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 JohnDBarry.com, "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 JohnDBarry.com, "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 JohnDBarry.com, "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 JohnDBarry.com, "The Lightbulb Alone is Useless."

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

It was a hot Saturday morning. My family had driven two-and-a-half hours from our home in Lae, Papua New Guinea to worship with a growing village church in the Markham Valley. We sat under a shady tree on a woven mat just meters from the over packed church listening to the pastor’s sermon. Seated beside us were a young woman and her 12-month old son. My husband had given the baby our keys to play with—I couldn’t help but notice that the little fellow had one significantly crossed eye and had difficulty focusing on objects he was trying to see.

With the mother’s permission, I took some photos of the baby playing. After the service had concluded I introduced myself to the mother, taking mental note of the names of her and her baby so that I could locate them again after I talked to an ophthalmologist friend of mine.

“The child has esotropia,” my doctor friend said. He gave me a run-down on how it would affect the child and how it would best be managed. With difficulty we located the child’s mother through a pastor from a nearby village and made arrangements for her to bring her baby to Lae to visit an optometrist with me. The optometrist was to assess the baby and decide whether glasses would correct his conditio or whether he would require surgery.

I Think I’m Helping Here, But Am I Really?

In Papua New Guinea, gaining an education and obtaining a good job seems to be the best way out of poverty. And since parents depend on their offspring to care from them in their old age, parents have a vested interest in ensuring their children overcome poverty. It appeared to me that the small amount of money I might spend on the child’s eye treatment could have lasting dividends for his family.

But on Mary’s two visits to the optometrist in Lae, she appeared to begrudge the time spent in both travel and consultation, commenting that she didn’t think it was necessary: her baby would only pull glasses off anyway and she had relatives with crossed eyes that corrected as they grew older.

I paid for the consultations and both times gave Mary enough money to cover the cost of her travel. However, before leaving Mary asked if I could meet two immediate needs (or at least perceived needs): a mobile phone and accommodation when she visited Lae. It appeared that she would prefer I spend my money on these things, rather than on her son’s eye condition. Perhaps we might question Mary’s wisdom in this regard, but it did change the way I think about poverty.

What Would the Bible Say about My Approach to Poverty?

Throughout the Bible, there are references to assisting the impoverished with their needs:

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17).

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’” (Deuteronomy 15:1).

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

These are just a few of the biblical passages about the impoverished; so there is no doubt in my mind that we who love the Lord are called to bless those in need around us. We are meant to use the blessings that we have graciously been given from above to offer hope to others. But my experience with Mary raises an issue with that in my mind: How often do we in our approach to the impoverished decide for ourselves what they surely must want and need, instead of asking them?

I think Jesus has an answer to this dilemma. When responding to the cries of the two blind men in Matthew 20:29–34 and Bartimeus in Mark 10:46–52, Jesus both times asks “What do you want me to do for you?” He does this before taking action.

Helping the Impoverished with What They Actually Need

Before moving to Papua New Guinea, I lived in a remote country town in Australia with a large aboriginal population. I had heard that many aboriginal people slept on mattresses under the bridges around the town and many other places that did not seem at all appropriate to those of my cultural background. I had even heard of the aboriginal people in the town breaking apart their government-funded housing as quickly as new housing was being built. This all disturbed me, until I read an article that explained everything. In a local newspaper, an aboriginal person stated that the government need not spend its money on things that the aboriginal people, with their unique cultural background, did not need or want. The author believed that the aboriginals did not need or want housing. They merely wanted some land, with some shady trees and a washing/bathing block.

It is profound that countless dollars are probably spent on aid work meeting needs that are perceived by westerners, but not felt by the recipients. Naturally when something is not wanted it is hardly going to be appreciated, preserved or respected in the way that donors might expect.

It would appear that the best approach to meeting the needs of the impoverished would be to follow Jesus’ example: Ask the question, “what do you want me to do for you?” The answers of the impoverished might surprise us. 

It is difficult to love a whole person, not just their need. But if we do so, we can transform lives and communities.

In this talk, filmed at the Justice Conference Abbotsford at New Life Abbotsford, I share how I learned to love an entire person and how it transformed my life. I also share about being a voice for the voiceless and the major problems that aid alone can create.

Loving a Whole Person

 

Jesus Stops to Have Conversations

Jesus regularly stopped to have conversations, demonstrating that for him, loving a whole person meant having a relationship with them (e.g., Luke 18:35-43; John 4; Luke 8:40-56). People weren't projects to Jesus; they were friends. This is God, with three years of ministry as a human on earth, stopping to have conversations. We should do the same. We should work to transform entire lives, walking alongside people, not just address needs.

Thanks to the Justice Conference Abbotsford

Many thanks to New Life Abbotsford for the blessing of speaking at the conference and for your hospitality, kindness, and graciousness. (To everyone else: My apologies for the inside jokes; you had to be there for them to be funny. And don't worry, my Canadian brothers and sisters thought they were funny.)

Join Us in Loving an Entire Person

Join us in transforming entire lives by donating to Renew Bihar, India. For just $2.94 you can empower someone. This $345,000 project empowers 117,520 people, making the cost just $2.94 per person to provide medical access for thousands, drill 18 water wells, train and send out 18 church planters, and provide 40 microloans accompanied by business training. 100% of donations go directly to Bihar. Our project in Bihar, India is dedicated to really knowing people and building real relationships, while addressing basic needs, spiritual needs, and transforming the economy through business.

Helping the impoverished is difficult, and for many, it's frightening. But I have some solutions for you.

How Best to Approach Poverty

In this talk, I tell you what I have learned about helping the impoverished and how Jesus approached poverty, sharing several real life stories. I also share about the miracles that Jesus has performed in my life.

 

I delivered this talk at Latin American Bible Institute in San Antonio, Texas (on Thursday, February 27, 2014) to an incredible group of young disciples of Jesus. Through the students and faculty at Latin American Bible Institute, I believe that God will make an incredible impact on the world, and I hope we all learn to have faith like them.

Like What You Hear? Invite Us to Speak

I regularly speak at events, and may even be in your area soon. You can reach me at john@jesuseconomy.org or learn more here.