Peter Greer has long recognized that our help can hurt instead. As the president/CEO of HOPE International—a network of microfinance institutions and savings and credit associations—Greer has seen firsthand how Christian charity can unintentionally erode dignity and exacerbate poverty. HOPE seeks to create enterprise instead of aid, affirming the skills, talents, and abilities of the poor in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
Greer's most recent book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, is a seasoned—and seasonally appropriate—meditation on ministry and leadership in Jesus' name. "Jesus continually returned to the motivation of doing good work," says Greer. "Is your work a response to the grace you've received, or a way to manipulate God?"
Joseph E. Gorra interviewed Greer about savior complexes, "Christian karma," and how to ensure the gospel is the impetus for our giving, at Christmas and throughout the year.
In what ways are you challenging paternalism in the global relief and development industry (e.g., Bill Easterly's White Man's Burden) on the one hand, and reimagining "Christian activism" (e.g., Tyler Wigg-Stevenson's The World Is Not Ours to Save ) on the other?
The backdrop to the book are my experiences working in international development and missions. I've seen how easy it is for a church to go on a short-term trip to Burundi, see incredible needs, and think, We can fix that!
We rush into service but slowly begin to think we're the solution, which unintentionally sabotages our impact and undercuts long-term capacity building.
The book is a call to reexamine our motivation for our service and to think less about ...1