced my writing of Jesus’ Economy. It is the ideas of these authors that operate in the background of my writing.

It’s difficult to know if you will have the same epiphany moments I did when reading these works, but I hope that the combination of books listed here will cause you to think differently. I hope that in reading further on this topic, you will become a little wiser, a little cleverer, and more emotionally attuned to the needs of our world. I hope the writings of other authors will help you see more clearly how to live Jesus’ economy in all aspects of life.

The Short List of Books I Regularly Recommend

Seriously, You Have to Read This

The Bible. Pick a readable translation and get on a consistent reading plan where you regularly read the Bible in its entirety. Also, try a study Bible focused on the ancient context; it will help illuminate the text.

Knowing the Issues at Stake When Serving the Impoverished

Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). | In 2012, I wrote an article for Relevant Magazine on lessons from Toxic Charity, "How Should Christians Help the Poor."

Jacqueline Novogratz, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. | At the inception of Jesus' Economy, I dialogued with The Blue Sweater in a series of blog posts; see "What I Learned from Jaqueline Novogratz."

Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. | Near the beginning of Jesus' Economy, I also wrote a series of blog posts interacting with The End of Poverty; see "What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs."

Understanding Local and Global Poverty Firsthand

Miriam Adeney, Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity.

Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent. Same Kind of Different as Me.

Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.

Tass Saada with Dean Merrill. Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life.

What It Means to Be Christian, Church Planting, and Living on Jesus’ Mission

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church.

Michael W. Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History, and Issues

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Reggie McNeal, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.

Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions.

J. D. Payne, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting.

William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity.

Other Books Well Worth Reading

If you finish that first reading list and want to go even deeper into this subject, here are other resources I consulted while writing Jesus’ Economy.

Perspectives on Poverty, Power, Culture, and Justice

Sunday Bobai Agang, When Evil Strikes: Faith and the Politics of Human Hostility. | Sunday Bobai Agang is a Board Member of Jesus' Economy and has written widely in this space.

Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley, eds., For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty.

Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. | I also wrote a series of blog posts dialoguing with this book; see "What I Learned from William Easterly."

Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait.

Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measure of a Man. | For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wrote an article with accompanying infographic on how Dr. King thought we should each measure our lives. See, "The Complete Life According to Martin Luther King, Jr."

Eng Hoe, Lim, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Revealing the Heart of God. | At one point, I reflected on a conversation I had with Eng Hoe, Lim about "Spiritual Issues Often Associated with Poverty."

Robert D. Lupton, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor.

Michael Matheson Miller, dir., Poverty Cure. DVD.

Michael Matheson Miller, dir., Poverty, Inc. DVD.

Soong-Chan Rah, The Next Evangelicalism: Releasing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.

E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible.

Perspectives on Missions

Harvie M. Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God.

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society.

C. René Padilla, Mission Between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom.

Perspectives on Life Change, Balance, Calling, and Work

Leo Babauta, The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life. | See my review of The Power of Less on, "Minimizing to Be More Effective."

Edward R. Dayton and Ted W. Engstrom, Strategy for Living: How to Make the Best Use of Your Time and Abilities. | I discuss the relevance of this book in an article on, "Goals Are Often Selfish."

Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What.

Ryan J. Pemberton, Called: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again. | Ryan Pemberton serves on the Board of Jesus' Economy. See my review of Called on, "Calling Is Complex." You can also read an excerpt of Called on the Jesus' Economy Blog, "Faith as Beautiful as Fireworks: Calling, Atheism, and Oxford."

Richard A. Swenson, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

Hugh Whelchel, How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.

Perspectives on Entrepreneurship and Business

Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation. | On some of the ideas behind this book, see my article on, "The Lightbulb Alone is Useless."

Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? | On some of Godin's ideas, see my article on, "Here's the Truth."

Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. | On how the breakthrough of the Oakland A's applies to business, see my article on, "Playing Business Like the Oakland A's."

Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.

Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.

T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. | See my full book review of The First Tycoon at, "Could You Be the Next Cornelius Vanderbilt?"

This recommended reading list was originally published in my book, Jesus' Economypages 172–175.

Call Me Bookish, But This is Why I Read

I once had a supervisor who said, "There are two ways to gain more experience: live longer and read." We read to expand our worldview, our experiences, and our mindset. We read because it helps us grow. We read because it helps us gain experience of the mind, accelerating the rate by which we become wiser.


Have you picked up your copy of Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change? With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

“In the end, goodness triumphs over the bad. It is our challenge to do good and to serve others without waiting for the good to be returned. I’m convinced that those people who cultivate universal love will have good fortune here on earth. In serving others, I found light in a place of utmost darkness.”

Quoting her friend Honorata, Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund, makes a vital point in her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World: When we serve others, we can bring light to dark places.

Novogratz goes on to offer her own comments on Honorata’s thoughts:

“Through Honorata, I understood that resurrection happens right here on earth. I see her spirit and her resilience in women across the globe who have nothing, yet suffer great loss with almost unimaginable grace and dignity. … [Honorata’s] story reminds me of the extraordinary power of the human spirit to withstand almost anything. Her story also speaks to the power of service, to living a life of purpose, and to keeping the flame of hope alive.”

It’s tragic that even with the incredible resilience of those living in poverty, our world offers so little to help to them. There is tenacity and hope around the globe, but just a general lack of resources and training. When we live purposeful lives for others, we have an opportunity to change that.

It is part of the mission of Jesus’ Economy to find those that want to bring hope to their communities and empower them. We want to offer an alternative narrative to the narrative of despair—one of hope and abundant life now. We desire to help people help themselves and their communities. We offer the resources and tools to get things moving in the right direction.

We want to help people like Honorata do even more for their communities. Against incredible odds and hardships, people like her have served others, and in doing so, brought hope. People like Honorata truly show us how communities can be transformed (resurrected). Let her inspire you. Let’s bring light to dark places. Let's bring the true light, Jesus, into the darkness of poverty and dispair, declaring that he is the light all need. Let's proclaim together that Jesus wants to bring people out of poverty and into a better life and into eternal life.

You have an opportunity to help transform lives today. You can donate here.

(This is part three of three of the “What I Learned from Jacqueline Novogratz” blog series.)

“For the first time, their incomes allowed them to decide when to say yes and when to say no. Money is the freedom and confidence of choice. And choice is dignity."

This line from The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, by Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO of Acumen Fund, accurately summarizes why financial independence is so critical. Aid alone is insufficient. Help alone just tackles one part of what people in the developing world are up against. We must empower people to live financially independent lives. In the process of doing so, we provide them with dignity.

There are hundreds of answers to poverty, but the answers that provide people with choice are the ones we must focus on. In addition, we must add to the picture God’s work with churches; if we don’t, the incomes being created via our work will not last. (Healthy churches can alleviate corruption by providing biblical ethics to a community.)

Novogratz may not directly identify churches as the answer to many of the issues associated with poverty, but she does make clear that fighting corruption is at the center of alleviating poverty.

“‘Is corruption a cause of poverty?’ I asked Mary one afternoon. ‘Or is poverty a cause of corruption?’ ‘It is both, isn’t it?’ she answered sweetly.”

When we look at the underlying issues associated with poverty in the developing world, we must look at the problems as interconnected. There is no logical chain of events for how poverty begins and what keeps it in place, per se, but there is a logical solution: being holistic in our approach. We know that the web of problems people face in impoverished communities are interconnected. Our solutions to them must also be interconnected.

Jesus’ Economy provides this kind of interconnected plan. We seek to bring the dignity of choice to others through microloans. And we desire to end corruption through healthy churches and biblical ethics training. We want to see the whole person cared for and loved. We believe this is what Jesus would do.

You can bring dignity to the lives of others by donating here. One hundred percent of your donation will go to holistic community development.

(This is part two of three of the “What I Learned from Jacqueline Novogratz” blog series.)

Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and Founder of Acumen Fund, is one of the leading thinkers on the issues the extreme poor face. Her insights are gleaned from years of experience. Many of them are shared in her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between the Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Here are nine things Novogratz says she has learned from working with the poor in Africa, India, and Pakistan for more than 20 years. (The list is slightly curated from the summary she provides in The Blue Sweater.)

  1. “Solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, not easy sentimentality.”
  2. “Many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity.”
  3. “What is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them.”
  4. “People usually tell you the truth if you listen hard enough. If you don’t, you’ll hear what they think you want to hear.”
  5. “There is no currency like hope.”
  6. “There is nothing worse for building relationships than pandering, on one hand, or preaching, on the other.”
  7. “The most important quality we must all strengthen in ourselves is that of deep human empathy, for that will provide the most hope of all, and the foundation for our collective survival.”
  8. “Generosity is far easier than justice, and … in the highly distorted markets of the poor, it is all too easy to veer only toward the charitable [and] to have low- or no-expectations for low-income people. This does nothing but reaffirm prejudices on all sides.”
  9. “The world is interconnected in a single economy linking all parts of the globe. Extraordinary wealth has been generated by this global economy, and millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Yet it brings as much danger as hope unless and until every single one of us gets a fair chance to participate.”

As you can see, Novogratz’s thoughts helped inform the plan for Jesus’ Economy. She sees the world as interconnected. She also believes that the interconnectedness has a direct implication on how we approach poverty. For Novogratz, the key to successfully helping people out of poverty is empowering them and encouraging them to live lives of integrity. The basis for this relationship is empathy and love.

Let Novogratz inspire you today. Consider how this list changes the way you view poverty and charity.

(This is part one of three of the “What I Learned from Jacqueline Novogratz” blog series.)